What’s New and Beneficial About Broccoli
Broccoli can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you will cook it by steaming. The fiber-related components in broccoli do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw broccoli still has cholesterol-lowering ability- just not as much. Broccoli has a strong, positive impact on our body’s detoxification system, and researchers have recently identified one of the key reasons for this detox benefit. Glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, and glucobrassicin are 3 glucosinolate phytonutrients found in a special combination in broccoli.
This dynamic trio is able to support all steps in body’s detox process, including activation, neutralization, and elimination of unwanted contaminants. Isothiocyanates (ITCs) are the detox-regulating molecules made from broccoli’s glucosinolates, and they help control the detox process at a genetic level. Broccoli may help us solve our vitamin D deficiency epidemic. When large supplemental doses of vitamin D are needed to offset deficiency, ample supplies of vitamin K and vitamin A help keep our vitamin D metabolism in balance. Broccoli has an unusually strong combination of both vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene) and vitamin K.
For people faced with the need to rebuild vitamin D stores through vitamin D supplements, broccoli may be an ideal food to include in the diet. Broccoli is a particularly rich source of a flavonoid called kaempferol. Recent research has shown the ability of kaempferol to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on our body. This kaempferol connection helps to explain the unique anti-inflammatory benefits of broccoli, and it should also open the door to future research on the benefits of broccoli for a hypoallergenic diet.
Studies have shown that even kids like broccoli and one way to ensure that they enjoy it is to cook it properly by using our Healthy Steaming method. Overcooked broccoli becomes soft and mushy, an indication that it has lost both nutrients and flavor. Begin by cutting broccoli florets into quarters and let sit for several minutes before cooking to enhance its health-promoting benefits. Steam for 5 minutes. See Healthiest Way of Cooking Broccoli below.
You’ll want to include broccoli as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy broccoli and other vegetables from the cruciferous vegetable group 4-5 times per week, and increase your serving size to 2 cups.
It’s no coincidence that more than 300 research studies on broccoli have converged in one unique area of health science-the development of cancer-and its relationship to three metabolic problems in the body. Those three problems are (1) chronic inflammation (2) oxidative stress, and (3) inadequate detoxification. While these types of problems have yet to become part of the public health spotlight, they are essential to understanding broccoli’s unique health benefits. Over the past 5 years, research has made it clear that our risk of cancer in several different organ systems is related to the combination of these three problems.
The Cancer/Inflammation/Oxidative Stress/Detox Connection
Exposure to potentially toxic substances in our food and water, or in the air we breathe both indoors and outdoors, exposure to allergy-triggering substances, poor general health, dietary deficiencies, use of prescription and over-the-counter medications, and other lifestyle practices can result in a level of danger to our bodies that prompts our inflammatory system to work in overdrive on a 24/7 basis. Researchers often refer to this phenomenon as “chronic inflammation.” Often contributing to this level of danger is a weakened detox ability in our body. If our liver, skin, and other organ systems cannot keep up with and detoxify the number of potential toxins that we encounter, too many potential toxins remain at large throughout our body. Once again, the result is a level of risk that prompts chronic inflammation.
On a more temporary, short-term basis, inflammation is part of good health. Whether physical or chemical in nature, whenever our body detects a wound, it typically responds by trying to heal with an inflammatory response. That process is healthy, so long as it is not constant and uninterrupted. But unlike the helpful inflammation that takes place we get a simple cut or bruise, chronic inflammation-when it becomes a standard feature of our metabolism-is incompatible with good health. When our bodies are overwhelmed day in and day out with chronic inflammation, many other metabolic balances can get thrown out of kilter, including the balance in our oxygen metabolism. An unwanted imbalance starts to occur in which too many overly reactive, oxygen-containing molecules are formed. This condition is called oxidative stress. The increased presence of these overly reactive molecules can do damage to many parts of our cells, including their genetic material (and especially their deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA). Over time, the constant and cumulative DNA damage inside our cells can pose a major risk factor for conversion of healthy cells into cancerous ones.
It’s equally possible for this sequence of events to start not with chronic, excessive inflammation, but with chronic oxidative stress. Over time, when overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules cause damage to DNA and other cell structures, our body reads this situation as being highly dangerous and it initiates an inflammatory response to try and reduce the threat posed by the oxidative stress. In either case, we end up with a combination of inadequate detoxification of toxic substances, chronic inflammation and oxidative stress that puts us at greater risk for developing cancer.
In a way that might be unique among foods, the nutrients found in broccoli are able to change this set of connections between inflammation, oxidative stress, detox and cancer. In fact, it would be fair to describe broccoli as containing anti-inflammatory nutrients, antioxidant nutrients, detox-support nutrients, and anti-cancer nutrients as well!
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Check out Jen Reviews 12 Benefits of Broccoli, Backed by Science (and 5 Delicious Recipes to Try at Home)