Broccoli is a true nutrition powerhouse. Like other cruciferous vegetables (see below), it’s high in vitamin C, folate, fiber, potassium, vitamin K and beta carotene. One cup of raw, chopped broccoli delivers as much vitamin C as a medium-sized orange and only 30 calories.
Numerous studies have associated the unique phytochemicals (vegetable chemicals) in crucifers with a reduced risk of bladder, colon, lung and other cancers.
Most recently, an analysis of 13 existing studies from the US, Europe and China linked broccoli and other crucifers to a 15% reduced breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women.
Broccoli is singled out as a particularly good source of sulforaphane, formed from the compound glucosinolate, when the vegetable is cut, chopped chewed and digested. According to laboratory studies, sulforaphane may inhibit cancer growth, in part by boosting production of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens. It also may inhibit other enzymes that cause the activation of carcinogens.
In addition, broccoli’s phytochemicals are thought to reduce the spread of cancer cells– necessary for metastasis—or cause cancer cells to self-destruct.
Other lab test show that crucifers inhibit tumor blood vessel formation, help protect cells from DNA damage, have antiviral and antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
My Take: If like President George H W Bush, you aren’t a fan of broccoli, other cruciferous vegetables in the Brassica genus of plants include arugula, bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, radishes, rutabaga, turnips, watercress and wasabi.
Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, 2012 National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Study published in The Breast Journal, 2012