Broccoli is a green superfood that belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family and is probably the best known cruciferous vegetable. Like Brussels sprouts, rapini, cabbage (green), cauliflower and turnips (white), it forms a "head." Others - known as the "headless crucifers" - include other green superfood leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens.
Cruciferous vegetables are non-starchy vegetables that contain dietary fiber, folate, carotenoids (including beta-carotene) and vitamin C. After a systematic review the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) considered there to be strong evidence that these lower the risk for several cancers.
So, what is in Broccoli that fights disease?
Like many other green superfoods, broccoli contains the following:
- Excellent sources of folate, a B vitamin
- Good source of Vitamin C and K
- Good source of potassium
- Good source of dietary fiber
- Rich in magnesium
- Broccoli contain carotenoids such as beta-carotene
Cruciferous vegetables are a large group, and each kind contains numerous vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals studied in the lab for cancer protection.
Some of the more well-studied compounds include:
Glucosinolates, which are broken down into isothiocyanates and indoles. Lab studies have shown these compounds decrease inflammation, a risk factor for cancer. The compounds also inhibit enzymes that activate carcinogens and stimulate enzymes that de-activate carcinogens.
Studies suggest the compounds "turn on" genes that suppress tumors, slowing cancer cell growth and stimulating a process called apoptosis in which cancer cells self-destruct. Some studies show that these substances may also shift the active form of estrogen into a weaker form.
High amounts of estrogen are a risk factor for certain hormone-linked cancers.
Carotenoids act as antioxidants. Beta-carotene, one of the more well-known carotenoids, also promotes cell communication that helps control abnormal cell growth.
Vitamin C protects cells as an antioxidant and by supporting the immune system.
Kaempferol, quercetin and anthocyanins provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. In cell and animal studies, they slow development of several stages and types of cancer.
Folate helps maintain healthy DNA and keeps cancer-promoting genes “turned off.” Animal studies, however, suggest that exceptionally high amounts or intervention after cancer cells have formed might promote development of colon and perhaps other cancers.
Greens superfood supplements
Broccoli and it's compounds are an essential ingredient found in many of the best greens supplements. Look for a supplement that uses only the highest quality organic ingredients. Find a supplement that does not use heat in the processing as this can damage the molecular structure of the ingredients. If you are interested in learning more about greens supplements, you will find a green supplement review here.