Brassica oleracea italica
Broccoli is a plant that has developed from wild cabbage in Europe. There are suggestions that indicate that this vegetable has been known to mankind since 2,000 years ago. In effect, broccoli has been regarded as an exceptionally valuable food for the Italians since the time of the Romans.
Broccoli belongs to the vegetable family known as Brassica. The term ‘cruciferous’ has been derived from the Latin word cruciferocious, denoting bearing a cross, and this refers to the flowers of the vegetables belonging to this family, which are all cross-shaped. Similarly, the name of this vegetable ‘broccoli’ has its origin in the Latin term ‘brachium’, which denotes an arm or branch that depict the broccoli stalks that are crowned by a head of blooms.
Initially, broccoli was found growing in the wild the length of the Mediterranean coast. The Romans were the first to cultivate this vegetable and the Italians adopted the plant very enthusiastically. Currently, broccoli is grown in many regions of the world and is available throughout the globe. Early settlers from Italy carried this vegetable along with them to America. Today, broccoli is valued highly owing to its pleasant taste and also because of the assortment of textures offered by the species – right from the vegetable’s flowery heads to the soft as well as fibrous stalks.
Apart from its delicious taste, broccoli also possesses several valuable therapeutic attributes. For instance, broccoli has the aptitude to combat cancer. It may be noted that cancer develops in the human body over a long period of time. Initially, the development is at the cellular level accompanied by an aberration, which is eventually diagnosed as cancer generally about 10 to 20 years later! Currently, scientists across the world are engaged in multifarious researches to find ways and means to cure this deadly disease, which is second only to heart ailments.
It appeared that cabbage and broccoli have been offering the maximum fortification against cancer. Findings of numerous studies have substantiated that broccoli as well as other vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family diminishes the risk of developing cancer. Consuming a very small amount of crucifers – as little as 10 grams every day, which is equivalent to fewer than 1/8 cup of sliced raw cabbage or chopped up raw broccoli, may create a notable impact on an individual’s risk for developing cancer. Consuming broccoli is certainly similar to availing a natural dosage of chemo prevention. The findings of one research have shown that consuming approximately two servings of cruciferous every day is likely to lead to reduction in the risk of developing specific types of cancers to the extent of about 50 per cent. Although all vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family appear to be useful in combating cancer, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts appear to be more potent in this regard. Eating simply half a cup of broccoli daily helps to protect one from several types of cancers, especially cancers of the stomach, lung, colon and rectum.
Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur compounds and this is a key reason why these foods are such potent chemo preventive foodstuff. Cabbage, broccoli as well as all other vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family possess a strong odour and this is attributed to the sulfur compounds present in these vegetables, which protects the plants as well as us from various maladies, including cancer. The strong, but occasional astringent flavour and odour of cruciferous vegetables protect the plants from animals as well as insects.
The specific compounds present in broccoli, which are highly effectual against cancer, include the indoles, phytochemicals and sulforaphane. Among these, sulforaphane is an extraordinarily strong compound that combats cancer on several different fronts. Sulforaphane augments the enzymes that facilitate in getting the body rid of carcinogens – in effect, this compound actually eliminates all anomalous cells. At the same time, sulforaphane assists the body to restrict oxidation – the procedure that commences several chronic ailments – at the cellular level itself. Similarly, the indoles function to fight cancer via their impact on estrogen. Actually, in the breast cancer cells, they obstruct estrogen receptors – slowing down the development of estrogen sensitive breast cancers. The most vital indole found in broccoli – indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is believed to be a specifically effectual preventive agent in the case of breast cancer.
Broccoli also contains other elements that facilitate in making the vegetable a famous food. As we all are aware that vitamin C has a vital role in averting cancer, and broccoli as well as several other vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family possess rich content of this particular vitamin, a potent antioxidant.
In this context, it may be mentioned that a cupful of cooked broccoli encloses over 100 per cent of the RDA for vitamin C for both – adult males and females. In addition, broccoli also has rich fiber content and this has a vital role in diminishing the risks of developing cancer.
Besides containing high amounts of antioxidants, broccoli as well as other vegetables of the cruciferous family are rich in folate content. Folates are actually the B vitamin that is necessary to prevent defects during birth. In effect, deficiency of folic acid is known to be linked to flaws in the neural tube during pregnancy, for instance spina bifida. Consuming one cup of finely sliced broccoli provides the body with over 50 mg of folate – the plant version of folic acid. In effect, folate is also vigorous in facilitating the removal of homocysteine from the blood circulation. It may be noted that elevated levels of homocysteine in the system are related to cardiovascular ailments. In addition, folates also have a crucial role in preventing cancer. Fascinatingly enough, deficiency of folic acid may turn out to be the most widespread dearth of vitamin across the globe.
It is important to note that broccoli as well as other vegetables belonging to the cruciferous family are known to be bone builders. Consuming a cup of uncooked broccoli supplies the body with 41 mg of calcium with 79 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for the body to absorb calcium. Although this cannot be said to be a large amount of calcium, it is at a small cost of calories and is accompanied with the advantage of several different nourishments present in broccoli. It is important to note that while whole milk as well as different full-fat dairy products have been promoted as major sources of calcium for a long time now, they actually do not enclose any amount of vitamin C and are generally packed with saturated fat as well as additional calories compared to one cup of finely chopped broccoli. Broccoli also provides the body with a notable amount of vitamin K – a vitamin necessary for blood clotting as well as maintaining the health of the bones.
In addition, broccoli is also a wonderful natural resource for vitamin C, flavonoids, folate, carotenoids as well as potassium, which assist in averting heart ailments. Broccoli also provides us with a liberal amount of fiber, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Vitamin B6 is especially important for endorsing cardiovascular health. In fact, along with spinach, broccoli is among the small number of vegetables that enclose relatively rich amounts of coenzyme Q10 – an antioxidant soluble in fat and is a main supplier to energy production in our body. Especially, Q10 can play a vital role in preventing cardiac ailment in individuals who have already been diagnosed with heart ailments.
Broccoli also encloses manifold nutrients that possess strong anti-cancer attributes, for instance diindolylmethane as well as little amounts of the trace mineral selenium. Broccoli also contains 3,3′-Diindolylmethane, which is a very strong modulator of the inherent immune response system that has anti-bacterial, anti-viral as well as anti-cancer actions. Furthermore, broccoli encloses the chemical compound called glucoraphanin that may be processed into an anti-cancer compound – sulforaphane. However, it is important to note that the benefits offered by broccoli are lessened to a great extent if it is boiled.
It is advisable that you may consume broccoli after steaming it for about three to four minutes with a view to obtain the utmost benefits from the anti-cancer compounds enclosed by this vegetable, for instance sulforaphane contained by it. Boiling the vegetable lowers the intensity of the so-called anti-carcinogenic compounds present in broccoli. Precisely speaking, when broccoli is boiled the anti-carcinogenic properties of this vegetable diminishes to the extent of 20 to 30 per cent after five minutes, and about 40 to 50 per cent after 10 minutes. When broccoli is boiled for about half-an-hour, it loses its anti-cancer properties (sulforaphane) by as much as 77 per cent. Nevertheless, it needs to be mentioned here that preparing broccoli in other methods, for instance microwaving, steaming as well as stir frying does not have any notable impact on the compounds enclosed by this vegetable.
It is important to note that broccoli encloses the maximum amount of carotenoids compared to other vegetables in the Brassica family. In effect, this vegetable especially has a rich content of lutein and also provides our body with a reasonable quantity of beta-carotene.
Several studies have found that an increased consumption of broccoli actually reduces the risks of insistent prostate cancer. In addition, eating broccoli has also been related to foul-smelling flatulence. This is basically owing to the metabolism of compounds containing sulfur found in broccoli.