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Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, being closely related to the cabbage we know today. Broccoli belongs to the species Brassica oleracea, resembling the cauliflower- another cultivated group belonging to the same species. Broccoli is grown in many parts of the world, including Asia, North America and Europe, though much of this can be traced to migration from the Mediterranean region- its most likely point of origin.
Over the past decades, broccoli consumption has taken on a noticeable upward trend, as more and more people discover the latent nutritional benefits of this vegetable.
Broccoli health benefits includes reducing cholesterol level, supporting eye health, boosting detoxification of waste, boosting immune resistance, treating constipation, controlling blood pressure, facilitating healthy pregnancy, promoting bone health, safeguarding your stomach, reducing progression of arthritis, improving respiratory health, boosting libido and preventing cancer.
Broccoli is highly rich in dietary fiber and proteins like tryptophan. According to USDA National Nutrient Database, it also consists of vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein zeaxanthin, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Along with that, it contains vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B1, and vitamin K. Minerals in it include calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. It also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
In terms of unique organic compounds, broccoli is a rich source of phytonutrient glucosinolates, isothiocyanate, flavonoids like kaempferol, and various other antioxidant compounds that boost our health in a major way!
Broccoli can help to lower blood cholesterol levels by increasing excretion of bile acids. Cholesterol is necessary for the production of bile acids, but usually bile acids are reconverted into cholesterol when the requirement for it is over. However, compounds in broccoli bind to bile acids and promote their excretion, preventing the re-conversion into cholesterol. As a result, new cholesterol must be used every time bile acids need to be produced, reducing blood levels in the process. This is an effective natural way to help manage high cholesterol levels.
Broccoli, like many other cruciferous vegetables, contains abundant amounts of the carotenoid anti-oxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoid anti-oxidants help preserve eye function by slowing down age related macular degeneration, suppressing cataract development, and keeping healthy vision intact for years to come. The other anti-oxidant vitamins, such as Vitamin C also play a role in maintaining the health of the optic nerve.
Toxins are implicated in a range of adverse health conditions, including arthritis, cancer and even skin conditions. Luckily, broccoli contains many detoxification boosters, such as vitamin C, polyphenols, and Sulphur which is involved in phase-specific detoxification. Broccoli consumption can also promote breakdown of toxins into less harmful metabolites, which are water soluble and easily excreted in urine.
While the presence of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E are well established to boost immunity, broccoli also contains a unique compound named glucoraphanin, which is converted into an antibiotic in the body. This can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria which may cause illness, boosting the ability of the white blood cells to destroy these foreign bodies.
Broccoli contains a high amount of fiber, which helps to keep food and waste moving through the digestive tract. This fiber especially helps in the colon, where it adds bulk and stimulates the desire to poop. This also minimizes the time waste spends in contact with healthy cells, reducing the likelihood of cancerous changes occurring. A single cup of broccoli supplies almost 10% of your recommended daily intake of fiber.
Broccoli can help keep blood pressure in a normal range via multiple mechanisms, such as helping reduce cholesterol, but also by keeping blood vessels in top shape. For example, the presence of potassium assists in dilation of blood vessels, helping blood flow and reducing vascular tension. In addition, potassium is needed to regulate sodium and water balance, ensuring that blood volume does not increase too much as a result of sodium’s water retentive properties.
Pregnancy is a period of time that has high nutritional requirements, since you are responsible for the healthy growth of a new being. As such, certain nutritional intakes need to be increased, such as folate and calcium. Calcium is essential for the formation of fetal bones, and must come from somewhere. If adequate consumption is not met, the fetus takes it from your circulation, compromising your bone health in the process. Folate is essential for prevention of neural tube defects, deformities and also assisting with healthy brain development. Folic acid supplements are often used, but folate is a superior source of this nutrient.
Bone is a living tissue that requires nutrition for optimal health and function. The most important and well known of these nutrients is calcium, which broccoli contains in modest amounts. Broccoli also contains magnesium and zinc, which play a role in proper mineralization of bone tissue as well. Last but not least, is the generous amount of Vitamin K, which can be considered as the determining factor in proper bone mineralization.
The stomach is an extremely hardy organ, as it is exposed daily to the strong irritant hydrochloric acid. This acid is essential for digestion of food, but can be a painful stimulus if ulceration of the stomach occurs. This usually happens when bacterial overgrowth of Pylori compromise the mucus cell walls, causing open sores to manifest. Isothiocyanates, compounds found in broccoli, help to reinforce the mucus cell wall of our stomach and prevent Pylori for adhering to these surfaces.
Various forms of arthritis are chronic inflammatory diseases that are difficult to manage. There is much more involved than mere friction at joints, and luckily broccoli was found to have potential here as well. Broccoli consumption was found to be associated with inhibition of a key enzyme that signals cartilage degeneration, which in effect can shut down the inflammatory cascade. Subsequently, pain is also managed via this mechanism.
Asthmatics experience troublesome inflammation of the airways, triggered by things as trivial as allergies. While citrus fruits have been known to be helpful, broccoli consumption may also help as it exerts a hypo-allergenic effect on other stimuli, as well as working to reduce inflammation. Thus, the triggers are suppressed, and the resulting inflammation is better controlled. A very effective two in one punch.
Broccoli is well known in bodybuilding circles for its ability to inhibit estrogen production, and promote excess estrogen removal by the body. This is mainly thanks to two compounds, di-indolylmethane, and indole-3-carbinol, which have anti-aromatase actions and breaks down potent estrogen into weaker forms. This helps to build muscle more efficiently, and also enhances sex drive as a pleasant bonus.
Perhaps the largest amount of research done on broccoli has been for its ability to prevent cancer from developing. Cancer has certain positive links, which have been identified as increasing risk. These include oxidation, inflammation and toxins in the body. Broccoli is unique in the sense that it can address all these targets, comprehensively reducing the risk of cancer development.