Guest blog by Sam Hadadi.
Whether you love it or loathe it, broccoli has long been touted as a superfood thanks to its stellar line-up of health benefits.
Yet now, we’ve been given even more reason to load up on this leafy green, with experts saying that eating it just three to four times a week could help to protect us against cancer.
A group of researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered that our beloved broccoli contains phenolic compounds, which are linked to lower risks of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and asthma.
Jack Juvik, a geneticist at the University, said: "Phenolic compounds have good antioxidant activity, and there is increasing evidence that this antioxidant activity affects biochemical pathways affiliated with inflammation in mammals.
“We need inflammation because it's a response to disease or damage, but it's also associated with initiation of a number of degenerative diseases.
“People whose diets consist of a certain level of these compounds will have a lesser risk of contracting these diseases.”
In fact, once you eat this beautiful leafy green, your body will absorb the phenolic compounds straight away, before sending them to targeted areas or the liver. They then spread through the bloodstream, reducing inflammation through their antioxidant activity.
During the study, the research team bred two broccoli lines, before analysing them for phenolic content and their ability to neutralise oxygen radicals. They then used a specialist genetic technique called quantitative trait locus analysis to search for the genes involved in producing phenolics – that almighty antioxidant we just mentioned.
After doing this, scientists realised that they may have unlocked the code to superstar broccoli. How? Well, they may now be able to start work on breeding broccoli, kale and cabbage with mega-doses of phenolic compounds.
Although, don’t get your hopes up just yet. Juvik added: "It's going to take a while. This work is a step in that direction, but is not the final answer. We plan to take the candidate genes we identified here and use them in a breeding program to improve the health benefits of these vegetables. Meanwhile, we'll have to make sure yield, appearance, and taste are maintained as well."
Can’t we just get these antioxidants elsewhere, though? Do we really need to modify our favourite veg? Well, yes, according to Juvik.
He added: "These are things we can't make ourselves, so we have to get them from our diet.
"The compounds don't stick around forever, so we need to eat broccoli or some other Brassica vegetable every three or four days to lower the risk of cancers and other degenerative diseases."
Food for thought?
As you may have gathered, broccoli is one of the superstars of the vegetable world. In fact, like many of its fellow cruciferous veggie brothers (think kale, cauliflower and Brussels) it’s something of a nutrient powerhouse and is loaded with all kinds of goodness to keep you healthy and glowing.
Want to know why you should be eating more broccoli? Read on…
Can It Fight Cancer?
As you now know, broccoli is thought to be one of our foodie weapons in the fight against cancer. Eating more of it could cut our risk of liver cancer1, while its sprout has also been found to help with oral cancers2. Why? Well, many studies believe that this is because of broccoli’s rich content of sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing compound which can inhibit an enzyme involved in the making of cancerous cells.
Boost the Bones
Beautiful broccoli is also chock-full of vitamin K, which can boost our bone health by helping our body to absorb calcium better and reducing the excretion of calcium in urine.
Gets us Glowing
While you may think of oranges and lemons when it comes to vitamin C, just one cup of broccoli can give you your RDA of this handy little vitamin. Vitamin C, as you know, is great for fighting off flus and colds but it also plays a huge role in the production of collagen, which plumps up skin and keeps us looking youthful.
As with all our fruit and veg, broccoli is full of fibre, which can help us to keep our insides ticking along nicely. By eating plenty of broccoli you’ll help your body’s digestive tract to stay nice and healthy which, in turn, can help to ward off colon cancer.
If, like us, this has convinced you to eat more broccoli, then this handy little guide is for you.
When it comes to buying your broccoli, it all depends on variety. The most common, the calabrese, is available to enjoy year-round (although it tastes best from July to October), while purple or long-stemmed sprouting broccoli are best to buy seasonally in the spring. The pale-green and bumpy romanesco, which is related to the humble cauliflower, is best to buy in the autumn.
Whichever variety you plump for, though, always look for tightly-packed, darkly coloured heads with firm stems and no signs of yellowing. Wherever you can, go for the unwrapped kind too, as it’s usually fresher.
Once you get it home, it’s best to store in the fridge.
When preparing our broccoli, we like to cut off any tough leaves before washing under cold water.
You can usually steam it super quickly (think 3-6 minutes) and I’ve found the trick is to remove it from the steamer as soon as it’s ready (test it by piercing the stalk), otherwise it continues to cook and spoil.
You can try stir-frying until tender or a particular favourite of ours is to roast for about 15 minutes in a little Lucy Bee Coconut Oil, a spinkling of our Himalayan salt and ground black pepper plus some crushed garlic – delicious!
If you fancy throwing it into your recipes, here are a few other Lucy Bee broccoli-based favourites:
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