Nutrition – Broccoli

Tuesday 08 May 2018

As you may know, I do not believe that there are such things as ‘super foods’. However, I may be being a bit naive here because I do think that some foods are very nutritious but rather than be given a superfood status, should be part of a good mixed diet and not put on a pedestal. One of these nutritious foods is Broccoli. I am always extolling its virtues for its calcium and magnesium content to support good bone health, and the useful levels of iron and vitamin C, as part of the cruciferous vegetable group etc. In fact it is a food that has many health benefits as part of a good balanced diet.

One of the reasons it is so useful is that broccoli is so easily available all year around, very versatile and not expensive. All of these facts make it extra useful as part of a good diet. So this week I thought that we could look at its health benefits in more detail and some interesting simple ways that it can be used.

It is no coincidence that more than 300 research studies on broccoli have converged in one unique area of health science – the development of cancer.

Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous group of vegetables. Others include Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, dark green leafy vegetables, bok choy, watercress, chard, turnips and purple sprouting Broccoli.

So what are the benefits of this easy convenient food?

• Broccoli contains glucosinolates i.e. sulphorane and indole-3-carbinol. Indole 3 carbinol has been shown to help convert strong oestrogens in the body that can drive cancer, into weak oestrogens that do not. So important for those with hormone related cancers.

• They have been shown through research to reduce the size and number of tumours that a cancer can develop, which is interesting and quite profound.

• Glucosinolates have a strong impact on the body’s own detoxification process and supports the liver through all stages of detoxification.

• They also exert very strong anti-oxidant effects. As we know antioxidants help to protect our cells from damage by free radicals. Interestingly the level of sulforaphane level is much higher in broccoli sprouts than in mature broccoli.

So this makes good reading so far and apart from these very positive qualities it is very rich in important vitamins and minerals:

• Vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant.

• Vitamin C which is essential to help support a strong immune system and act as a powerful antioxidant.

• Vitamin B6 and magnesium – both work synergistically in energy production within the cell and both are vital for good hormone balance.

• Vitamin K is needed along with calcium, magnesium and vitamin D for good bone health and vitamin K has a role in proper blood clotting mechanisms. Broccoli does not contain Vitamin D but research has shown that vitamin K and vitamin A both help keep our vitamin D metabolism in balance. So broccoli is an ideal food to include. NOTE that because of its high vitamin K content and its role in blood clotting it is important that if you are on blood thinning medication that you do not suddenly start eating lots of broccoli without letting your medical team know.

• Folic acid helps make blood cells, supports wound healing, helps to build muscle and is critical for healthy cell division and DNA.

• Calcium levels are very high and one of the best sources available to the body at a whopping 42.8 grms per serving. Because broccoli contains good levels of magnesium and vitamin K as well, this makes it a particularly good food for bone health.

• Broccoli is also a good source of fibre, which as we know is essential for good for bowel health and regular elimination.

• We are not accustomed to thinking about non fatty vegetables as a source of omega 3 but broccoli does contain some and around 2 cups of broccoli contains 400 milligrams of omega 3 (about the same as a soft gel flax oil capsule) and so will still provide some of the anti-inflammatory effects associated with omega 3.

Studies suggest that to gain the benefits of broccoli we should eat about 1 kilo (2 lbs) a week or another similar vegetable from the cruciferous group.

Here are some ways in which broccoli can be included in the diet.

• Simply steam for 5 minutes and serve as a vegetable with your meal.

• Broken into small florets and added to stir fries.

• Eaten raw dipped in hummus.

• To make a cauliflower and broccoli soup

• Added to a smoothie.

• Toss pasta with olive oil, pine nuts and cooked broccoli florets and season to taste.

• Add cooked broccoli florets to omelettes or frittatas.

Five minute broccoli and feta
1lb of broccoli florets, 3 tbsp of crumbled feta, 6 black olives sliced.

For the dressing:
3 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tsps of lemon juice, 2 cloves garlic crushed, seasoning.

To make; simply mix together the dressing ingredients in a screw top jar, mix salad ingredients together, and mix in through the dressing.

Broccoli with garlic
1lb of broccoli florets
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of roasted walnut oil or olive oil
2 cloves of garlic crushed

¼ cup of finely chopped red onion

2 tsps of lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

To make; In a small pan heat the butter and oil, add the garlic, red onion and lemon juice, cook till soft.
Toss in the broccoli and season. serve.

You may have some good ideas of your own that you would like to share.

Blog originally written by Caroline June 2015 - checked April 2020

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