Broccoli Anti-Cancer

Broccoli can assist in a holistic cancer treatment. Broccoli will not cure cancer alone but in combination with other herbs, juices and therapies, broccoli will boost cancer treatment effectiveness.

Broccoli contain a class of potent anti-carcinogens (cancer-combating agents) called isothiocyanates. These compounds block many cancer-causing agents in a wide variety of cancers. They also detoxify potential carcinogens such as environmental toxins. It’s an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, beta-carotene and many other carotenoids and calcium. And each of these micronutrients supports overall health and helps counter cancer.

Broccoli is considered a good source of nutrients because it is rich in vitamin C, carotenoids (vitamin A-like substances), fiber, calcium, and folate. Broccoli is also a source of many substances called phytochemicals, or plant chemicals, that may have anticancer properties. For example, broccoli contains several compounds called isothiocyanates, including sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which have been touted as possible anti-cancer agents in recent years. Early studies have shown these substances may act as anti-oxidants and may boost detoxifying enzymes in the body. Some studies have also suggested they may alter the levels of estrogen in the body, which might affect breast cancer risk.

The chemical composition of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables is complex, which makes it hard to determine which compound or combination of compounds may provide protection against cancer. Eating a wide variety of plant-based foods may be the best way to get the necessary components.

One study showed that breast tumor development was significantly reduced in laboratory animals that ate sulforaphane. Other laboratory studies have shown that sulforaphane may help protect against prostate, colon, pancreas, and other types of cancer. Some studies have also suggested that the compound may help treat some types of cancer. More research in animals and humans will be needed to confirm these findings.

Another substance in broccoli, indole-3-carbinol (I3C), seems to alter estrogen levels and may also raise levels of protective enzymes in the body. Several studies of cancer cells growing in laboratory dishes or flasks have shown it may slow or stop the growth of breast, prostate, and other cancer cells. Some early studies in animals have shown similar results. Small studies in humans have found it may prevent the development of pre-cancerous growths in the cervix, as well as growths called papillomas in the throat.

Scientists caution that while broccoli appears promising as an excellent food for preventing cancer, the results of such studies cannot be considered by themselves. The anti-cancer effects of any single food cannot be completely understood without looking at it as part of a bigger dietary picture. It is still unclear, for example, whether the phytochemicals in broccoli have benefit on their own or whether it is the vitamin C, beta carotene, folate, and other compounds, working together and in the right quantities, that might protect people against cancer.

A balanced diet that includes 5 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables along with foods from a variety of other plant sources such as nuts, seeds, whole grain cereals, and beans is likely to be more healthful than eating large amounts of one food.

Broccoli Medical History Usage

About 2 decades ago, researchers first suggested a possible link between diets high in cruciferous vegetables (a group of plants including cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts)) and a lower risk of cancer. However, it was not until the 1990s that certain chemicals found in broccoli were identified as possible cancer-preventing compounds. In 1997, a study was published that noted broccoli sprouts had higher levels of one of these compounds than mature broccoli.

Broccoli Health Benefits

Beneficial especially for women: Broccoli contains phytonutrients, called indole and sulforaphane, which may help prevent breast cancer. Sulforaphane belongs to a class of molecules named isothiocyanates. These phytonutrients help block an estrogen metabolite that promotes breast cancer growth (specifically, the estrogen-sensitive type). Moreover, its folic acid content is good for pregnant women to prevent birth defects in the fetus. The large amount of calcium in broccoli may also prevent osteoporosis.

For protection against many cancers and cancer-causing substances: Dr. Paul Talalay, a Professor of Pharmacology and Director of the Laboratory for Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, named his lab “Brassica,” which is the genus that includes cauliflower and broccoli. Talalay and his colleagues discovered broccoli’s cancer-fighting substance called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane helps activate the body’s immune cells called helper T-cells, and may help the liver in detoxifying potential carcinogens like cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, drugs and alcohol.

In addition, researchers at Tokyo’s Graduate School of Agriculture have discovered that sulforaphane can block the growth of melanoma, a form of skin cancer. This study was published in 1999 in the Nutrition and Cancer journal.

Similarly, a study of Singaporean women exposed to high pollution levels showed that eating a diet high in broccoli and other cruciferous veggies conferred a 30% decrease in the risk of getting lung cancer. Another study in the Netherlands showed a 49% decline in the risk of developing colorectal cancer in patients who ate these vegetables.

Overall, when scientists at the World Cancer Research Fund reviewed 206 human and 22 animal studies, they found scientific evidence that cruciferous vegetables lowered the risk of developing cancers of the oral cavity, throat, stomach, esophagus, lung, pancreas, and colon.

For heart and cholesterol problems: Most vegetables are rich in fiber and thus helps reduce blood cholesterol levels. Fiber also helps regulate bowel movement and is said to “cleanse” the intestines. In addition to fiber, broccoli has a high Vitamin C and potassium content, which helps in normal heart function.

For weight loss: Considered a low calorie food, broccoli is an ideal vegetable for those on a diet. Each cup of steamed broccoli contains only 46 calories. The high fiber content of its stem (or spears) makes one feel fuller. For adults and children on a weight-loss program, steamed broccoli spears can be a healthy snack.

Antioxidants to boost the immune system: Broccoli is a unique vegetable because it contains several antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C and glutathione, which all benefit the immune system. Some people take in glutathione in supplement form but some experts say that this may not be as effective as the natural form found in broccoli. Glutathione is said to work by helping the liver neutralize cancerous substances and pollutants, including mercury and lead.

Aside from the health benefits mentioned, eating broccoli has been linked to the prevention and control of diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and various cancers.

How to Eat Broccoli

  • To get the most benefit, you need to choose the freshest broccoli. All parts of the vegetable, including the leaf, the flower (florets) and the stem are healthy, although the whitish stem does not contain vitamin C.
  • Try steaming the vegetable instead of boiling it. Place the broccoli in a steamer over boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes. The appearance of cooked broccoli should still be bright green in color. A pale and soggy broccoli means that it has been overcooked.
  • Another technique is to roast broccoli. You may place a little oil and season with calamansi, vinegar or cheese.

Research shows that the more cooking and processing done on vegetables, the lesser will be the health benefits, in terms of amount of active phytonutrients. This is true for most foods that grow naturally. That is why it is best to cook vegetables lightly.

According to the food pyramid, a healthy diet should consist of around 2 cups of assorted vegetables each day. Near the top of list should be your broccoli and cabbage, which can be eaten several times in a week.

Broccoli Precaution

Broccoli are generally safe to eat. For those individuals with low thyroid function (called hypothyroidism), you should avoid eating large amounts of cruciferous vegetables, because this can depress the function of the thyroid gland. However, those with high thyroid function (called hyperthyroidism) might benefit from eating broccoli.

Since broccoli is high in fiber, eating large amounts of it may cause gas. High-fiber foods should be reduced or avoided in people with diarrhea and some other colon problems. This can be minimized by simply adding garlic or ginger on your broccoli, thereby also getting the health benefits of both garlic and ginger.

Raw broccoli may be more likely to cause irritation, especially in those with certain bowel conditions. Relying on this type of diet alone and avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.

Broccoli Preparation

Broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways. It can be purchased fresh or frozen in most grocery and organic food stores. Broccoli retains the most nutrients when eaten raw. Cooking reduces some of the benefits of broccoli because the heating process seems to destroy some anti-cancer compounds.

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Broccoli Research Links

Dietary isothiocyanates, glutathione S-transferase M1 (GSTM1), and lung cancer risk in African Americans and Caucasians from Los Angeles County, California.

Raw broccoli doubles survival in bladder cancer patients.

Steam cooking significantly improves in vitro bile acid binding of collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, green bell pepper, and cabbage.

Research says boiling broccoli ruins its anti-cancer properties.

Research reveals a broccoli boost for arteries.

Sulforaphane, a Dietary Component of Broccoli/Broccoli Sprouts, Inhibits Breast Cancer Stem Cells

Study finds broccoli extract could inhibit breast cancer cells.

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