King of the Crucifers
Protect against heart disease
Fight off cancer
Ask researchers to name the one vegetable that they buy specifically for cancer prevention, and they'll say that broccoli is the one.
It's difficult to overestimate broccoli's healing powers.
This crisp, delicious member of the cruciferous family has been shown to fend off a host of serious conditions, including heart disease and cancer.
Double Cancer Protection
Broccoli's impressive power as a cancer fighter is due in part to its two-pronged attack.
It contains not just one, but two separate compounds, indole3-carbinol (or I3C, for short) and sulforaphane, that help sweep up cancer-causing substances before they have a chance to do harm.
The compound I3C, which is also found in cabbage and Brussels sprouts, is particularly effective against breast cancer.
In laboratory studies, I3C has been found to lower levels of harmful estrogen's that can promote tumor growth in hormone-sensitive cells, like breast cells.
While I3C is working against hormone-induced cancers, sulforaphane is offering protection on another front, by boosting the production of cancer blocking enzymes, says Thomas Kensler, Ph.D., professor in the department of environmental health sciences in the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
In one pioneering study, 145 laboratory animals were exposed to a powerful cancer-causing agent.
Twenty-five of the animals had not received any special treatment, while the rest were fed high doses of sulforaphane.
After 50 days, 68 percent of the unprotected animals had breast tumors, compared with only 26 percent of those given the sulforaphane.
It's no wonder that researchers put broccoli-florets, pieces and stems, at the top of their lists of nutritional superstars.
People who eat lots of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, are protected from every kind of cancer.
Broccoli-florets and other crucifers are particularly helpful when it comes to preventing cancers of the colon, breast, and prostate gland.
A Boost from Beta-Carotene
While much recent research has focused on "exotic" compounds like sulforaphane, broccoli is also chock-full of more common, but still powerful, compounds like beta-carotene.
This nutrient, which the body converts to vitamin-A, is one of the antioxidants.
That is, it helps prevent disease by sweeping up harmful, cell-damaging oxygen molecules that naturally accumulate in the body.
High levels of beta-carotene have been linked to lower rates of heart attack, certain cancers and cataracts.
Broccoli is an excellent source of beta-carotene, providing about 0.7 milligram in a half-cup cooked serving.
This provides 7 to 12 percent of the recommended daily amount.
Broccoli isn't called the king of the crucifers for nothing.
Besides betacarotene, sulforaphane, and I3C, broccoli contains a variety of other nutrients, each of which can help fend off a host of conditions, from heart disease to osteoporosis.
For example, just a half-cup of chopped, cooked broccoli contains almost 100 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin-C.
This antioxidant vitamin has been proven in studies to help boost immunity and fight diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Broccoli also ranks up there with diamonds as a woman's best friend.
It's one of the best vegetable sources of calcium, packing in 72 milligrams per cooked cup, about a quarter of the amount in an 8-ounce glass of skim milk.
Calcium is well-documented as the single most important nutrient that women need to keep osteoporosis (the breaking down of bones) at bay.
Broccoli-florets are also rich in folate, a nutrient that's essential for normal tissue growth and that studies show may protect against cancer, heart disease, and birth defects. Women, especially those who take birth control pills are often low in this nutrient.
Finally, if you're looking to keep your digestive system running smoothly, make broccoli your fuel of choice, experts advise.
A half-cup provides 2 grams of fiber, which is a proven protector against constipation, hemorrhoids, colon cancer, diabetes,high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity.
Experts aren't yet sure how much broccoli you need to maximize its healing potential.
We advise eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, while reaching for this crunchy crucifer whenever you can.
In the kitchen One of the problems with cooking broccoli is consistency, or more specifically, a lack thereof.
Broccoli consists of both tough stalks and tender broccoli-florets, the result being that it often ends up with some parts either overdone or under-done.
To help ensure even cooking, it's helpful to cut broccoli into little spears.
First, cut off and discard the thick, woody part of the stalk, generally from the bottom up to where the broccoli-florets begin to branch.
Then cut any large broccoli-florets and stems in half lengthwise.
If you find that the stems are still too tough for eating, either trim them farther up from the bottom or peel them before cooking.
Gettinq the Most
Heat it, but just a little.
While gently cooking broccoli helps release some of its protective compounds, overheating it can destroy others.
Carotenoids like beta-carotene are preserved by heat, but the indoles, like I3C, don't withstand a lot of heat.
Light steaming is a great way to cook broccoli-florets.
And microwaving is okay, too.
Buy it purple.
You'll notice at the supermarket that broccoli-florets are sometimes so dark that they're almost purple.
The dark color means that it has more beta-carotene, experts say.
If it's yellowish, on the other hand, skip it.
That means that it's old and its nutritional clock is running down.
Look for the sprouts.
Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that three-day-old broccoli sprouts contain 20 to 50 times the amount of protective substances in the mature vegetable.
Broccoli sprouts are becoming widely available.
Ask your grocer when you'll be able to find them at your supermarket.
And, if you're wondering what to have with dinner tonight...
Fusilli with Broccoli & Chicken
This simple, rich cream sauce gets its vibrant flavor from blue cheese and fresh dill.
* 12 oz. whole wheat fusilli-pasta
* 2 c. small broccoli-florets
* 2 Tbs. olive oil
* 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4" cubes
* 1 small red onion, chopped
* 1 tsp. sea salt
* 2 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
* 2 c. milk
* 1/2 c. (2 oz.) blue cheese
* 3 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
1. Prepare the fusilli-pasta according to package directions.
Add the broccoli-florets during the last 2 minutes of cooking time.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the chicken, onion and sea salt and cook for 8 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink.
Remove to a bowl and set aside.
3. In a measuring cup, whisk together the flour and milk.
Add to the same skillet and cook, stirring often, over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the mixture boils and begins to thicken.
Add the cheese and dill.
Stir until smooth.
Stir in the chicken mixture.
4. Place the fusilli in a serving bowl.
Top with the chicken mixture.
Toss to coat well.
Recipe Notes: There are many varieties of blue cheese available these days.
Two popular ones are Gorgonzola (made from cow's milk) and Roquefort (made from sheep's milk).
The distinctive flavor of all blue cheeses intensifies as it ages.
If you prefer a milder flavor, choose a cheese with lighter marbling.
Fat 16.4 g.
Saturated Fat 4.6 g.
Cholesterol 75.7 mg.
Sodium 923.2 mg.
Carbohydrates 76.6 g.
Total Sugars 9.8 g.
Dietary Fiber 9 g.
Protein 4 g.Tweet
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