Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the cabbage family. Broccoli is rich in vitamin C, carotenoids (vitamin A-like substances), fiber, calcium, and folate. 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 boost detoxifying enzymes in the body. Some studies have also suggested they may alter the levels of estrogen in the body, which might lower breast cancer risk.
According to Paul Talalay, MD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, cauliflower and broccoli contain a compound that increases sulforaphane enzymes in the body, which protect cells and prevents their genes from turning into cancer. Sulforaphane is thought to prompt the body to make higher levels of enzymes that protect against cancer-causing chemicals. Most recently, sulforaphane has shown to inhibit breast cancer stem cells in mice, says Duxin Sun, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. 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. “Men who eat plenty of green vegetables, such as cabbage and broccoli, can lower their risk of prostate cancer by 41 percent” says Jennifer Cohen, PhD, MPH, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
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. On his Dec 1 show Dr. Oz stated that I3Cs have “very potent breast cancer fighting abilities”.
How to Eat It
Cooking reduces some of the benefits of broccoli because the heating process seems to destroy some anti-cancer compounds. We recommend eating broccoli raw with hummus or putting a whole head of broccoli through a juicer and combining with tasty ingredients such as fresh pineapple, lemon, or ginger juice.