Recent studies have also provided us with a much better idea about the amount of broccoli that we need to lower our cancer risk. At the lower end of the spectrum, it looks like an average of 1/2 cup of broccoli per day—only 22 calories’ worth of broccoli!—is enough to provide some measurable benefits. Few people have broccoli on a daily basis. But a 2-cup serving twice a week would still meet this minimum average amount. It’s important to remember how little this amount actually in within the context of one week’s food. A person eating 2,000 calories per day would be consuming 14,000 calories per week. A 2-cup serving of broccoli twice a week would provide about 178 calories—only 1% of the total weekly calories! At the higher end of the spectrum, studies show that more broccoli might be needed to accomplish other cancer-preventing tasks.
For example, one study showed significantly higher urinary excretion of potential carcinogens from well-done, grilled meats given daily consumption of broccoli in the range of 9 ounces (250 grams) per day. That gram amount corresponds to approximately 1.6 cups of broccoli on a daily basis. We’ve also seen a study showing that “generous” amounts of broccoli can help optimize levels of antioxidants in the blood, especially beta-carotene and lutein. (Optimal antioxidant levels can help lower the risk of oxidative stress in healthy cells, which also helps lower their risk of becoming cancerous.) In this study, the term “generous” was used to describe consumption of broccoli in the amount of 3 cups daily. Once again, that amount would not be ridiculously high in terms of calories—3 cups would provide about 132 calories, or 6-7% of a 2,000-calorie diet. But it might be a greater amount that many people would want to consume on a regular basis.
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family, and is closely related to cauliflower. Its cultivation originated in Italy. Broccolo, its Italian name, means “cabbage sprout.” Broccoli’s name is derived from the Latin word brachium, which means branch or arm, a reflection of its tree-like shape that features a compact head of florets attached by small stems to a larger stalk. Because of its different components, this vegetable provides a complex of tastes and textures, ranging from soft and flowery (the florets) to fibrous and crunchy (the stem and stalk). Its color can range from deep sage to dark green to purplish-green, depending upon the variety. One of the most popular types of broccoli sold in North America is known as Italian green, or Calabrese, named after the Italian province of Calabria where it first grew.
Other vegetables related to broccoli are broccolini, a mix between broccoli and gai-lin (Chinese broccoli), and broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. Broccoli sprouts have also recently become popular as a result of research uncovering their high concentration of the anti-cancer phytonutrient, sulforaphane.
Broccoli is an excellent source of immune-supportive vitamin C, anti-inflammatory vitamin K, and heart-healthy folate. It is a very good source of free-radical-scavenging vitamin A (through its concentration of carotenoid phytonutrients), enzyme-activating manganese and molybdenum; digestive-health-supporting fiber; heart-healthy potassium and vitamin B6; and energy-producing vitamin B2 and phosphorus. It is a good source of energy-producing vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, protein, and iron; bone-healthy magnesium and calcium; and antioxidant-supportive vitamin E and selenium.
Broccoli is also concentrated in phytonutrients. In one particular phytonutrient category—glucosinolates—broccoli is simply outstanding. The isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from broccoli’s glucosinolates are the key to broccoli’s cancer-preventive benefits.
For an in-depth nutritional profile click here: Broccoli.
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- Bhattacharya A, Tang L, Li Y, et al. Inhibition of bladder cancer development by allyl isothiocyanate. Carcinogenesis. 2010 Feb;31(2):281-6. 2010.
- Bryant CS, Kumar S, Chamala S, et al. Sulforaphane induces cell cycle arrest by protecting RB-E2F-1 complex in epithelial ovarian cancer cells. Molecular Cancer 2010, 9:47. 2010.