New Straits Times
Why you should eat your broccoli
This deep-green vegetable contains a disease-fighting micro nutrient, writes Kasmiah Mustapha
BROCCOLI is one of the most hated vegetables. Many people, especially children, react strongly to the idea of eating this deep green fibrous vegetable. Perhaps the most famous declaration of hate on broccoli was by former American president George H.W. Bush.
In 1990, he stated that he would not eat it any more after being forced to do so by his mother when he was a child.
However, unknown to many, broccoli contains sulforaphane, a disease-fighting micro nutrient.
Sulforaphane is also found in other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, spinach, cabbage, mustard, cress and kale. However, the richest source of sulforaphane is in broccoli sprouts.
According to livestrong.com, three-dayold broccoli sprouts offer 10 to 100 times more sulforaphane by weight than mature broccoli plants or cauliflower. A oneounce serving provides 73 milligrammes of sulforaphane glucosinolate.
Dietitian Edna Loh says sulforaphane has nutrigenomic properties that work on the human body at a cellular level.
Numerous studies have found that this micro nutrient is a powerful tool to fight various diseases.
Research has focused on the benefits of sulforaphane in reducing cancer risks as well as having anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties, among others.
“Most of the studies found that it reduces the risk of cervical, prostate and bladder cancers. This is because it regulates one of the genes in our cells that reduces carcinogen in the body.
“A study found that people who eat two or more servings of broccoli daily actually have a lower risk of bladder cancer — by up to 39 per cent. This can also be attributed to its fibre content.” Loh says sulforaphane’s anti-inflammatory properties is also beneficial for joints.
Studies on people with spinal cord injuries found that a combination of physical therapy and consumption of sulforaphane helps reduce inflammation.
Sulforaphane also activates 200 genes that affect the way human cells defend against free radicals. This helps slow down ageing as free radicals are one of the main factors that accelerate ageing.
In children with autism, sulforaphane in combination with therapy can help to manage their behaviour.
Loh says sulforaphane does not exist naturally but is activated when vegetables are chopped or eaten raw.
Chewing or chopping cruciferous vegetables activates the enzyme myrosinase which in turn hydrolyses glucoraphanin, a natural component of many pungent plants, into sulforaphane.
“To ensure the full benefits of sulforaphane, it is better to eat the vegetables raw. Studies have found that it is the length of time you spend cooking the vegetables that can kill sulforaphane and not how you cook them. If you don’t like it raw, steam or stir-fry it for less than three minutes.
“There are also other ways of preserving sulforaphane. Another technique is to chop the vegetable, and leave it for 30 to 45 minutes to allow for formation of sulforaphane. You can also add mustard seeds when you boil them.”
Loh says based on Health Ministry guidelines, we need to eat two or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
To ensure you get sulforaphane in your diet, alternate your daily vegetable servings with cruciferous vegetables.
“It does not mean you need to eat a huge amount of cruciferous vegetables. Even a small amount is enough. My personal opinion is you should have it for four or five days a week.
“The effects of consuming this nutrient can only be seen in the long run if one closely follows the recommended consumption pattern. But understand that sulforaphane does not cure diseases, it is more for prevention.”
A study found that people who eat two or more servings of broccoli daily actually have a lower risk of bladder cancer — by up to 39 per cent. Dietitian Edna Loh