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Diane on Why you need to put broccoli on your plate tonight :
We just LOVE our cruciferous vegies! Steam them, roast... »

Why you need to put broccoli on your plate tonight

By: Lisa Costa Bir Naturopath

Is broccoli healthy? Of course it is. Grandma always told you to eat your brussels sprouts and broccoli and for good reason, these vegetables belong to the 'cruciferous' family and have been shown to help a wide range of diseases.

Now we all know that eating fruits and vegetables is important but what is it that's so good about vegetables from the cruciferous family? Veggies from this family contain constituents known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for the pungent taste you experience when eating veggies from this family. Other vegetables that belong to the cruciferous family (and thus contain health promoting glucosinolates) include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, arugula, horseradish, radish, wasabi and watercress.

One of the best reasons to increase your intake of cruciferous veggies is their protective effects against cancer. Blending, chopping or chewing cruciferous veggies results in an enzyme called myrosinase in the plant cell walls converting glucosinolates to other health promoting substances known as isothiocyanates and indoles. These constituents help to prevent cancer via a number of ways. Firstly they enhance the elimination of cancer promoting substances via the liver preventing damage to our DNA. They also alter cell-signalling pathways preventing normal cells from being transformed into cancerous cells. Indole-3-carbinol, a break down constituent from glucosinolates, has also been shown to induce cancer cell death and inhibits the invasion of tumours. As a result, consumption of cabbage and broccoli has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. High intake of cruciferous veggies has also been shown to lower the risk of lung, breast and colorectal cancer.

Aside from their glucosinolate content, the cruciferous veggies also contain many other constituents shown to aid health. An example is vitamin U in cabbage which has been shown to effective for stomach ulcers. Raw cabbage juice (1L in 5 divided servings) consumed by 100 patients with peptic ulcer was shown to be effective in promoting the rapid healing of uncomplicated peptic ulcers. The juice also provided rapid relief with regards to symptoms and a reduction of pain, in approximately 4 days. Ulcer crater healing time was also shown to be shorter. Aside from juicing cabbage, one of the best ways to increase cabbage to your daily diet is to use it in the form of sauerkraut, a recipe utilising cabbage that has been fermented. Sauerkraut is easy to make and rich in vitamin C and good bacteria that colonises the gut increasing immunity.

One of the most popular cruciferous vegetables at the moment is Kale. It contains optimal amounts of antioxidants, particularly beta-carotene. Kale juice has been shown to improve coronary artery disease risk factors in men with high cholesterol. 32 men with elevated cholesterol consumed 150 mL of kale juice per day for 3 months. At the end of the study HDL cholesterol (the good one) increased by 27%, LDL/HDL (52%) ratio also increased. LDL cholesterol dropped by 10%. Kale contains bile acid sequestrants that are also thought to responsible for lowering levels of bad cholesterol. In contrast with the poor absorption previously reported for spinach calcium, kale, a low-oxalate vegetable, exhibits excellent absorbability for its calcium.

Got inflammation? Try upping your broccoli. Consumption of broccoli for ten days (250 g/day) by male smokers was shown to exert an exceptional anti-inflammatory action. Markers of inflammation decreased by 48% following increasing broccoli in the diet due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients such as lutein and folate found within broccoli.

Now despite all the health benefits known with regards to the cruciferous vegetables clinical studies show that addressing taste dimensions (while retaining healthy compounds) is more important than promoting health information in order to increase the popularity of Brassica vegetables. Put simply, despite knowing that they are healthy, many people avoid these veggies because they don't know tasty ways to cook them. Anyone that's ever had broccoli or brussel sprouts that have been boiled till their grey and soft can attest to this. Taking this into consideration what are your favourite ways to cook brassica veggies like broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower?

Leave your recipe ideas here.

PS If you have a green thumb, now is the perfect time for growing winter vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower and cabbage. We've just dug up our garden beds and planted ours! You can get seedlings from your local garden store.

Lisa Costa Bir is a Naturopath & freelance writer. She maintains a clinical practice in Caringbah South Sydney and lectures at Endeavour College of Natural Therapies Sydney.


Oct 5 2017 2:44PM
We just LOVE our cruciferous vegies! Steam them, roast them eat them raw or fermented. Simply Delicious!!!!
Comment by: Diane

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