Broccoli and Cancer
|Broccoli is known as the
"Crown Jewel of Nutrition" for its vitamin-rich, high in fiber, and low
in calorie properties. Not only does broccoli give you the best
vegetable nutrition available, it also gives you
many ways to lead a healthier, longer life. Heart disease is the
number one cause of death in the United States with cancer as the
second, and broccoli gives you
many ways to help fight and prevent these and other diseases.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United
States. Unfortunately, most cases go undetected for years before
symptoms appear and that limits the amount of therapies available. The
best medicine is preventive medicine, in the health outlook, and that
is where nutrition plays the largest role. Eating a healthy diet, low
in fat and high in fruits and vegetables, does not guarantee that you
will not become infected with the disease, but it definitely lowers
your risk. Broccoli has multiple cancer-fighting properties
vitamin C, beta carotene, and fiber. It is also rich of phytochemicals
which appear to offer us protection against certain cancers and heart
disease. Indole carbinol and sulforaphane are two different
phytochemicals that are found in broccoli.
Antioxidants and Cancer
A medium size stalk of broccoli provides 220% of
your daily value of vitamin C. That same medium stalk of broccoli
provides 15% of your daily value of vitamin A, in the form of beta
carotene (% Daily Value is based on a 2000 kcal diet). Both vitamin C
and beta carotene are antioxidants, which is a substance that can
reduce and prevent the damage caused to human cells by free radicals.
Free radicals are a "toxic" byproduct of everyday metabolism, but in
excessive number, free radicals may be a factor in diseases as cancer,
arthritis, Alzheimer's, and heart disease. A study done by Dr. Harman
of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, suggests that free
radicals play a significant role in the aging process: cataracts, heart
disease, and cancer. Dr. Robert Russell of the Center on Aging also
stresses that foods, not pills, are the most reliable source of
Fiber and Cancer
Colon and rectal cancers are the second leading cause of
cancer deaths in the US. These types of cancers are also lower in
countries where a diet low in meat and high in fiber. Although there is
no study showing exactly how fiber prevents cancer, there are a few
theories which make a lot of sense. One is that food moves faster and
with greater bulk, therefore reducing the concentration of carcinogenic
substances in the bowel. The second theory is that fiber reduces
transit time through the colon, thereby reducing contact time between
fecal carcinogens and the colonic mucosa on the walls of the colon. The
last theory is that increased fiber in the diet decreases the amount of
bile acids in the intestines and bacterial metabolism to decrease
Indole Carbinol and Cancer
Broccoli is rich in indole carbinol, which is a substance
that breaks down estrogen, and comes from the phytochemical family.
Estrogen is a hormone which seems to promote the development of certain
breast tumors, among many other physiological functions. Some
researchers believe that a cup of broccoli a day is enough indole
carbinol to help ward off these tumors.
Sulforaphane and Cancer
Dr. Paul Talalay of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
developed a simple cell-culture test which showed that certain
cruciferous vegetables increase the activity of protective enzymes that
fight cancer, one in particular was quinone reductase. The responsible
chemical in the broccoli that made this enzyme increase is
sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is found in cruciferous vegetables, such as
broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts (as well as
non-cruciferous vegetables, such as carrots and green onions.
Broccoli and Diabetes
Diabetes, short for diabetes mellitus, is a disease which
alters the endocrine system, which controls all of your hormones. It's
characterized as an inability for cells to metabolize glucose
effectively resulting in hyperglycemia (elevated blood glucose levels).
The elevated glucose levels is a direct result of an absolute or
relative deficiency in insulin. broccoli helps battle diabetes because
of its high fiber content. Eating a diet high in fiber improves the
control of blood sugar and can therefore decrease the need for insulin
and other medications. Soluble fiber seems to delay the emptying of the
stomach and therefore slows the absorption of glucose in the intestine.
If you are diabetic or know anyone who is, eating a high fiber diet
only helps control diabetes, it is not a replacement for insulin
injections or medications. Please consult your medical doctor or
registered dietitian if you have any questions.
Broccoli and Osteoporosis
The University of California's Wellness Letter indicates
that broccoli has as much calcium, ounce for ounce, as milk. As
mentioned in Mann's Nutrition Report, calcium is an essential mineral
in building and maintaining bone mass, as well as controlling muscle
functions. It is critical to eat enough calcium rich foods during
childhood and young adulthood to build up adequate bone mass. Many
adults drink little to no milk at all and that is why there must be an
awareness that there are many calcium rich foods other than milk--like
At the age of thirty to forty the bone mass density begins
to decline, even if you have built adequate bone mass in your younger
years. This is even more critical for women because a lack of calcium
in the diet, combined with the body's inability to absorb calcium
efficiently, contributes to the onset of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is
a drastic loss of bone mass and density that increasingly makes bone
more fragile. During and after menopause, woman's estrogen production
impairs the bones' ability to retain calcium. Many other lifestyle
factors affect this bone mass reduction including exercise, heredity,
and drugs. A recent study, according to University of California's
Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, found that eating adequate
amount of calcium can help reduce the risk of hip fracture by 50 to 60
%. For further inquiry, please consult your physician about other
preventative measures or call the National Osteoporosis Foundation at
Broccoli and Obesity
Broccoli helps fight obesity by being a low-fat, low
calorie, highly nutritious vegetable option to any healthy meal plan.
Eating lots of broccoli fills you up with the bulk of high-fiber, and
without adding extra calories. Broccoli also plays a preventive role in
many of the other chronic diseases that come with being obese:
diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. In the United States obesity
is a growing concern for both adults and especially children, which is
why a healthy well-rounded diet with an exercise program is so critical
to follow. Remember, you can't go on a diet......you need to make
Broccoli and Hypertension
Hypertension is the clinical term for high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is defined as sustained elevated arterial blood
pressure measured indirectly by an inflatable cuff and pressure. In
correcting hypertension, most physicians will prescribe a diet low in
sodium or medication, like diuretics, to control water balance in the
body. Sodium restriction is only part of a program to lower your blood
pressure. Dr. Louis Tobian of the University of Minnesota believes that
most people do not get enough potassium in their diet and says that a
lack of potassium can also cause a weakening of arterial wall, leading
to potential cardiovascular problems due to the stresses of high blood
pressure. Broccoli contains 15% of your daily value of potassium in a
2000 kcal/day diet. Weight reduction, restriction of alcohol,
modification of fat intake, an exercise program, stress reduction, and
avoidance of tobacco are other therapies for high blood pressure.
Broccoli's role is that it's a nutritious vegetable to add to a diet
low in sodium, fat, and calories. The goal in controlling high blood
pressure is to reduce diastolic blood pressure to below 90 mm Hg ( mm
Hg=millimeters of Mercury) and to achieve and maintain arterial blood
pressure below 140/90 mm Hg. Please contact your physician or local
health clinic to check your blood pressure.
Broccoli and Heart Disease
Heart disease consists of heart attacks, or congestive
heart failure, when the heart fails as a pump and cannot deliver and
the adequate amount of oxygenated blood to body tissues. Loaded in
broccoli, beta carotene lowers the risk of heart attacks. A study done
by researchers at Harvard Medical School report that men with clogged
arteries who were fed beta carotene supplements suffered half as many
heart seizures and strokes as did men given placebo pills. The high
fiber content also helps reduce the total blood cholesterol levels,
primarily by lowering the LDL or "bad" cholesterol. It has also been
reported that the folate content in broccoli, along with the other B
vitamin's, help protect against heart disease. They help control
homocysteine, an amino acid, which is produced normally in the blood,
but has currently been linked as a risk factor for heart disease.
Broccoli's role in preventing heart disease is mentioned in all of the
articles above: it's full of vitamins and minerals; it's high in fiber,
low in fat and calories; and high in calcium and potassium which help
with cardiac and skeletal muscle functions. For more information on
heart disease please call the American Heart Association at 1-800-
American Dietetics Association, Handbook
of Clinical Dietetics. Yale University Press, New Haven: 1992.
Angier, Natalie. "Potent Element to Fight
Cancer Seen in Broccoli," New York Times. March 15: 1992 (1,11).
Sheldon M.D., Margen. The University of
California at Berkeley, Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition.
Rebus, New York: 1992.
Zeman, Ph. D., R.D., Frances J., Clinical
Nutrition and Dietetics, MacMillan Publishing Company, New York: 1991.
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