Health

Broccoli: Food of Choice for lowering  blood sugar, fights Cancer

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Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

Roussel et al.(2007) study reported that broccoli is high in chromium, with approximately 11 μg per 1/2 cup, while oranges and apples may contain approximately 6 μg per serving. Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family, which is part of the larger plant family called Brassica oleracea. Since it’s closely linked  to cabbage and has many of the same nutrition benefits, the word broccoli comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, which means “the flowering crest of a cabbage.”

Though, broccoli is a fresher vegetable, broccoli nutrition is now admired around the world, and it’s eaten as part of nearly every cuisine there is, from Indian and Japanese to American and French. Today, the largest producers of broccoli are China, India, Italy, Mexico, France, Poland and the U.S.

Broccoli, Types

University Health News Staff(2018) reports that the darker and more colorful the veggies are, the higher the antioxidant capacity.Many different types of broccoli are grown and eaten throughout the world today. Some examples of the many species in existence include:

  • Calabrese, an heirloom variety that is very popular in the U.S.
  • Tenderstem broccoli, also called broccolini, which is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli — broccolini is more mild, sweet and earthy
  • Chinese broccoli
  • Rapini, also called broccoli rabe in the U.S.
  • Beneforté, which is a rare variety of crossbred broccoli containing two to three times more glucoraphanin compounds than standard varieties
  • Belstar, a hybrid variety
  • Bimi
  • Destiny
  • DiCicco
  • Green goliath
  • Green magic
  • Purple sprouting

Broccoli, Nutrition

Broccoli is regarded a nutritional powerhouse when it comes to supplying high levels of vitamins and minerals. One recent study by Liu et al.(2018)  found that broccoli florets have higher concentrations of amino acids, glucoraphanin and neoglucobrassicin compared to other parts of the plant, whereas broccoli leaves are higher in carotenoids, chlorophylls, vitamins E and K, phenolic content, and antioxidant activity.

Fdc.nal.usda.gov, notes that; one cup of cooked broccoli nutrition has about:

  • 55 calories
  • 11 grams carbohydrates
  • 4 grams protein
  • 5 grams fiber
  • 100 micrograms vitamin K (276 percent Daily Value (DV)
  • 101 milligrams vitamin C (168 percent DV)
  • 120 milligrams vitamin A (48 percent DV)
  • 168 micrograms folate (42 percent DV)
  • 0.4 milligrams vitamin B6 (16 percent)
  • 0.4 milligrams manganese (16 percent)
  • 457 milligrams potassium (14 percent DV)
  • 105 milligrams phosphorus (10 percent DV)
  • 33 milligrams magnesium (8 percent DV)
  • 62 milligrams calcium (6 percent DV)

 Broccoli, Cooking Method

Broccoli can be eaten cooked or raw — both are perfectly healthy but provide different nutrient profiles.This was demonstrated in one study by Yuan et al.(2009) which found that different cooking methods, such as boiling, microwaving, stir-frying and steaming, alter the vegetable’s nutrient composition, particularly reducing vitamin C, as well as soluble protein and sugar. Steaming appears to have the fewest negative effects.

This notwithstanding, raw or cooked, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C(Hill, 2018).  For instance, half a cup (78 grams) of cooked broccoli provides 84% of the reference daily intake (RDI) — more than one-half orange can provide.

Broccoli, Science

Cancer Prevention

The American Cancer Society recommends eating cruciferous vegetables several times a week for the best protection. This was affirmed by one study by Higdon et al.(2007), such vegetables contain various bioactive compounds that may reduce cell damage caused by certain chronic diseases.Several few studies have found that eating cruciferous vegetables may protect against certain types of cancer, namely:

  • Breast(Liu  and K, 2013).
  • Prostate (Liu et al. 2012)
  • Gastric/stomach (Wu et al. 2013)
  • Colorectal (Wu et al. 2013)
  • Renal/kidney (Liu et al. 2013)
  • Bladder (Liu et al. 2012)

The cancer prevention potential is due to the isothiocyanate compounds(Martin et al. 2018)  and act by lowering oxidative stress, protecting cells mitochondrial function(Armah et al. 2013), neutralizing carcinogens and battling toxins. They do this by reducing the poisonous effects of toxins from a poor diet, environmental exposure, heavy metals and the aging process. Isothiocyanates work by inspiring the release of special “carcinogen killer chemicals” that speed up the removal of toxins from the body.

Apart from  isothiocyanates, sulforaphane also found in Broccoli is effective in cancer prevention. Yanyan and  Zhang(2013) explains that  sulforaphane increases the activation of enzymes known as phase 2 enzymes that strongly fight carcinogens in the body.

In fact, sulforaphane is the most potent inducer of phase 2 enzymes of any known phytochemical and helps reduce the risk of some of the deadliest forms of cancer, including prostate cancer. This is what makes broccoli one of the top cancer-fighting foods(Levy, 2018).

A more recent study by Kaiser et al.(2021) explains why Cruciferous vegetables are linked with a reduced risk of  gynecological cancers, which  proves that they are significant for women due to their effects on estrogen.

They increase the ratio of good estrogen metabolites (the kind that are not linked with cancer growth) but reduce the kind that’s potentially harmful. Men also naturally have lower levels of estrogen present in their bodies so broccoli nutrition helps prevent estrogen-related cancer for men, too.

Broccoli, Blood Sugar

One human study  by Bahadoran et al.(2012) found that broccoli consumption for one month  decreased insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.A prospective animal studyby Suresh et al.(2017)  also found decreased blood sugar in addition to reduced pancreatic cell damage in diabetic rats fed broccoli extract.Due to the higher content of fiber in Broccoli, two studies (Silva et al. 2013; Yu et al.2014) found that higher intake of dietary fiber is linked with lower blood sugar and improved diabetic control.

Broccoli, Chromium

Due to the high content of chromium, Broccoli is regarded as the food of choice for lowering sugar. For instance, two studies (Pei et al. 2006; Suksomboon et al. 2014) notes that,  taking chromium supplements can improve blood sugar for those with diabetes.

On how much dosage to take, Pei et al.(2006) study  further notes that 16 weeks of 200 μg/day of chromium was able to lower blood sugar and insulin while improving the body’s response to insulin.

Two Prospective additional studies, (Cefalu et al. 2009; Wang et al.2010) also affirmed that  chromium supplements are beneficial  for those with higher blood sugar and lower insulin sensitivity. One large prospective study of over 62,000 adults  by McIver et al.(2015) agrees with this exposition and found that the likelihood of having diabetes was 27% lower in those who took dietary supplements containing chromium.

Despite the positive effect of chromium supplements on lowering blood sugar level, other studies of three or more months found no effect (Abdollahi et al. 2013). Additionally, in one retrospective study by Iqbal et al.(2009) involving  obese adults without diabetes found that 1,000 μg/day of chromium picolinate showed no effect on insulin level.

Another study by  Althuis et al. (2002) involving 425 healthy people found that chromium supplements did notchange sugar or insulin levels.   From literature review, chromium supplements may be effective at improving the body’s response to insulin or lowering blood sugar. However, the results have been mixed, and these benefits have not typically been observed in those without diabetes(Tinsley, 2018).  In the United States, the recommended dietary reference intake (DRI) of chromium is 35 μg/day for adult men and 25 μg/day for adult women.

Broccoli, Weight Loss

Broccoli nutrition is high in volume due to having a high water content, so it takes up room in the stomach and crushes cravings or overeating without adding lots of calories to meals at all.Other studies examine the effect of chromium supplements  on weight loss. For instance,  one large study by Tian et al.  (2013) review  9 different studies including 622 overweight or obese people to get a complete picture of whether this mineral is useful for weight loss. Doses used was 1,000 μg/day of chromium picolinate and the study  found that chromium picolinate produced very small amounts of weight loss (2.4 pounds or 1.1 kg) after 12 to 16 weeks in overweight or obese adults. The researchers concluded that the impact of this amount of weight loss was questionable and that the effectiveness of the supplement was still unclear.

Another detailed study by Onakpoya et al.(2013) on chromium and weight loss affirmed this same position.  The authors examined 11 different studies, and found weight loss of only 1.1 pounds (0.5 kg) with 8 to 26 weeks of chromium supplementation.

Other retrospective studies by Vincent (2003) in healthy adults found no effect of this supplement on body composition (body fat and lean mass), though combined with exercise.   From review based on urrent evidence, chromium picolinate is not effective at producing meaningful weight loss in overweight or obese individuals. It appears to be even less effective in normal-weight individuals, even when combined with exercise (Tinsley, 2018).

Broccoli, Eye Health

The American Optometric Association, agrees that  broccoli positively impacts eye health due  to high levels of the carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin, which are crucial for eye health and maintaining good vision into old age.They help protect night vision and stop UV damage from occurring within the eyes’ retina and cornea. A diet high in foods that provide antioxidants, vitamin C and vitamin A is a natural way to prevent macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in older adults.

Broccoli, Skin Health

Due to the Sulforaphane  content in Broccoli, it helps repair skin damage and improves skin health.  Its high levels of vitamin A and vitamin C prevent collagen breakdown, skin cancer, UV damage, wrinkles and skin inflammation. Plus, a derivative of vitamin A found in broccoli nutrition, beta-carotene, is essential for immune functioning and has been shown to help fight cancer, including skin cancer.

Broccoli, Gut  and Digestive Health

Isothiocyanate, sulforaphane compounds abundant in broccoli also powerfully fight against harmful bacteria within the gut and prevent oxidation that can lead to cancer within the digestive organs.  A 2019 study by  Kaczmarek et al. found that glucosinolates, which can be metabolized by gastrointestinal microbes, also contribute to enhanced metabolic and endocrine function.

Additionally, one retrospective study by Yanaka et al.(2009) and one prospective study by Eve et al.(2020)  found evidence from human and animal studies that diets high in broccoli can reduce gastric bacterial colonization, lower expression of tumor growth and inflammation, and lead higher antioxidant activity that improves liver function.Levy(2015) article also asserts that broccoli nutrition further supports the body’s natural detoxification processes due to its phytonutrients glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian and glucobrassicin that aid in liver health.

Broccoli, Heart Health

Two studies by (Bazzano et al. 2002; Zhang et al. 2011)  found  that higher fruit and vegetable intake, especially cruciferous veggie intake, is correlated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.The high fiber content of broccoli nutrition is excellent for lowering cholesterol naturally and fast. It prevents cholesterol from entering your bloodstream by binding to it and removing it.

Vanduchova et al.(2019) study also found that Sulforaphane can also protect against heart disease by significantly improving high blood pressure levels as well as kidney function, while the compound called lutein present in this vegetable can prevent thickening of the arteries and plaque buildup that can lead to cardiac arrest.

Broccoli is also anti-inflammatory as it  is loaded with high levels of minerals(López-Chillón et al. 2018) for averting  free radical damage and protecting cardiovascular health. Due to the high content of electrolytes, including calcium, potassium and magnesium, it also helps the blood clot and keeps the muscles and nerves working properly.

Broccoli, Bone support

Broccoli nutrition is also loaded with vitamin K, calcium, magnesium and potassium, which are essential for healthy bones, nails and teeth. High levels of vitamin K and iron are vital for maintaining bone mineral density (in addition to having many other benefits, like promoting blood health and boosting your energy levels).

In one article by Levy(2022), vitamin K builds bones better than calcium, and just one cup of broccoli nutrition provides over 270 percent of your daily vitamin K needs. There’s evidence in human intervention studies that vitamin K and vitamin D work together to positively impact bone metabolism and that a vitamin K deficiency or vitamin D deficiency increases risks for bone-related diseases.Weber(2001) notes that Vitamin K also positively affects calcium balance, a key mineral in bone metabolism.Calcium found in this vegetable is also crucial for preventing calcium deficiency plus building and maintaining strong teeth and bones — especially into older age when people become more susceptible to bone breaks, fractures and bone density loss(Levy, 2022).

Warnings

In one article by Crawford(2021), it would take a large amount of cruciferous vegetables to cause any type of hypothyroidism. It also appears to be a risk primarily for people who have an existing iodine deficiency.

Hence for those with thyroid issue, it is advisable to consume cruciferous vegetables that have been cooked, and keep them to about one to two servings daily. Otherwise, most people can greatly benefit from eating plenty of cruciferous veggies to their hearts’ content.

One study by Scott et al.(2012) also found that Broccoli has potential to cause allergic reactions and interactions with certain medications, including warfarin.  However, Crawford(2012) article found that, cruciferous plants are considered to be very safe in humans, with the exception of allergies. Individuals treated with warfarin should consult their physicians before adding lots of cruciferous veggies to their diets.

However, for those with IBS or sensitivity to FODMAP foods. Veggies like broccoli and cauliflower can be difficult for some people to digest because of the types of carbohydrates they contain, called FODMAPs.

By Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare, President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation .E-mail: collegeofholisticmedicine@gmail.com

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