Your Parents Were Right All Along: Why You Really Should Eat Your Broccoli
The Takeaway First
In 2010 researchers discovered that sulforaphane, a chemical found in broccoli, reduces the risk of prostate cancer. The latest research adds that this broccoli-derived compound actively kills cancer stem cells. This and other research shows us that the powers of leafy, green vegetables extend further than we think.
According to a leafy greens review (Royston & Tollefsbol, 2015) published a few months ago in the journal Current Pharmacology Reports, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have incredible powers as preventive medicine. Diets high in these vegetables significantly decrease the risk of death from cancer and the risk of developing cancer at all.
This same article explains that eating broccoli is one easy way to create cancer-fighting chemicals in the body. Broccoli turns into glucosinolates, which turn into the sulforaphane. Sulforaphane attacks cancer stem cells and stunts them before they can even begin to metastasize.
On top of all this, eating leafy greens in the same family as broccoli has been found to reduce inflammation (Royston & Tollefsbol, 2015).
The authors of another recent article on sulforaphane (Labsch et al., 2014) recommend a high-sulforaphane diet for cancer-prevention and cancer-suppression.
Related to all this, a brand-new Korean study (Hwang & Lim, 2015) found that broccoli stems and leaves actually have a lot more sulforaphane than the florets (the tiny green buds that bloom from the stalk).
My Take On This
Remember when you were a kid, and the only thing left on your plate after dinner was a dark-green pile of stalky vegetables? If you still avoid these greens, now is the time to stop. Broccoli is one of those powerful, natural preventive medicines that I have come to love in my years of practice. I think of it alongside turmeric, pomegranate, and green tea as a major component to maintaining a cancer-unfriendly body.
And that is why I recommend eating broccoli and all cruciferous vegetables.
These are not exactly groundbreaking studies, but they do confirm the findings of a growing body of research that is uncovering the huge benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables—especially for men like you. In my last post on this topic, I mentioned a study where eating cruciferous vegetables decreased men’s risk of prostate cancer by 32% (Steinbrecher et al. 2009). Even after diagnosis, cruciferous vegetables knocked down another group of men’s risk of prostate cancer progression by 59% (Richman et al., 2011). These are not small numbers!
What You Should Do
OK, so chances are your parents did not know that broccoli had such an ability to decrease your risk of cancer, let alone prostate cancer, and I’m 99.9% sure they didn’t know that broccoli directly targets cancer stem cells by flooding your body with sulforaphane—but you have to admit: they were right.
I know you know what to do, but I’ll say it anyway: eat broccoli. Don’t just eat the thinner stalks and the florets; eat the big, chunky stems and the leaves, too. My juicer friends sometimes tell me they add kale and broccoli leaves to their morning smoothies. Make sure to steam them well, however. Raw broccoli contains chemicals called goitrogens which can cause thyroid problems down the road. Also, broccoli is tough to digest when raw. Skip the raw broccoli from the veggie platter at the next party. The carrots are fine to eat raw—and easy on the creamy dip! (I digress.) Personally, I prefer colorful fruits in my smoothies (pomegranate is powerful and delicious) mixed with leafy greens. I do not like broccoli in my smoothie, but you might. Supplements made out of broccoli extract also seem to help – I recommend them often. For your health and your gustatory pleasure (trust me, it’s a word): try one of my favorite recipes:
This luscious emerald soup is surprisingly rich sans the cream which many pureed soups contain. I especially love to make this soup transitioning from winter to spring. The liver reaps great benefit from the broccoli, cabbage and as well as aliums such as onions and garlic. You can swap your favorite greens like spinach, kale or dandelion greens or herbs like parsley, thyme, and rosemary.
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tsp. ginger, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 cups chopped broccoli, florets and stems
- 1 head, fennel, chopped
- 2 cups chopped savoy or napa cabbage
- 6 cups water or stock
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until the onions are translucent. Next, add the ginger, garlic, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage and a generous pinch of sea salt and continue to cook another 2 minutes. Add the water or stock, remaining sea salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, cover and reduce the heat, simmering for 20 minutes. Place the soup in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste for salt.
Hwang, J.-H., & Lim, S.-B. (2015). Antioxidant and Anticancer Activities of Broccoli By-Products from Different Cultivars and Maturity Stages at Harvest. Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, 20(1), 8–14. doi:10.3746/pnf.2015.20.1.8
Labsch, S., Liu, L. I., Bauer, N., Zhang, Y., Aleksandrowicz, E. W. A., Gladkich, J., . . . Herr, I. (2014). Sulforaphane and TRAIL induce a synergistic elimination of advanced prostate cancer stem-like cells. International Journal of Oncology, 44(5), 1470-1480. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2014.2335
Richman EL, Carroll PR, Chan JM.Vegetable and fruit intake after diagnosis and risk of prostate cancer progression. Int J Cancer. 2011 Aug 5.
Royston, K. J., & Tollefsbol, T. O. (2015). The Epigenetic Impact of Cruciferous Vegetables on Cancer Prevention. Curr Pharmacol Rep, 1(1), 46-51. doi: 10.1007/s40495-014-0003-9
Steinbrecher A, Nimptsch K, Husing A, Rohrmann S, Linseisen J. Dietary glucosinolate intake and risk of prostate cancer in the EPIC-Heidelberg cohort study. Int J Cancer 2009; 125: 2179–86.