In peak season during the fall and winter months, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable related to cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard and mustard greens, bok choy, arugula, radishes, turnips, and kale. According to World’s Healthiest Foods, cruciferous vegetables are the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet.
Cruciferous vegetables contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates (the sulfur-containing chemicals responsible for the bitter flavor). Broccoli is a green anti-inflammatory powerhouse.
Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant with potent anti-inflammatory effects. Sulforaphane reduces the body’s levels of particular proteins that drive inflammation. Avoid boiling broccoli because it lowers the levels of sulforaphane. Choose other methods of preparation that do not affect the compounds, such as steaming, sautéing, stir-frying, microwaving, and, of course, enjoying it raw.
The National Cancer Institute summarized clinical studies identifying potential ways in which the glucosinolate compounds of indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane may help prevent cancer by protecting cells from DNA damage, antiviral and antibacterial effects, and anti-inflammatory effects.
The journal Nutrients published a report recommending breast cancer patients consume a diet naturally high in polyphenols through at least five servings of vegetables (including broccoli) and fruit daily and purporting that the Mediterranean dietary pattern shows the most promise for breast cancer patients. A study in the Journal of Inflammation (London, England) notes the importance of sulforaphane’s anti-inflammatory role in conditions like Crohn’s disease (an often painful inflammation of the lining of the gastrointestinal, or digestive, tract), in which diet can play a major role in alleviating or aggravating symptoms.
Want more broccoli recipes? Try our Broccoli Casserole.