There are regular reports of the many health benefits of broccoli (and other types of cabbage such as brussels sprouts). They could protect against various cancers, high blood pressure, prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are good for the eyes and memory and so on. If we can believe those many messages, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables, a real ‘superfood‘. But is this also correct?
We go through the many alleged health benefits of broccoli.
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Which ingredients make broccoli so healthy?
Broccoli (and most other cabbages) contains a relatively high amount of vitamins C, A, K, B2, B6 and folic acid, and minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Broccoli is also relatively rich in beta-carotene and lutein and in sulfur compounds (glucosinolates). These sulfur compounds are converted in the body into bioactive substances such as sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. Which act as antioxidants that can inhibit inflammatory symptoms and prevent damage to body cells.
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In addition, broccoli is low in calories (100 g of broccoli contains around 30 kcal).
Finally, broccoli is the most fiber-rich vegetable: per 150-gram portion, it contains around 4.5 grams of fiber.
However, many of these components can be lost in the preparation. For example, research has shown that cooking leads to the greatest losses while steaming (up to about 20 minutes), stir-frying (5 minutes) and microwave cooking (5 minutes) leads to the least losses. All food components are preserved raw, but raw broccoli is difficult to digest.
Does broccoli protect against cancer?
Certain bioactive substances in broccoli (and other types of cabbages), such as folic acid, indole-3-carbinol, and sulforaphane, have been shown in laboratory studies that they could inhibit the development and multiplication of cancer cells.
Although a lot of research has already been done on this. The effect of this on humans has, however, not or hardly ever been demonstrated.
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• Lung cancer
A great deal of research has been conducted into the relationship between vegetables and lung cancer.
The Dutch Health Council concludes from an analysis of the scientific literature that high consumption of green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, endive, watercress …) can reduce the risk of lung cancer. Although some studies suggest a possible link between high consumption of broccoli and a reduced risk of lung cancer, according to the Health Council, a protective effect of cabbage vegetables on lung cancer is unlikely.
• Breast cancer
According to some studies, high coal consumption would reduce the risk of breast cancer. But most studies have not been able to demonstrate such an effect.
Here too, the Dutch Health Council concludes that a protective effect of vegetables in general and of cabbage vegetables in particular on breast cancer is unlikely.
• Colon cancer
High consumption of vegetables may lower the risk of colon cancer. But here too, most studies have been unable to demonstrate an extra-protective effect of broccoli (and other types of cabbage).
• Prostate cancer
Some studies show a protective effect with high consumption of cabbages, but most studies have been unable to demonstrate a protective effect.
• Liver cancer
Some animal studies suggest that daily consumption of broccoli (and other types of cabbages) would reduce the risk of liver cancer because the sulforaphane in broccoli prevents the absorption of fat in the liver. Studies in humans are missing.
• Skin cancer (melanoma)
The presence of carotenoids (such as beta-carotene and lutein) would protect the skin against damage caused by free radicals and thereby reduce the risk of skin cancer. However, this has not yet been demonstrated in humans.
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Health benefits of broccoli to protect against cardiovascular disease
According to research eating vegetables (and fruit) regularly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Whether broccoli would have more effect than other vegetables, has never been demonstrated.
• It has been shown that high consumption of vegetables (and fruit) can make systolic blood pressure slightly, but not diastolic blood pressure. However, there is no evidence that broccoli has more effect on blood pressure than other vegetables.
• Theoretically, due to the high fiber content and the presence of sulforaphane. which inhibits the production of LDL cholesterol in the liver, broccoli could lower blood cholesterol levels.
Health Benefits of broccoli to reduce the risk of stroke
High consumption of vegetables (and fruits) associated with a lower risk of stroke. The Dutch Health Council calculated that 200 g of vegetables per day can reduce the risk of a stroke by 10%. In particular, high consumption of green leafy vegetables, associated with a lower risk of stroke.
Whether cabbage types such as broccoli also reduce the risk of stroke is, according to the Dutch Health Council, unclear.
Does broccoli protect against diabetes?
A high use of vegetables reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, broccoli would protect against type 2 diabetes more than other vegetables, but it has never been demonstrated.
According to the Dutch Health Council, there is some evidence that green leafy vegetables (such as spinach, endive, lettuce, watercress) would have an additional protective effect. The risk of diabetes would decrease by 10% from around 60 g of green leafy vegetables compared to less than 10 g per week.
Does broccoli protect against bone loss (osteoporosis)?
Just like the other cabbage varieties and many green leafy vegetables and legumes, broccoli contains relatively much calcium in a form that is easily absorbed by our body.
In addition, broccoli (and other cabbages and green vegetables) contain a relatively large amount of vitamin K. Vitamin K improves the absorption of calcium and prevents the urinary excretion of calcium.
In that sense, broccoli, but also many other vegetables, can have a beneficial effect on bone density.
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Health benefits of broccoli to protect against a stomach ulcer?
Animal studies have shown that high doses of sulforaphane inhibit the development of Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium responsible for stomach ulcers.
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Health benefits of broccoli to improve digestion?
Broccoli (and most other vegetables and legumes) contain a lot of dietary fiber. Which promotes digestion and can help against constipation.
Conversely, cabbages such as broccoli can lead to bloating and gas formation.
Health benefits of broccoli for the eyes?
Broccoli contains a relatively large amount of beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein. All antioxidants have a beneficial effect on the eyes. They can protect against eye disorders such as cataracts and macular degeneration.
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Health benefits of broccoli to protect against asthma and hay fever?
A few studies have been published that show that sulforaphane in broccoli (and other types of cabbage such as Brussels sprouts) protects against inflammation of our respiratory tract. Thereby prevent asthma and other respiratory diseases such as chronic rhinitis (‘hay fever’) and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
However, according to the Dutch Health Council, too little research has been done so far to be able to make a statement about the effect of vegetables in general on chronic (obstructive) lung diseases.
Health benefits of broccoli for a good memory?
Laboratory studies with animals have shown that certain substances in broccoli might prevent the deterioration of memory and dementia.
According to the Dutch Health Council, too little research has been done to make a statement about the use of vegetables in general and the risk of cognitive decline or dementia.
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What can we conclude from this?
The health benefits of broccoli are countless. Broccoli is undoubtedly a healthy vegetable, but certainly not a ‘superfood’ with special properties. There is hardly any evidence that broccoli and other cabbages help to reduce the risk of getting cancer or cardiovascular disease, for example. In fact, there are few or no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ foods, but there is a right or wrong diet.
• As part of a healthy diet, we recommend you to eat 300 g of vegetables per day.
• To fully enjoy the health benefits of vegetables, the message is to vary. Every vegetable has its own unique composition and makes its own contribution to our health. This also applies to coal: alternate them with other vegetables and vary with different types of cabbage.
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