Mom Was Right: Eat Your Broccoli!
I've talked recently about certain foods that may help prevent specific diseases. One of the points I've always tried to make clear is this: Rather than rely on specific nutrients or supplements, it's best to get your nutrients from healthful foods in their whole, natural form. So I was intrigued to read, recently, that researchers looked at this issue as it relates to one of nature's cancer-preventing super foods, broccoli.
Compounds in broccoli and related vegetables—like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage (the cruciferous family)—are converted in the gut into a chemical called sulforaphane. When sulforaphane enters the bloodstream, it travels throughout the body, influencing the production of proteins that affect the development of cancer.
In fact, it works to thwart cancer on several fronts, and scientists believe that people who consumer higher amounts of these foods enjoy significant protection against certain forms of cancer. In the past two years, for instance, scientists have reported that cruciferous vegetables provide statistically significant protection against both colon and bladder cancers. Not surprisingly, certain supplement makers have isolated the beneficial cruciferous compounds and packaged them as dietary supplements.
But guess what? Scientists at Oregon State University compared the effects of consuming broccoli sprouts, or a supplement featuring an equivalent amount of the active ingredients in these cruciferous vegetables. As it turned out, the subjects who ate the whole food benefited from higher blood levels of sulforaphane, faster, than the subjects who popped a pill. Proving, once again, that when in doubt it's usually better to rely on whole foods for your preventive medicine from nature.
Clarke JD1, Riedl K, Bella D, Schwartz SJ, Stevens JF, Ho E.Comparison of isothiocyanate metabolite levels and histone deacetylase activity in human subjects consuming broccoli sprouts or broccoli supplement.J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Oct 26;59(20):10955-63. doi: 10.1021/jf202887c. Epub 2011 Sep 30.
Liu B1, Mao Q, Lin Y, Zhou F, Xie L.The association of cruciferous vegetables intake and risk of bladder cancer: a meta-analysis.World J Urol. 2013 Feb;31(1):127-33. doi: 10.1007/s00345-012-0850-0. Epub 2012 Mar 6.
Tse G1, Eslick GD.Cruciferous vegetables and risk of colorectal neoplasms: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Nutr Cancer. 2014;66(1):128-39. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2014.852686. Epub 2013 Dec 16.