Why Mother Was Right:

Share this post

“I do not like broccoli. And I haven't liked it since I was a  little kid and my mother made me eat it.  And I'm President  of the United States and I'm not going to eat any more  broccoli.”
– George H.W. Bush, 41st U.S. President

broccoli

The first President Bush may not have been fond of his broccoli, but there are many reasons why you should be. High in Vitamins C, K and A, folate, soluble fiber and the omega-3 ALA, broccoli has proven cardiovascular benefits and is a great choice for healthy eating. Yet what sets broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables above and beyond are the glucosinolate compounds they contain, which have potent anti-cancer effects.

Cruciferous vegetables belong to the mustard family, and include cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and bok choi, among others. When overcooked, they all produce an unappetizing odor due to their glucosinolate content. These glucosinolates give cruciferous plants their bitter/sharp taste, and in high doses are toxic to humans and animals, therefore providing protection for the plants.

Many animal studies have shown that glucosinolates, when consumed in less-than-toxic amounts, produce substances in the body that inhibit cancer. These isothiocyanates, which include sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol, and crambene, both stop enzymes from activating cancer-causing agents in the body, and increase the activity of enzymes that disable and eliminate carcinogens. In other words, these substances derived from eating cruciferous vegetables both inhibit the growth of, and slow the spread of, cancers.

Studies show a strong correlation between human and animal diets high in cruciferous vegetables and lower cancer rates. People who eat the most cruciferous vegetables have lower risks of prostate, colon, breast, ovarian, bladder, and lung cancer, even when compared to those who regularly eat other vegetables. In the case of prostate cancer, it appears that eating broccoli together with tomatoes is even more effective against tumors.

It is important to pay attention to how you select and cook your cruciferous vegetables n order to maximize their nutritional value, including anti-cancer benefits. Look for dark green heads on broccoli—yellowing indicates it is past mature. Cauliflower should be firm, compact, and creamy white, without any spotting. Brussels sprouts as well as cabbage needs to be firm and without yellow or brown discoloration on the leaves. Leafy greens such as kale should be firm and dark green.

When it comes to cooking, both old-fashioned boiling and new-fangled microwaving are definitely out. Both sharply reduce the nutrient content. Steaming is the best bet and shows little nutrient loss when kept to 5 minutes. Quickly sautéing with extra virgin olive oil is another good choice. Remember that overcooking causes those wonderful glucosinolates to be released and bother your nose rather than protect you from cancer. Season with lemon juice and sea salt, or add to pasta, salad, or pizza.

So, has President Bush changed his mind yet? Maybe his mom simply overcooked his broccoli.

—Rebecca Taggart

Sign up for our monthly newsletter

 

Recent Diet and Health articles:

Tips for taking a break from politics
August 24, 2016
How to sleep when the temperature soars
May 12, 2016
Food logging can help you lose or maintain your weight
March 23, 2016
Ward off disease and slow the aging process with the nutrition in citrus fruit
February 7, 2016
Improving your posture is straight-up crucial
December 15, 2015
December 10, 2015
Flu prevention starts with three simple words: Wash your hands.
October 6, 2015
How to stay loose on the job
August 19, 2015
A good night’s sleep and how to get it
July 13, 2015
How to manage your sweat this summer
June 16, 2015

More recent articles:

:
Escape from holiday pressure with these self-care ideas
December 6, 2016
Food:
Tips for making your best latkes and applesauce ever
November 16, 2016
Ten ways to get your office into the holiday spirit
November 16, 2016
Food:
Brighten the season with homemade citrus gifts
November 15, 2016
Take advantage of the cold and enjoy a new winter sport
November 15, 2016
Food:
How to pick a peck of pumpkins (and other winter squashes)
October 26, 2016
Time to bring your workout out of the cold and into a gym
October 26, 2016
How to survive an open-office floor plan
October 26, 2016

About Us

Our monthly online magazine features articles about fitness, health, food, and work, as well as recipes featuring farm-fresh fruit!