Gabriela Peacock, an expert nutritionist and former model, has been running a successful London nutrition practice since 2011, offering support to some of the most influential names in the industry. Her brand, GP Nutrition, is designed to promote optimum health for fast-paced modern living. We caught up with them to find out more about why we should be eating more greens, specifically broccoli.
Broccoli is a brassica, a member of the cruciferous vegetable family along with cauliflower, kale, cabbage and sprouts. The brassica family have long been seen as an unappealing choice when it comes to veg, but that has changed for broccoli which is now one of the nation’s favourite.
Consuming plentiful portions of vegetables are recommended as part of a healthy diet. Broccoli, along with other members of the cruciferous family, is loaded with vitamin C and soluble fibre. Dark leafy greens are also regarded for their high vitamin K and folate content and broccoli is no exception.
An 80g portion of broccoli contains approximately 3g of fibre and over half the daily requirement of vitamin C. It is a low-calorie vegetable choice.
Vitamin C supports the immune system, while vitamin K supports bone health by improving calcium absorption. Folate (also known as folic acid) is critical for rapidly dividing cells such as red blood cells and is well known for its importance during pregnancy.
Fibre is an important part of the diet, and many of us are not eating enough. Fibre aids digestion and promotes regular bowel movements. The recommendation is 30g of fibre per day.
In addition, broccoli – as with other members of the brassicas- contain high levels of a collection of phytochemicals. Phytochemical are groups of plant compounds with health-promoting effects. Broccoli contains glucosinolates, sulphorane and isothiocyanates; three specific phytochemicals responsible for some of broccoli’s distinctive traits: its odour, slightly bitter taste and reputation for cancer prevention.
Health benefits of broccoli:
Some research – mainly animal studies – suggests that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have anti-inflammatory effects. More research is needed on humans to establish a more significant link however the phytochemicals in broccoli may have some anti-inflammatory effects as part of a balanced diet.
The link between cruciferous vegetables, their components and cancer prevention has been studied quite widely. When broken down, the glucosinolates in broccoli produce indol-3-carbinol and sulphorane; the specific bioactive components noted for their anti-cancer effects. The compounds also inhibit enzymes that activate carcinogens whilst "turn on" genes that suppress tumours, slowing cancer cell growth and stimulating a process called apoptosis in which cancer cells self-destruct. It is a very complex process, and is certainly not as simple as ‘eat broccoli to prevent cancer’. However, it is believed that these phytonutrients, in combination with other factors, may play a role in the prevention of some cancers. It should be noted that no single antioxidant in isolation can replace the combination of phytochemicals achieved by consuming a diet rich in a variety of fruit and vegetables.
Blood pressure & cardiovascular disease
With regards to cardiovascular disease, we know that fibre rich foods are beneficial. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are high in fibre and so may help lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease as part of a balanced diet and lifestyle.
Does it make a difference nutritionally if it is boiled, steamed, roasted or raw?
It is thought that the best way to eat broccoli is raw – to protect the glucosinolates and their properties. If you are cooking broccoli, timing is key. The best way is to lightly steam or quickly stir-fry. When eating broccoli raw, try and eat it before the rich green florets turn yellow. Avoid buying it if it is floppy or soft.