What Makes Broccoli and Cabbage Power Foods?

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Broccoli vs. Cabbage: Power Foods Battle

The National Cancer Institute flip-flops between broccoli and cabbage in terms of which one is the #1 power food. Guess what – both are amazing all around anti-aging, anti-cancer power foods full of phytochemicals, like antioxidants and flavonoids.

Broccoli

  • loaded with sulforaphane, antioxidants, and carotenoids
  • believed to protect the body against a number of cancers, including: esophagus, stomach, colon, lung, larynx, prostate, mouth, pharynx, ovaries, breast, and cervix
  • currently ranked number one: WINNER

Cabbage

  • contains a number of flavonoids which act as antioxidants
  • aids digestion
  • can aid in the prevention of a number of cancers as well.

Both are full of fiber and as part of the cruciferous and leafy green vegetable family, they are full of many essential vitamins and minerals.

What Are Phytochemicals?

They are a wide variety of compounds produced by plants. “Phytochemicals are promoted for the prevention and treatment of many health conditions, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.”

  • Found in fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and other plants
  • Some more commonly known phytochemicals include beta carotene, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid, and vitamin E
  • Other common name(s): antioxidants, flavonoids, flavones, isoflavones, catechins, anthocyanidins, isothiocyanates, carotenoids, allyl sulfides, polyphenols

Actions of phytochemicals that are currently being studied:

  • Antioxidant – Thought to rid the body of harmful molecules known as free radicals, which can damage a cell’s DNA and may trigger some forms of cancer and other diseases. Most phytochemicals have antioxidant activity and protect our cells against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer.
  • Hormonal action – Isoflavones, found in soy, imitate human estrogens and help to reduce menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis.
  • Stimulation of enzymes – Indoles, which are found in cabbages, stimulate enzymes that make the estrogen less effective and could reduce the risk for breast cancer. Other phytochemicals, which interfere with enzymes, are protease inhibitors (soy and beans), terpenes (citrus fruits and cherries).
  • Interference with DNA replication – Saponins found in beans interfere with the replication of cell DNA, thereby preventing the multiplication of cancer cells. Capsaicin, found in hot peppers, protects DNA from carcinogens.
  • Anti-bacterial effect – The phytochemical allicin from garlic has anti-bacterial properties.
  • Physical action – Some phytochemicals bind physically to cell walls thereby preventing the adhesion of pathogens to human cell walls.
  • Detoxifier – A group of phytochemicals, called allyl sulfides, found in garlic and onions may stimulate enzymes that help the body get rid of harmful chemicals and strengthen the immune system.

Power Foods Recipes

While broccoli and cabbage are great power foods, and I eat them regularly, it’s still important to eat a wide variety of vegetables so that you are ingesting as many vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals as possible.

Follow these links for two easy, tasty, healthy, and quick ways to get started with broccoli and cabbage:

Lemon Roasted Broccoli

This recipe is fast and easy and the broccoli can cook with other foods, i.e. many cuts of healthy fish will cook for 12 – 15 minutes or LESS at 425 degrees, making this a great, easy, healthy, flavorful side dish. Makes 4 servings.

Quick Cabbage

I love Chinese cabbage because it’s so tender, making it cook quickly and easy to eat. Because it’s a power food, it’s incredibly good for you, especially with garlic and olive oil. I find that even people who don’t love cabbage, like Chinese cabbage, especially cooked like this. Makes 4 – 6 servings depending on the size of the head of cabbage. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Pepper adds flavor:  Pepper should be one of those seasonings/flavors you taste and balance in that mix.

Salt enhances flavor:

  • If your food is bland despite the fact that you have seasoned it, you probably need more salt to bring out the flavors
  • Your food shouldn’t taste like salt – if it does, you added too much and/or didn’t use enough other seasonings.
  • Use salt to help pull all your flavors out – if one flavor stands out too much, your balance is off.

Finding and tasting the balance of flavors in food  and knowing how to balance flavors are some of the many important skills that come into play while cooking. That’s why I use a recipe as a guide – you have to taste the food and adjust your seasonings based on how the food tastes because the fruits or vegetables you cook may be more in season than mine, or your stove or oven temperature may be higher, of you may be using a smaller pan. All of these variables can have a large effect on the cooking process, and therefore the flavor of the food. It’s one thing to know how to follow a recipe, it’s something else to know how to extract and enhance the natural delicious flavors in food.

Bon Appetit!

Copyright Nourishment Connection 2011

Sources:

http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/phytochemicals
http://www.phytochemicals.info/ 

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