Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, is on my list as one of the 5 most important things for firefighters to eat because it packs a powerful nutritional punch.
First on the impressive list of benefits of eating broccoli is cancer prevention.
It contains two antioxidant nutrients: beta-carotene and vitamin C. These antioxidants ward of cancer by scavenging the free radicals (unpaired electrons) that damage our DNA, leading to cancerous cell growth. Like the other cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower) broccoli also contains two phytochemicals that have direct action against cancer development. These work by creating enzymes that attack other cancer-causing agents. This is all especially beneficial for firefighters as they appear to have a greater risk of developing cancer.
Second, broccoli contains both types of fiber. I’ve discussed the benefits of fiber already throughout this series but there are actually two types of fiber (soluble and insoluble) and I’ve mainly been talking about the cholesterol lowering effects of soluble fiber. Yet, insoluble fiber has distinct benefits from soluble. Since we cannot completely digest insoluble fiber (hence the name) it acts as a “scrub” and removes toxins from your colon, reducing risk of colon cancer, hemorrhoids, and diverticulitis.
For the most part, soluble fiber is found in beans, fruit and oats while insoluble fiber is found in whole wheat, bran and vegetables. Since broccoli contains both, it gets credit for warding off cancer, heart disease and other painful conditions. One cup of chopped broccoli contains 4 grams of fiber which is approximately 13% of your daily requirement. Pair that with one cup of brown rice in a meal of beef and broccoli (what I made for dinner last night) and you’ve now reached 25 % of your daily requirement (~ 30 grams).
Make it a Star of Your Dish
Broccoli contains some calcium which can be beneficial for people who do not take in milk. It also contains the b-vitamin folate which helps the body produce energy. And the beta-carotene in broccoli helps ward off cataracts in older age.
I give nutrition classes for several fire departments here in Oregon and I talk about the wonderful healing effects of fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and other vitamins and minerals. Most of the time the firefighters comment that broccoli is on every slide!
I bet you already eat some broccoli so making it more of a staple in your diet isn’t too much of a stretch (I’m not asking you to start eating chia seeds!). While it most often stars as a side dish, it can be easily added to stir-fry’s, pasta and salads. The best way to prepare broccoli, so it retains all its nutrients, is to steam it. If you don’t have a steamer, simply put a very small amount of water in your pan (and keep an eye on it) so you don’t have to pour any cooking water out.
Part 5 of 6