Broccoli contains more vital nutrients than any other member of the cabbage family, according to a study conducted by the United States Dept. of Agriculture and the University of Tennessee’s plant research department.
The research study confirmed that broccoli heads contain an abundant amount of lutein, an antioxidant considered to be capable of protecting humans from age-related macular degeneration, cancer and heart disease.
Other carotenoids, or fat soluble plant compounds, like beta-carotene, violaxanthin and antheraxanthin were also found in broccoli heads.
Researchers discovered that when it comes to breeding broccoli, lutein levels are directly associated with the genetics of the plant, rather than the environment in which the vegetable is grown.
Authors of the study stated that "ultimately this research indicates that breeding [broccoli] with increased levels of this particular carotenoid may be feasible."
In a separate study, researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) at Oregon State University found that sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli, has strong anti-cancer properties.
"I would say if you’re at all worried about cancer or at high risk of cancer, especially of prostate or colon cancer, then increasing your dietary intake of broccoli…could be a good idea," said LPI researcher Emily Ho.