Broccoli is one of the most popular vegetables in Western diets. This is fortunate, because it just so happens that organic broccoli an excellent source of vitamin A, C, and K. It is rich in folic acid and contains good quantities of manganese, calcium, and potassium. With its abundant levels of antioxidants and its well-known cancer-fighting properties, organic broccoli is one of the true “super foods”.
Pesticides applied to conventional broccoli crops
- There are 42 pesticides with established tolerance (residue limits for pesticides used in the U.S. or by countries exporting to the U.S.) for broccoli.
- 26 are acutely toxic creating a hazardous environment for farmworkers, 40 are linked to chronic health problems (such as cancer), 9 contaminate streams or groundwater, and 38 are poisonous to wildlife (Source: beyondpesticides.org).
- Pesticides that may be applied to conventionally grown broccoli, which have been identified as acutely toxic, include: Azinphos-methyl, Chlorpyrifos, Metaldehyde, Permethrin, and Thiodicarb.
Pesticide in focus: Dimethoate
- Dimethoate is only one of many pesticides applied to conventional broccoli crops.
- Dimethoate residue, a known carcinogen and reproductive toxicant, was found in 2.2% of conventionally grown broccoli crops. No detectable residue was identified in organic broccoli. (Source: United Stated Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program)
Known health effects associated with Dimethoate
- EPA Acute Toxicity Class: II (moderately toxic);
- Cancer: Possible;
- Endocrine Disruption: Suspected (PAN);
- Reproductive Effects: Yes;
- Neurotoxicity: Yes;
- Kidney/ Liver Damage: Yes;
- Sensitizer/ Irritant: No;
- Birth/ Developmental Defects: Yes. (Source: beyondpesticides.org)
Sourcing organic broccoli
- Given its popularity there are good quantities of organic broccoli available in both conventional stores as well as the more obvious places such as natural food stores, farmers’ markets, CSAs, and co-ops.
- Look for broccoli with compact flower heads with no sign of yellow. The stalk, leaves, and florets should be fresh, firm, and brightly colored. Although usually green, some varieties are tinged with purple.
- Avoid broccoli with woody stalk or florets that are open or turning yellow. When the green chlorophyll pigments fade and permit the yellow carotenoids underneath to show through, the buds are about to bloom and the broccoli is past its best.
- Organic broccoli is best eaten as fresh as possible. For best taste and maximum nutrient content, use broccoli within one to two days of buying.
- Keep broccoli heads dry, avoid exposing them to light (which destroys vitamin C), and handle them as infrequently as possible. Place unwashed broccoli in an open bag in the refrigerator or in the crisper drawer.
Preparing and eating broccoli
- To prepare, remove the thick stalk (and retain for later use in stocks, curries, etc), rinse broccoli under cold water, and cut florets into desired sizes.
- Broccoli is fantastic eaten raw. Eat it as a between meals snack, dip it into hummus or add it to your favorite salad.
- Don’t be afraid to cook broccoli. Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that gently cooking broccoli increases both the quantity and quality of the plant’s sulphoraphanes, which are associated with fighting cancer.
- To cook, steam or boil in a small quantity of lightly salted water until it is fork-tender but still crisp. It should still be bright green in color.
Nutritional properties of broccoli
- Broccoli is one of the true “super foods”. It is high in protein and dietary fiber, low in fat, and is an excellent source of vitamin A, the B vitamin folate, and vitamin C. In addition, it contains useful quantities of vitamin E and vitamin K.
- Broccoli is also rich in many plant compounds such as indoles and isothiocynates, which have been found to have cancer-fighting properties.
- Each fresh broccoli spear contains 102 percent of the RDA of vitamin A , 53 percent of the RDA of folate, and 186 percent of the RDA of vitamin C.
Medicinal properties of broccoli
- The naturally occurring chemicals (indoles, isothiocyanates, glucosinolates, dithiolethiones, and phenols) in broccoli have been found to reduce the risk of many forms of cancer, particularly breast and prostate cancer. This is achieved by preventing the formation of carcinogens in the body and by blocking cancer causing substances from reaching or interacting with sensitive body tissues.
- Studies have shown that people with elevated LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels who consumed a broccoli-based juice showed decreased LDL levels and an associated reduced risk of cardiovascular complications.
- Folate supplementation immediately before and during pregnancy is known to reduce birth defects such as cleft palate and neural tube (spinal cord) disorders. Organic broccoli is a good source of folate. One raw broccoli spear contains 102 mcg folate, which is more than 50 percent of the RDA for an adult.
Keywords: organic broccoli, pesticides on broccoli