Super Food of the Week: Broccoli

Broccoli, a member of the Kale family, evolved from a wild cabbage plant on the continent of Europe. Broccoli is closely related to cauliflower with its origins in Italy and has been considered a valuable food among Italians. Italian immigrants were the first to introduce broccoli to the United States but it did not become widely known until the 1920. Thanks to broccoli’s different components, this vegetable provides a complex of tastes and textures, ranging from flowery (from the florets) and soft to fibrous and crunchy (from the stem and stalk). Broccoli’s color can range from deep sage to dark green to a purplish-green. The most common types of broccoli sold in North America is known as Italian green, or Calarese, named for the Italian province of Calabria where it first grew.

Broccoli has an extensive list of nutrients including many of the major nutrients needed for healthy hair growth, such as Vitamins A, C, E, B6, protein, iron, zinc and omega 3 fatty acids, just to name a few. With all the other nutrients available from broccoli, it is no surprise that broccoli has a number of health benefits.

New research has shown that broccoli can provide cholesterol-lowering benefits if cooked by steaming. The fiber-related components in broccoli actually do a better job of binding with bile acids in the digestive tract when steamed. The end results in an easier excretion of bile acids thus resulting in a lowering of cholesterol. Raw broccoli still has cholesterol-lowering ability but not as pronounced as in steamed broccoli. The B-complex vitamins also make a major contribution to heart health by lowering homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid, which in high levels is linked to heart disease.

Broccoli possesses a unique combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-detoxification components. This combination makes broccoli a unique food in cancer prevention. Research has strongly suggested a decreased risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, and ovarian cancer with regular consumption of broccoli. Research has been conducted to provide a much better idea of the amount of broccoli that needs to be consumed to lower cancer risk. Researchers found that an average of ½ cup of broccoli per day is enough to provide measurable benefits.

Other health benefits that can be found in regular consumption of broccoli include improvement eye health, healthy skin support, and the metabolism of vitamin D. To maintain the long list of nutrients found in broccoli it is generally recommended that broccoli be cooked via steaming at 212˚F (100˚C) or lower. Overcooked broccoli becomes soft and mushy which is an indication that it has lost both nutrients and flavor.

You can find a complete nutrient list of broccoli at the following USDA link:

http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/cgi-bin/list_nut_edit.pl

Fit Tip of the Week: How “Fit” is the Wii Fit?

Since its original release date in 2007, Wii Fit has become widely popular in the video game all over the world. Game play features over 40 different fitness related activities including yoga, push-ups, cardiovascular exercises as well as others. At face value (and assuming that the people using Wii Fit are normally sedentary during game play) Wii Fit sounds like a great idea to get people up and moving. But just how good is game play with Wii Fit in getting a good workout? What sort of workout can be expected from Wii Fit?

The American Council on Exercise enlisted the help of a team of researchers to put Wii Fit to the test. Researchers recruited 16 volunteers, male and female, ages 20 to 24 years to help test the efficacy of Wii Fit. Prior to beginning the actual study, each participant was given a maximal exercise test on a treadmill while oxygen consumption and heart rate were monitored. Next, researchers obtained each participant’s ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) for the treadmill test. Once baseline measurements were taken and a demonstration on how to properly use Wii Fit the study was conducted focusing on the six most aerobically challenging events featured in the game (Free Run, Island Run, Free Step, Advanced Step, Super Hula Hoop and Rhythm Boxing). On a separate date, each subject performed six-minute bouts of each of the six activities chosen in random order while data was monitored.

The results of the study showed that of the six activities tested, Island Run and Free Run provided the highest energy expenditures burning about 5.5 calories per minute. Researchers concluded that neither activity was sufficient enough to improve or maintain cardiorespiratory endurance as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine. The other activities tested yielded similar results but still fell below the ACSM’s recommended fitness guidelines. The calories burned per minute with the other activities ranged from 3.3-3.8 calories per minute. Researchers found that performing the actual activity (versus using the Wii Fit) has significantly higher calorie expenditure.

Overall, researchers concluded that the Wii Fit is a very mild work out and advise that Wii Fit shouldn’t’t be the only form of exercise. Another interesting fact that researchers point out is that “gamers” who are looking to burn some calories should opt for Wii Sports, thanks to the more motion while playing typically seen in Wii Sports. Even though considered to be a mild workout by researchers, we still must put things in perspective with it comes to the Wii Fit. In my opinion, any form of exercise (even mild) is better than none at all. Researchers agree that choosing Wii Fit over a sedentary video game is a good choice. The question of Wii Fit being a great workout is still up for debate, but people do seem to enjoy it and stick with it. As many personal trainers (myself included) like to say, the best workout is the one you’ll actually do and stick with. Burning some calories is better than none.

Resources: ACE FitnessMatters. November/December 2009.

Until next week…

KinkySheaPT