Broccoli: Belly Up, Even If Bush Won't

ANN EGERTON

April 08, 1992|By ANN EGERTON

Let me get this straight, I'm to take calcium pills to ward off osteoporosis, Vitamin E to ''maybe'' avoid breast cancer and subdue my hot flashes, and I'm to exercise regularly for cardiovascular fitness and toned muscles. I'm, of course, to not smoke, drink alcohol in moderation if at all, cut back on red meat and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Now I learn that I'm to take regular doses of broccoli to dodge cancer altogether. This is just one more piece of evidence that demonstrates that adulthood is far more full of rules and regulations than childhood ever way.

A recent Johns Hopkins study confirmed and added to old news about broccoli and its cousins in the crucifer family -- cabbage, cauliflower and the much maligned Brussels sprout, all part of the Brassica genus. In botany, they are called crucifers because they have flowers having four parts that form a cross. Mustard plant is a member of this family, which makes me wonder if marinated broccoli dipped in Grey Poupon could be the ultimate cancer dodge in dining.

Attentive Christians may also wonder about the significance of this happy scientific finding during the lenten season. The revelation of broccoli as a God-given redeemer -- think on that, George Bush.

I've been reading about broccoli as an inhibitor of some cancers for several years. The Hopkins study validated and extended past findings about cruciferous vegetables, determining that sulforaphane is the chemical ingredient in broccoli that stimulates anti-cancer enzymes. A book, written in 1983 by Patricia Hausman, called ''Foods That Fight Cancer,'' identifies the cruciferous vegetables (which also include radish, kale and kohlrabi) as a cancer inhibitor.

Ms. Hausman is a nutritionist who served on the Committee on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer of the National Academy of Sciences in 1982. The findings of that committee comprise the material for her book. Perhaps its most startling verdict is that changes in diet alone could reduce the U.S. cancer rate by 35 percent or more.

So the next step -- while wondering if there is such a thing as broccoli futures -- will be to come up with palatable dishes containing the stuff. In my cookbook collection, only the Mexican books are missing a broccoli recipe, although I suppose we'll be seeing broccoli enchiladas soon, served without frijoles, I hope; no one likes to mention this, but eating crucifers can produce a fustian side effect.

Anyway, there is the old favorite of broccoli with cheese sauce or Hollandaise sauce, broccoli soup and a stir-fry dish of apples, brown rice, onions and broccoli that Ms. Hausman shares. My choice is a piquant blend of American southern and Oriental called spirited broccoli, which combine garlic, soy sauce and bourbon . . . and broccoli, of course.

What all of these recipes have in common is that the vegetable is disguised almost beyond recognition. The point of all this is to actually live longer, not just make it seem that way.

Ann Egerton writes from Baltimore.

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