By Bob Condor

Quick, name the only vegetable that is actually a flower. Got it?

Broccoli, which if you wait too long to harvest it, will become a sturdy, barely inedible yellow flower. Even so, picking the plant at the flowerette stage has never been in more full bloom. The green cruciferous vegetable has been a steady favorite of researchers looking for natural protection against cancer.

Now this: A new study reported July 1 in a major British science journal identifies not only that a few portions of broccoli a week can prevent prostate cancer, but documents just how a chemical in the vegetable sets off hundreds of genetic changes that recruit some genes to fight cancer cells while switching off other genes that otherwise propagate tumors. It is the first such study to show the biological impact of a vegetable on genes.

More fodder for convicing the kids—or maybe a reluctant adult?—to eat their veggies? Especially if it’s broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, arugula, horseradish and watercress.

The British researchers conducting the study divided 24 men with pre-cancerous lesions into two groups. One group ate four extra servings of broccoli each while the other dozen volunteers added four extra servings of peas. The scient

ists also took periodic tissue samples to study genetic changes—and they hit the jackpot with the broccoli group.

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Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are loaded with a compound known as isothiocyanate that is documented an aggressive fighter of cancer cells. Moreover, broccoli has a unique compound, sulforphane, compared to its cruciferous cousins that is deemed to make the flower/vegetable a superhero among plant anti-cancer agents.

The broccoli worked most positively in men with a certain gene, one that is present in about 50 percent of men. The researchers said there is every reason to believe that if broccoli can prevent prostate cancer with a direct supportive effect to that gland, it will likely be just as powerful with other cancers.

“Bob Condor is the Daily Health Blogger for Barton Publishing . He is also the Living Well columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer . He covers natural health and quality of life issues and writes regularly for national magazines, including Life, Esquire, Parade, Self, and Outside. He is a former syndicated health columnist for the Chicago Tribune and author of six books, including “The Good Mood Diet” and “Your Prostate Cancer Survivors' Guide.” He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and two 11-year-old kids.