Whether eaten steamed, raw, or roasted, broccoli adds a boost of nutrients to your diet and takes less than 5 minutes to whip up. And new research suggests even more health benefits to broccoli beyond its current list of boons.
Sulforaphane, and How It Protects Your Health
A compound in broccoli called sulforaphane is responsible for many of the cruciferous vegetable’s health benefits. A study published in Cancer Research showed that sulforaphane caused the cell cycle to halt and induced apoptosis (programed cell death) in colon cancer cells and breast cancer stem cells.
According to a 2015 edition of the journal Medicines, “Epidemiological studies suggest that intake of cruciferous vegetables including broccoli reduces the risks for the induction of certain forms of cancer. This protective effect has been linked to the presence of glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate precursor of sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate that influences the process of carcinogenesis.”
Other studies indicate that eating broccoli can help reduce risk factors for lung and prostate cancers, and glucoraphanin, a precursor to sulforaphane, has been shown to increase the production of cell enzymes that defend against molecular harm caused by cancer-causing chemicals. A study in PLoS One showed that eating 4 servings of broccoli a week—that’s roughly 10 broccoli spears—could help protect against prostate cancer.
Sulforaphane’s health benefits extend beyond cancer. Studies on cells, tissues, and mice show that sulforaphane is able to suppress an enzyme responsible for impairing cartilage, and experts believe that increasing the amount of broccoli you eat can help slow and even prevent osteoarthritis.
Sulforaphane has also been shown to lower blood pressure and enhance kidney function according to a study conducted on hypertensive rats with disabled kidney function. It helps lower oxidative stress and strengthens the immune system by activating antioxidant mechanisms in the body, and improves heart health by protecting blood vessels and decreasing the number of molecules that cause cell damage.
The Latest Research
Researchers from the University of Illinois crossed two broccoli strains and then analyzed their offshoots to discover the genes that produced the highest concentration of polyphenols that would incite the most potent antioxidant protection. The more impact exerted on oxidative radicals and free radical annihilation, the less risk for disease. Researchers plan to breed broccoli, cabbage, and kale varieties that have the most powerful phenolic compounds, but until then, keep eating as much organic broccoli as possible!