By Dr. Amy Reidhead, DC, FNP, BSN-RN, FIAMA
Lately, I’ve been a bit obsessed with broccoli.
In fact, my relationship with broccoli is a bit of a running joke in my family. It all started when broccoli was the buzzword at three of the four conferences I attended this year covering detoxification, energy and hormone health.
I was left wondering: What the heck, how can broccoli positively affect all these seemingly different pathways?
So, to get to the bottom of what make broccoli so incredible, I made the radical decision to do my Master’s thesis on broccoli and its effect on reducing the risk of a number of chronic diseases. And I want to share with you what I discovered.
Body: The Key ingredient: Sulforaphane
Over the past 30 years, number of scientists at Johns Hopkins University (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC23369/)have honed in on sulforaphane as the magic ingredient responsible for much of broccoli’s super powers. Broccoli is a member of the broader family of vegetables called crucifers. Cruciferous vegetables contain a chemical called glucoraphanin, which is transformed to the real super hero, sulforaphane, when we chew it.
This is what I learned in writing my thesis: When our moms told us to eat our broccoli, she wasn’t kidding.
Now, this part might get a bit heavy, but stick with me because believe me, you want to know more about the healing powers of broccoli!
Sulforaphane-rich broccoli is believed to be one of the most powerful, naturally occurring activators of the Nrf2 pathway. Nrf2 activation is important as it increases our own natural antioxidant pathways and stimulates detoxification enzymes in our liver. To put it more simply, Nrf2 activation boosts natural glutathione production, reduces the effects of oxidation and inflammation in the body and helps remove many of the harmful chemicals we come into contact with on the daily.
Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Cancer and Neurologic disease: oh my!
Knowing that long-term exposure to inflammation, oxidative stress and environmental toxins contribute to the development of chronic disease, I found that the research fully supported eating broccoli and other sulforaphane-rich vegetables as an easy and delicious way we can protect ourselves from developing a number of chronic diseases.
Loads of studies exist linking broccoli in the reduction of the development of chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3405367/), cancer (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4390425/, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3076202/), and diabetes (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28615356). More recently, several studies show that sulforaphane may play a role in reducing anxiety and depression (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26721468) as well as significantly benefiting behavior outcomes in autism sufferers(https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/media/releases/chemical_derived_from_broccoli_sprouts_shows_promise_in_treating_autism). This is incredible!
Conclusion:So, how do we get the most out of broccoli!
My research found that broccoli seeds and 3-day old broccoli sprouts contain the most sulforaphane, but mature broccoli plants are still considered super healthy. Sprouting your own broccoli seeds and adding them to salads, smoothies or other dishes is an easy way to get your daily dose of sulforaphane. You can even learn to sprout on YouTube! If sprouting is not your thing, don’t despair; steaming the mature plant will still get you plenty of the health benefits.
Although some supplements exist that contain broccoli sprouts or glucoraphanin, generally speaking, eating the whole food is generally considered the best practice. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, contain hundreds if not thousands of nutrients that are known to be beneficial to health and these nutrients act synergistically in the body. So eating the whole foods is always the best way to get our nutrients!
If you are interested, the same researchers at Johns Hopkins have developed their own sulforaphane product(https://www.avmacol.com/avmacol) as well as analyzed many of the sulforaphane products on the market to find the ones that contain the safest, most beneficial products (https://www.thorne.com/products/dp/crucera-sgs) on the market.
Striving to eat seven to nine servings of organic fruits and vegetables a day is the goal of adopting any healthy lifestyle stratagy, so just make sure you add some broccoli to you rdiet and start benefiting today!!