By Nathan Jeffery, ND, BSc.
Free radicals and chemicals are everywhere. For many, this may pose a significant challenge to reaching personal health and wellness goals. Luckily the body has many pathways to neutralize and clear them. There are times when a person may benefit from some additional nutrients to support these elimination pathways. Broccoli and other members of the cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, cabbage, and kale have powerful antioxidant capabilities. The phytonutrient responsible for these properties is called sulforaphane glucosinolate (SGS). Interestingly it has to be converted to its active form by our gut bacteria! This is a wonderful example on how your good gut bacteria helps to promote health and detoxification.
At the cellular level, sulforaphane modulates expression of detoxifying and antioxidant genes. SGS increases phase 2 detoxification in the liver. This is important because Phase 2 detoxification takes toxic waste products and neutralizes them for elimination from the body. SGS may also provide a form protection for some cancers. This may be due through the elimination of toxic waste products that if not dealt with could cause damage to our genetic material. A diet of 3 to 5 servings of broccoli or related vegetables per week may decrease your risk of cancer by about 30-40%.
It turns out that broccoli sprouts offer the highest amount of SGS in food. Mashed cauliflower or broccoli is also a great way to get SGS in food. This also offers a great alternative to mashed potatoes because it does not increase blood sugar. Cauliflower can also be used to make a great gluten free great pizza crust!
Not only do we need food for caloric and nutrient value, food also influences our genes. Therefore it’s also beneficial to view food as information that can communicate with our internal programming to support optimum health. Broccoli is a great example that food really is medicine.
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Jeffery EH, Keck AS.Translating knowledge generated by epidemiological and in vitro studies into dietary cancer prevention. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Jun;52 Suppl 1:S7-17.