We know all about the health benefits of green vegetables, but there’s a reason you should choose broccoli and broccoli sprouts specifically: a little-known nutrient called sulforaphane.
Etymologically-minded readers may already have made the connection between the sulfur odor of cruciferous vegetables and this important phytonutrient. Sulforaphane not only promotes and induces your body’s natural detoxification abilities, it also supports your immune system and is anti-inflammatory.
Sulforaphane hasn’t got a lot of press yet, but this has nothing to do with its powerful health benefits.
“Sulforaphane is not well known because it affects complex mechanisms at the molecular level,” explains Brian Cornblatt, PhD, Medical Director at Nutramax Laboratories and Avmacol. “The name of the phytochemical is also pretty complicated to say. It would be a lot easier to call it “the health benefits of broccoli”. “
Share it with us: Sul-for-a-Phane. Good? Now we come to the brass nails.
What is sulforaphane?
Sulforaphane is not actually found in vegetables per se. Rather, as Cornblatt explains, this phytonutrient is produced in the body by its precursor glucoraphanin and the enzyme myrosinase.
“When we cook or chew broccoli,” explains Lisa Richards, nutritionist and founder of The Candida Diet, “a chemical process occurs that leads to sulforaphane.”
Digest that? Good! Because once your body does the same, this compound offers more than a handful of health benefits, including improved metabolism and removal of potentially harmful chemicals in our bodies. In particular, Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, AP, notes that sulforaphane can help remove carcinogens such as benzene, which can be found in solvents, pollution, and cigarette smoke. (Holy cancer benefits, Batman! Uh … broccoli!)
Sulforaphane can also downregulate key components involved in inflammation, helping to reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases such as metabolic diseases, diabetes and cancer.
“Strong evidence supports the possibility that sulforaphane may be a beneficial anti-cancer compound because of its antioxidant properties,” explains Richards. “It is also believed to improve cognitive functions, prevent diabetes, and protect against sun damage.”
Decreased inflammation also improves mood, explains Trattner, noting that a study in mice showed that sulforaphane was as effective as Prozac in treating symptoms of depression.
Last but not least (especially nowadays …) sulforaphane also supports immune health. Early research showed that it reduced exposure to a bacterial organism, which is the main cause of stomach ulcers, and that the combination of fiber and sulforaphane “positively affects the beneficial microorganisms in our gastrointestinal tract,” says Cornblatt.
“By promoting healthy bacterial growth with sulforaphane, inflammation can be tamed and our immune systems can be directed to other activities, such as protecting against seasonal insects and beyond.”
Count me in! So … how do I get it?
Sulforaphane is produced when we consume cruciferous vegetables, primarily broccoli. Richards notes that “it is highly recommended that heat kill the enzyme necessary to make sulforaphane, making raw broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables the best way to consume them.”
Trattner adds that broccoli sprouts are an even better source of sulforaphane than broccoli florets. She notes that the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine require vegetables to be lightly steamed for less than four minutes for maximum nutrient absorption. This process, she explains, “holds all of the nutrients in, but helps break down the cellulosic and hemicellulosic ligaments that can puff you up and give you gas.”
To get the most out of these benefits, try one (or more!) Of the following recipes.
1. Fish tacos with broccoli coleslaw
This gluten-free taco recipe combines spice-coated tuna with a creamy yogurt-based broccoli coleslaw. Heaped in corn tortillas and topped with avocado, it’s a simple weekday meal that the whole family will love.
Pictures by Stephanie Gupana
2. Broccoli raven crostini
Bitter Broccoli Rabe is the star of this easy-to-prepare starter with a hint of chilli flakes. Just fry the vegetables just barely so they retain all of their wonderful health benefits.
Photo by Hanxiao on Unsplash
3. Shrimp and broccoli to take away
By making your favorite Chinese take away recipes at home, you are in control of the quality and quantity of ingredients. Keep the broccoli right on this side of al dente and pair it with sustainably caught shrimp in this delicious Chinese shrimp and broccoli recipe.
Image maintenance of the minimalist baker
4. Creamy vegan broccoli salad
This broccoli salad is full of flavor and nutrients: salty sunflower seeds, sweet dried cranberries and a tangy dressing made from cashew butter, maple syrup and apple cider vinegar make this plant-based broccoli salad a real treat. Sprinkle with homemade coconut bacon and ready to serve.
Image over 101 cookbooks
5. Double broccoli Buddha bowl
Broccoli is married to rich coconut oil and spicy green curry paste in this Buddha bowl topped with almonds to crunch. Consider garnishing with broccoli sprouts for a pretty topping that adds nice texture and even more sulforaphane-producing glucoraphanin.
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