Broccoli

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Health benefits of broccoli

Diabetes and Autism

For obese individuals with type 2 diabetes, broccoli extract may be what the doctor ordered. Scientists reporting in the June 14, 2017 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine, found that a compound called sulforaphane in broccoli (and other cruciferous veggies like cabbage and Brussel sprouts) could turn down the activity, or expression, of 50 genes associated with symptoms related to type 2 diabetes. The scientists gave the compound (in the form of a broccoli sprout extract) to 97 individuals with type 2 diabetes over the course of 12 weeks. Though non-obese participants didn’t see any effect, the obese individuals saw their fasting blood glucose levels go down a significant 10 percent compared with a control group. The dose, however, is 100 times what is found naturally in broccoli, the researchers reported.

The same compound was also found to improve symptoms related to autism; those who took the extract containing sulforaphane showed improvements in verbal communication and social interactions, researchers reported Oct. 13, 2014 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cancer prevention

Probably the most publicized health benefit of broccoli is its possible ability to help prevent cancer. “Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and all vegetables in this group may be protective against some stomach and intestinal cancers,” Jarzabkowski said.

The American Cancer Society notes broccoli’s isothiocyanates, including sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. These chemicals boost detoxifying enzymes and act as antioxidants, reducing oxidative stress. They also may affect estrogen levels, which may help reduce breast cancer risk.

Cholesterol reduction

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According to Jarzabkowski, broccoli can help lower cholesterol because the soluble fiber in the vegetable binds with the cholesterol in the blood. This binding makes the cholesterol easier to excrete, and consequently lessens cholesterol levels in the body.

Detoxification

Phytocheimcals glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin and glucobrassicin compose a terrific trio in broccoli. Together, they aid all steps of the body’s detoxification process, from activation to neutralization and elimination of contaminants. A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that the sprouts of broccoli may be especially potent in this regard.

Heart health

In addition to reducing cholesterol, broccoli can aid in heart health by helping to keep blood vessels strong. The sulforaphane in broccoli is also an anti-inflammatory and may be able to prevent or reverse damage to blood vessel linings caused by chronic blood sugar problems. And the vegetable’s B-complex vitamins can help regulate or reduce excessive homocysteine, according to the Harvard University School of Public Health. Excess homocysteine, an amino acid that builds up after a person eats red meat, increases the risk of coronary artery disease.

Eye health

“You’ve probably heard that carrots are good for your eyes, and that’s because they contain lutein,” Jarzabkowski said. “It’s a compound antioxidant that’s really good for eye health, and broccoli is also a great way to get it.” Another antioxidant in broccoli called zeaxanthin is similarly beneficial. Both chemicals may help protect against macular degeneration, an incurable condition that blurs central vision, and cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens.

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