We have all been told to eat all our greens since we were children and I am going through the same process with my own kids now. It is not always easy to get our children to eat their greens; my kids would rather not eat at all than put a piece of broccoli in their mouths.
However, science suggests that there is sound reason for making sure we get plenty of greens into our system especially those dark, leafy greens known as cruciferous vegetables. One of the many reasons that you should be eating these vegetables is the presence of a phytochemical called sulforaphane.
What is Sulforaphane?
Sulforaphane is an organic compound found in certain vegetables, specifically the cruciferous and brassica vegetables.
These classes of vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and kale. These vegetables contain a compound called glucoraphanin and when we chew or crush these vegetables, a chemical reaction is set off which creates a phytochemical compound known as sulforaphane.
Recent research into the benefits of the compound have found that it has a wide range of potential health benefits. These include antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neurological benefits as well as exciting findings regarding its anti-cancer potential.
Health Benefits of Sulforaphane
By now, I am sure everyone is familiar with the massive benefits of getting plenty of antioxidants into your system. Sulforaphane is a natural antioxidant that can confer a wide range of health benefits on the body.
It can help protect you against a range of serious diseases and illnesses by neutralizing and even reversing the damage done by the free radical we encounter on a daily basis. Sulforaphane can also have an anti-aging effect on the skin and internal organs helping you look and feel better for longer.
Because of its amazing antioxidant potential, sulforaphane can protect against a wide range of serious diseases including heart disease, cancer and brain disease, which we will look at in more detail soon.
Studies have revealed that sulforaphane is an extremely powerful antioxidant with a number of potential benefits to human health. (1)
Inflammation is at the root of the vast majority of serious health conditions. Fortunately, sulforaphane has natural, anti-inflammatory abilities that can help suppress inflammation and protect against inflammatory disease. Sulforaphane activates Nrf2 which in turn helps relieve inflammation in the system.
IThere is even evidence from studies that sulforaphane can protect the skin against inflammation caused by exposure to the sun. (2)
There is nothing more important than a healthy heart. Unfortunately, age and lifestyle choices can increase the risk of heart disease. In particular, the level of plaque in the arteries tends to increase as we age which can lead to a number of heart conditions including atherosclerosis.
There is good evidence that people who eat more cruciferous vegetables are likely to live longer and less at risk of heart disease. (3)
Studies suggest that sulforaphane may have an important role to play in keeping your heart free of plaque and in turn, reducing the risk of heart disease. One study looked at the effects of sulforaphane on rabbits fed with a very high cholesterol diet.
The researchers found that despite feeding the animals with extremely cholesterol-rich foods, feeding them with sulforaphane prevented their arteries from hardening. (4) The study suggests that eating foods rich in sulforaphane reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and keeps the heart healthier for longer.
There is also evidence that sulforaphane can protect your heart by reducing cholesterol levels. One study found that the consumption of broccoli sprouts helped reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 7%. (21)
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that your dietary choices can affect your risks of developing cancer in the future. According to studies, eating cruciferous vegetables rich in sulforaphane could play a crucial role on protecting you against the disease.
As in the case with heart disease, there is evidence that those who eat the more cruciferous vegetables are less at risk of developing cancer than those who eat less. In fact, just 3 to 5 servings of cruciferous vegetables a week can reduce the incidence of cancer by a whopping 40%. (5)
Studies on animals have also showed that sulforaphane is extremely effective against a wide range of cancers while a number of studies are looking at the effects of the compound in human cancer cells. (6)
According to several studies, sulforaphane can prevent cancer growth through destroying cells which have already been damaged. (7). Studies have found that the compound is especially effective against prostate and colon cancer cells but it has also demonstrated positive effects against breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, melanoma and leukemia. (8)
The Synergy between sulphoraphane, curcumin and aspirin
A study published in 2013 suggests that sulphoraphane works in synergy with curcumin and aspirin to protect against pancreatic cancer.
The researchers concluded that :
“Data from this study demonstrate that a low-dose ACS combination inhibits cell growth by inducing cell apoptosis, and proposes sustained activation of the ERK1/2 signaling pathway as one of the possible mechanisms.” (9)
There is also a growing body of evidence that sulforaphane can boost the brain’s health and improve certain cognitive functions including focus and memory.
Studies have revealed that sulforaphane boosts the health and longevity of existing neurons while it also helps stimulate the formation of fresh neurons as well as the production of synapses. (10)
Animal studies have also revealed that sulforaphane can reduce brain inflammation as well as neurodegenerative disease. (11)
When it comes to brain health and cognition, studies strongly suggest that sulforaphane has a wide range of applications including the following.
- Cognitive performance and memory following brain injury. (12)
- Alleviating brain swelling by decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokines and the inhibition of NF-κB (13)
- Preventing memory impairment and prolonging the survival of neurons in diabetic rodents. (14)
- Protecting against brain damage in rats with acute CO poisoning. (15)
- Protecting human neurons against neurotoxicity. (16)
- Activating Nrf2, a shortage of which is linked to neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (17)
Anxiety and Depression
Inflammation is linked to depression so by reducing inflammation, it is possible for sulforaphane to combat depression and other emotional conditions like anxiety. Studies into the effects of sulforaphane on depression have proven very positive.
One study found that sulforaphane helped reverse both depression and anxiety in mice with chronic stress. The researchers believe it works by inhibiting the inflammatory response to stress. (18)
Another study found that a deficiency in Nrf2 led to depressive behavior in mice. The administration of sulforophane helped stimulate the production of Nrf2 and conferred antidepressant effects. (19)
Another study found that consuming glucoraphanin during the juvenile period helped prevent depression in adulthood. (20)
Diabetes is a condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels. it can have a devastating impact on your health and can lead to many complications including heart disease. Studies suggest that consuming more cruciferous vegetables can have a significantly positive effect on the disease.
One Swedish study looked at the effects of sulforaphane on 97 obese volunteers with type 2 diabetes. the participants were wither given broccoli sprouts or a placebo for a 12 week period, After 12 weeks, the participants who consumed the broccoli sprouts had significantly lower blood sugar levels than those given a placebo. As well as a 10% reduction in blood sugar, no adverse side effects were reported. (22)
Of you are looking to get healthy but also to lose a few unwanted pounds, then adding more cruciferous veggies rich in sulforaphane can have a major impact.
In one study, mice were fed an unhealthy Standard American Diet and unsurprisingly became obese very quickly. They also had increased cholesterol levels and were more at risk of atherosclerosis. Interestingly, the mice were then fed sulforaphane which had an amazing effect ,It helped the mice to lose weight and show reduced cholesterol and blood pressure levels and even helped to reverse atherosclerosis. (23)
We have already mentioned that sulforaphane activates Nrf2 which helps relieve the inflammation responsible for a wide range of inflammatory conditions. Studies have found that the compound could help effectively treat osteoarthritis and rheumatism.
One study found that sulforaphane inhibited metalloproteinases which are responsible for cartilage damage and osteoarthrits. (24) Another study found that the compound helped decrease the production of inflammatory cytokines which reduced arthritis symptoms in mice. (25)
According to studies, sulforaphane may have a number of other potential benefits including the following :
- Protecting the eyes from damage.
- Improved immune health.
- Kidney and liver health.
How to Get More Sulforaphane Into your Diet
Before we loom at the best foods for obtaining sulforaphane, we should mention that cooking your veggies will destroy the substance. It is much better to eat your cruciferous vegetables raw or very under cooked.
To get more sulforaphane into your system, you need to be eating cruciferous and certain brassica vegetables. however, when it comes to sulforaphane, not all leafy, green vegetables offer the same benefits. The following vegetables are the best dietary sources of sulforaphane.
- Broccoli Sprouts : broccoli sprouts have by far the highest glucoraphanin content. Studies indicate broccoli sprouts possess anything from 10 to 100 times more of the compound than mature broccoli. Try sprouting your own at home or you may find broccoli sprouts at a local whole foods store.
- Brussel Sprouts
- Bok Choy
Try eating between 3 and 5 portions of these vegetable every week since studies indicate that amount can have a significant impact on disease prevention.,
Side Effects and Precautions
Any adverse side effects from increasing your intake of sulforaphane is extremely unlikely. Getting more cruciferous vegetables into your system is far more likely to have major beneficial effects.
In very high doses, there may be a very small risk of liver toxicity. There is one reported case of an individual developing liver toxicity after consuming 800 ml of broccoli juice a day. Fortunately for the individual concerned, his liver function returned to normality just 15 days after he stopped using the juice.
- Sulforaphane is a phytochemical you get from chewing on cruciferous vegetables especially broccoli sprouts, broccoli, kale and cauliflower,
- Sulforaphane is a very powerful antioxidant with a wide range of potential health benefits.
- A number of studies have demonstrated that sulforaphane has benefits for the heart and brain while studies have also showed that it is effective against various types of cancer.
- The anti-inflammatory properties of sulforaphane also make it a great natural weapon against depression and anxiety.
- The best foods to eat if you want to get more of the substance into your system include broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, kale and broccoli but other cruciferous and brassica vegetables also contain smaller amounts of the substance.
- it is important to note that cooking the vegetables can destroy the glucoraphanin content of the vegetables meaning you get less sulforophane into your system.
- If you want to get the most from your food, it is better to eat your vegetables raw.