Broccoli may help protect against aggressive prostate cancer1, undo the damage caused by diabetes to heart blood vessels2 and cut development of bladder tumors3. It may also help protect against respiratory inflammation that causes conditions like asthma, allergic rhinitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease4.
If you are still not motivated, you should know that researchers at UCLA5, working with mice, have found that a chemical in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables is capable of stimulating a wide range of antioxidant defense pathways and may be able to interfere with the age-related decline in immune function.
Free radicals are byproducts of normal body processes, such as the metabolic conversion of food into energy, and can also enter the body through small particles we breathe in every day in polluted air, pollen, diesel exhaust and tobacco smoke. A supercharged form of oxygen, these molecules can cause oxidative tissue damage, leading to disease -- for example, triggering the inflammation process that causes clogged arteries. Oxidative damage to body tissues and organs is thought to be one of the major causes of aging.
The chemical in broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy is sulforaphane. Sulforaphane interacts with a protein called Nrf2, which serves as a master regulator of the body's overall antioxidant response and is capable of switching on hundreds of antioxidant and rejuvenating genes and enzymes.
Our defense against oxidative stress damage may determine at what rate we age, how it will manifest and how to interfere in those processes
1. Victoria A. Kirsh, Ulrike Peters, Susan T. Mayne, Amy F. Subar, Nilanjan Chatterjee, Christine C. Johnson, and Richard B. Hayes. Prospective Study of Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Risk of Prostate Cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst, 1 August 2007; 99: 1200 - 1209.
2. Xue et al. Activation of NF-E2-related factor-2 reverses biochemical dysfunction of endothelial cells induced by hyperglycemia linked to vascular disease. Diabetes, 2008; DOI: 10.2337/db06-1003
3. Rex Munday et al. Inhibition of Urinary Bladder Carcinogenesis by Broccoli Sprouts. Cancer Res 2008;68(5):1593–600]
4. Marc A. Riedl, Andrew Saxon and David Diaz-Sanchez. Oral sulforaphane increases Phase II antioxidant enzymes in the human upper airway. Clinical Immunology. Volume 130, Issue 3, March 2009, Pages 244-251
5. Nrf2 activation by sulforaphane restores the age-related decrease of TH1 immunity: Role of dendritic cells. Hyon-Jeen Kim et al. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Volume 121, Issue 5, May 2008, Pages 1255-1261