Eating for your heart: broccoli and brassicas

January 5, 2009 by  

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Now that we’ve started the year with some New Year’s resolutions on how to improve our health, let’s get on with a few specifics. Let’s start with diet. What can should we eat that will make us fit?

Introducing to you the green wonder – broccoli. Broccoli and its close relatives romanesco and cauliflower are members of the brassica vegetable family and are therefore called brassicas or cruciferous vegetables.

Researchers at the University of Warwick (UK) reported that broccoli and other brassica vegetables are rich in sulforaphane, a compound that “encourages the body to produce more enzymes to protect the vessels, as well as reduce high levels of molecules which cause significant cell damage.”

Many chronic diseases are linked to damaged blood vessels. People suffering from diabetes, for example, are especially at high risk for developing heart disease or having a stroke. People with kidney and liver diseases, for example, have also vascular problems.

The University of Warwick study especially concentrated on the effect of sulforaphane on blood vessel cells which have been damaged by high glucose levels or hyperglycemia in patients with diabetes.

Hyperglycemia causes the levels of molecules called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) to increase. This increase, which can be as much as three-fold, damages cells in the body. Sulforaphane seems to be able to reverse this rise in ROS levels by as much as 78%.

In addition, sulforaphane also activates NF-E2-related factor-2 (nrf2), a protein with protective properties against oxidative stress. Sulforaphane can increase the activation of nrf2 two-fold.

The researchers conclude that

activation of nrf2 may prevent biochemical dysfunction and related functional responses of endothelial cells induced by hyperglycemia in which increased expression of transketolase has a pivotal role.”

Broccoli and its relatives have been found to have other health benefits as well, including protection against cancer as well as boosting an aging immune system.

In related animal studies by University of Connecticut researchers, laboratory rats fed with broccoli slurry diet have been found to have protection against heart problems. The researchers conclude that

taken together, the results of the present study indicate that the consumption of broccoli triggers cardioprotection by generating a survival signal through the activation of several survival proteins and by redox cycling of thioredoxins.”

So there you are. An affordable vegetable that is available the whole year round that can protect from heart and vascular problems. And it’s tasty, too.

Here are some sites to check for broccoli and brassica vegetable recipes:

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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