It’s not good enough to know that vegetables like broccoli are healthful; we need to know specifically what sort of benefits they deliver, how they deliver those benefits and how we can make the most of them. One food that offers numerous benefits is broccoli, with some research showing how the vegetable can promote a strong, healthy heart. Given that cardiovascular disease is a top killer of American adults, finding foods that naturally prevent heart problems could be a significant step towards foiling their plan.
A member of the brassica family, broccoli is known as a cruciferous vegetable. And like others in this group (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale), broccoli offers a wealth of health benefits.
Something known as sulforaphane is naturally found in all brassicas, but it is especially concentrated in broccoli. A study performed by researchers with Imperial College London a few years ago found that sulforaphane may be able to actually prevent inflammation in certain “high risk” arterial areas.
According to the researchers, atherosclerosis, or the building up of plaque in the arteries is particular common among bends and branches of our blood’s highways. A naturally protective protein in the body, Nrf2, is inactive in these areas. However, sulforaphane can activate the protein, helping to curb the inflammation and build-up.
“These fascinating findings provide a possible mechanism by which eating vegetables protects against heart disease,” said researcher Peter Weissberg. “As well as adding evidence to support the importance of eating ‘five-a-day’, the biochemistry revealed in this research could lead to more targeted dietary or medical approaches to prevent or lessen disease that leads to heart attacks and strokes.”
Another study, this one from the University of Connecticut, looked at how the inclusion of broccoli in a daily diet could improve heart health. The study used rats—half of which were given a broccoli extract in addition to their normal feed, and the other half who received water as a control.
Related Read: Broccoli Compound Kills Leukemia Cancer Cells
Those who were given broccoli extract had three significant advantages to those who didn’t receive the extract when they underwent heart testing:
- Less heart damage during heart attack-mimicking oxygen deprivation
- Higher levels of heart-protective chemicals during deprivation
- Better blood pumping ability.
The broccoli used in this experiment was lightly steamed. Generally, foods retain their chemical benefits when they are only lightly cooked if cooked at all. In other words, if you are looking to reap heart-healthy benefits from broccoli, eat them raw or only quickly steamed.