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Broccoli Reasserts Its Super-Food Status

Move over kale, you’ve been getting too much attention as a “super food” lately. Broccoli is taking center stage again — even though it’s always been considered a “powerhouse vegetable” — as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies the healthiest fruits and veggies.

In the case of green vegetables, competition is healthy. Both kale and broccoli, with their well-established mix of vitamins and minerals, can lower cholesterol and help prevent chronic diseases, as can other nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

But lately broccoli has gotten a fresh boost above its powerhouse veggie competitors. A new study [1] finds that broccoli can help diabetics keep their blood sugar levels under control. Researchers say that a concentrated extract of a substance in broccoli called sulforaphane helped obese type 2 diabetes patients control recurring high levels of blood sugar.

Sulforaphane is a chemical found in certain vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. However, broccoli sprouts are a particularly rich source.

Researchers caution that the extract from broccoli in the study was not like the sulforaphane supplements available at health food stores. Moreover, diabetics should consult with their doctor before a significant change in diet. The broccoli extract was taken in addition to the diabetes drug metformin, not instead of it, the researchers emphasized. They concluded that high doses of sulforaphane cannot yet be recommended.

“We’re very excited about the effects we’ve seen and are eager to bring the extract to patients,” study co-author Anders Rosengren of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden tells NewScientist.com. “We saw a reduction of glucose of about 10 percent, which is sufficient to reduce complications in the eyes, kidneys and blood.”

‘The Best of the Lot’
Most cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale and broccoli, contain cancer-fighting properties. But broccoli sprouts offer the largest amount of sulforaphane, which can also bolster the body’s protective enzymes and eliminate cancer-causing chemicals.

A British study in 2015 found that broccoli’s sulforaphane compound might be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis, a debilitating condition characterized by inflamed, painful joints. The study highlights broccoli’s anti-inflammatory properties, which can help in combating cancer and other chronic diseases.

The latest study on broccoli and its diabetes-fighting potential is another reminder to be cautious with supplements. Eat more broccoli, and don’t rely on sulforaphane supplements, dietitians agree.