Whilst eating a broad variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables is important for our health and well being, it would appear the cruciferous vegetables really pack a punch when it comes to disease prevention. The compound sulphorophane found in cruciferous vegetables was first identified in the early 1990s by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in the US. According to numerous studies, Sulforaphane has the ability to activate genes that help protect the body from disease and even some cancers.
Sulforaphane is a sulfur containing plant compound that helps to slow ageing, reduces inflammation, promotes brain health, inhibits cancer cells, and supports heart health. Sulforaphane is naturally produced in cruciferous vegetables however the preparation of these vegetables is important to maximize the bioavailability of this super hero ingredient.
Top 10 Sulphorophane containing Foods
Broccoli Sprouts - The super hero
Of all the foods studied, broccoli sprouts have the highest amount of sulforaphane. Studies show that broccoli sprouts have anywhere from 50 to 100 times more sulforaphane than the mature broccoli plants. Broccoli sprouts can be purchased from grocery stores and supermarkets.
Whilst mature broccoli does contain less sulphorophane than the broccoli sprouts it still provides a good source sulforaphane.
Both cauliflower and broccoli provide really good sources of sulphorophane.
Health Benefits of Sulphorophane
Anti- Cancer Potential
When it comes to cancer fighting foods, sulphorophane comes out top. Sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate derived from glucoraphanin present in cruciferous vegetables, has been an area of interest in anticancer research in recent years. Animal studies suggest that sulphorophane exhibits chemopreventive potential against certain types of cancer including skin, breast, and prostate, as well as melanoma, and stomach tumours.
Sulforaphane acts on a cellular switch called Nrf2 which activates your genes to protect your cells from disease and damage.
Nrf2 helps protect the cells in the body from growing old by protecting them from inflammation, free radical damage, and general wear and tear.
Chronic inflammation or ‘inflammaging’ is one of the main root causes of premature aging, autoimmune disease, arthritis, cancer, dementia, and cardiovascular disease. Studies show that via activation of NRF2, sulforaphane reduces inflammation.
Protects Your Brain
Studies show that sulforaphane not only reduces inflammation which has been associated with brain diseases such as Alzheimers and dementia, it also boosts BDNF or brain derived neurotrophic factor, an important protein for memory and mental acuity.
Improves Gut Health
Sulphorophane helps to protect the immune system of the gut and reduces the presence of pathogenic bacteria, such as H. pylori. The sulphorophane helps to correct bacterial dysbiosis thereby aiding good nutrient uptake and digestive health. Sulphorophane may help to lower the risk of stomach ulcers, constipation, and colorectal cancer.
Sulforaphane may help to protect the heart by reducing inflammation and free radical damage and plaque build-up in the arteries. Positive studies on lowering cholesterol have also been reported.
To maximise the sulphorophane production of your vegetables it is important to prepare them properly. The sulphorophane is formed when the vegetable is chopped or chewed. This causes the release of an enzyme called myrosinase which acts on the compound glucoraphanin to produce the sulphorophane. High heat or slow cooking will destroy the myrosinase enzyme and therefore most of the beneficial health benefits will be lost. Eating the vegetable raw and finely chopped is the best way to maximise the sulphorophane yield.
Sulphorophane has many beneficial effects on health and shines as a super start due to is bioavailability and ease of absorption. Whilst many of the health benefits of sulphorophane are due to NRF2 activation many other plant compounds will also have a positive effect on gene expression and NRF2 activation. Eating a variety of plant foods is important to get the variety of different plant compounds and nutrients required for good health. We know that a plant based diet that includes a variety of different types and colours of plant based foods is one of the best preventative measures we can take towards protecting ourselves from premature ageing and disease.