Health benefits of broccoli
THESE days, we are constantly exposed to a multitude of free radicals and toxins from the polluted environment we live in.
Our environment is increasingly polluted by the industrial air pollutants, traffic fumes, heavy metals, pesticides, radiation and solvents.
The increase in environmental toxicity, coupled with modern lifestyle habits such as unhealthy dietary choices, smoking and alcohol consumption lead to an inevitable build-up of toxins in our bodies. Accumulation of toxins in the body puts an extra workload on our bodily systems, especially the liver. When our liver is overworked, it cannot process the toxins efficiently, causing these harmful substances to be released into our bloodstream.
This will lead to fatigue, hormonal imbalance, weakened immune systems and allergies. Just like our cars which require overhauling and oil change regularly, our bodies need periodic detoxification to get rid of the unwanted, harmful toxins.
Our liver eliminates toxins through a two-step enzymatic process – the phase-I and phase-II detoxification pathways.
The phase-I detoxification pathway starts by chemically activating the fat-soluble toxins and prepares them for phase-II.
The phase-II detoxification pathway is known as the conjugation pathway.
It is important as it converts the biotransformed intermediates from phase-I into water-soluble substances, so that they can be easily excreted from the body via watery fluids such as bile or urine.
The phase-II enzymes need to function at a rapid rate to neutralise the phase-I intermediates as they are being produced.
However, the ratio of phase-I to phase–II activity may go out of balance due to the elevated phase-I activity, deficient function of phaseII, or a combination of both.
When this happens, the activated harmful metabolites will build up in the body, resulting in a vast array of health problems.
Poor nutrition, unhealthy lifestyle habits, increased exposure to toxins and genetics can disrupt the delicate balance between the two phases.
Health benefits of sulforaphane
Both phase-I and phase-II detoxification require a healthy supply of enzymes to function properly. Certain food contains specific nutrients that can enhance the activities of these enzymes.
Based on the extensive studies at the John Hopkins University Medical School and other prestigious medical institutions worldwide, sulforaphane, the naturally occurring compound in cruciferous vegetables, has the ability to modulate the activity of enzymes in the liver which enhances the natural detoxification pathways.
Glucoraphanin, the precursor of sulforaphane, can be found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, mustard and kale.
It is mostly found in broccoli sprouts which contain 20 to 50 times more of these phytochemicals than the mature broccoli.
Once consumed, the myrosinase enzyme transforms glucoraphanin into sulphoraphane.
Sulforaphane sends a signal to the individual cellular enzymes that switch on over 200 genes of the cell-defence system.
It turns on the DNA in each cell to produce a range of antioxidant compounds and detoxification enzymes. Sulforaphane works as a potent catalyst to elevate phase-II detoxification enzymes to detoxify carcinogens, the detrimental cancer-causing compounds.
Raw broccoli, compared to cooked broccoli, has higher bioavaibility and is better absorbed by the body, giving us more of these wholesome sulforaphane phytochemicals.
According to a research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the level of sulforaphane in broccoli is reduced by 90% when the vegetable is cooked. Cooking locks sulforaphane in, making it unavailable to our bodily needs.
Hence, a more convenient and effective way to reap the benefits of sulforaphane is through dietary supplements which provide standardised extracts of sulforaphane.
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Glucorophanin is mostly found in broccoli sprouts which contain 20 to 50 times more of these phytochemicals than the mature broccoli.