People tend to have pretty strong feelings about broccoli — some love it, and some really, really hate it. But new research has found another reason why broccoli haters might want to consider coming around: The cruciferous vegetable can help give you a healthy gut.
That’s the major takeaway from a study published in the Journal of Functional Foods. For the study, Penn State researchers analyzed a group of mice and discovered that those who ate broccoli with their regular diet fared better with digestive problems, like leaky gut and colitis, than those who didn’t have broccoli.
The researchers found that broccoli may enhance the intestinal barrier, which helps the gastrointestinal tract protect the intestines from toxins while allowing nutrients through. The boost may not be limited to broccoli: The study’s researchers say that other cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cabbage may also do the same thing.
These vegetables contain a chemical compound called indole glucosinolates, which breaks down into other compounds in your stomach, including one called indolocarbazole (ICZ). When ICZ binds to a gut receptor known as aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), it helps maintain a healthy balance in a person’s gut flora and immune surveillance. This can lower inflammation in the lining of the gut and help prevent diseases like cancer and Crohn’s disease.
Having a healthy gut is important for your overall health, New York-based registered dietician Jessica Cording tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The state of your digestive system really impacts the state of your body,” she says. “Making sure the gastrointestinal system is in great working order can be good for overall wellness.” A lot of immune system function happens in the gut too, she points out, making it especially important that this area of the body is healthy.
Of course, broccoli has plenty of other health perks, which is why it’s often pushed as a must-eat vegetable. The green veggie contains fiber and antioxidants as well as the vitamins A, B, and C, Cording says. It’s also a good source of calcium. “Broccoli is an awesome food for someone who is not eating dairy,” she says.
If you’re not getting much (or any) broccoli in your diet, consider putting it in your salad, adding it to pasta sauce, or sautéing it with olive oil to increase your intake. But, even though the new study’s findings are very pro-broccoli, Cording says you shouldn’t bypass other vegetables to load up on it. “Variety is still important,” she says. “You want to make sure you’re covering all of your nutritional bases.”
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