Research Insight – Broccoli Beats Osteoarthritis
Not every one enjoys eating their greens, but scientific research provides undeniable evidence of the health benefits of broccoli.
Broccoli has been touted a super food due to its high nutritional content, providing a range of minerals and vitamins including calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin C and folate.
It also contains cancer-fighting antioxidant compounds such as sulforaphane which have been extensively researched for their role in disease prevention and genetic health.
Most recently, it has been found that sulforaphane may also help to slow joint degeneration in osteoarthritis, potentially providing a new and natural means of relief for thousands of arthritis sufferers.
Broccoli for Joint Health?
Osteoarthritis is a common and painful condition caused by the breakdown and eventual loss of cartilage (the smooth, gel-like shock absorbing material that prevent adjacent bones from touching) in finger, knee, hip, neck and/or spinal joints.
Osteoarthritis primarily affects adults as they reach older age however rising rates of obesity have further increased the prevalence of arthritis as joints are put under more pressure from extra body weight.
Current medical treatments for osteoarthritis are based on symptom management with pain killing drugs and, in severe cases, joint replacement surgery.
New evidence published in the Journal of Arthritis and Rheumatism shows that broccoli is a promising natural treatment alternative for preventing and managing osteoarthritis.
Researchers reported that sulforaphane in broccoli ‘switches off’ certain genes and enzymes involved in the destruction of joint cartilage. It was also found to block inflammation at the top of the inflammatory cascade by influencing inflammatory gene (NF-kappa B) expression.
Sulforaphane is also a powerful inducer of the cell-protective Nrf2 gene which influences the function of our internal antioxidant defence systems! This is also one of the major mechanisms by which broccoli helps to fight cancer.
While these initial results were based on animal and in vitro trials, researchers concluded that a diet high in sulforaphane may be a useful measure to either prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis.
They are currently embarking on further trials to confirm the arthritis-busting benefits of sulforophane in humans.
How to Eat Your Greens… And Enjoy Them!
To get the most nutritional benefit from your broccoli, lightly steam for 2-3 minutes it rather than boiling, stir frying or microwaving it.
This cooking advice applies to other greens of the cruciferous family like kale, cabbage, asian greens, collard greens and cauliflower too.
Research shows that after eating broccoli raw, steaming it is the best way to preserve the amount of vitamin C, chlorophyll, carotenoids and bioactive compounds such as sulforaphane in broccoli.
Spice up your broccoli and greens with other health-boosting herbs and spices such as fresh or dried chilli and turmeric, grated ginger or crushed garlic, and top with lemon juice and some extra virgin olive oil to serve!
Broccoli makes a great side for grilled fish with fresh herbs and lemon and can be made into a delicious crunchy salad with avocado and toasted pine nuts.
It can even be used as a rice alternative with curries and stir fries – just lightly steam broccoli florets until still slightly crunchy then pass them through a food processor until they have reached a rice-like texture.
As well as eating your greens for their nutritional content, you can boost your sulforaphane intake by supplementing with concentrated, enzymatically active broccoli sprout extracts such as Enduracell.
The sulforaphanes are more concentrated in young plants, so broccoli sprouts contain larger amounts compared to mature broccoli plants, about 20% to 50% more per gram!
Davidson, R.K. et al. 2013, Sulforaphane represses matrix-degrading proteases and protects cartilage from destruction in vitro and in vivo, Arthritis & Rheumatism, Accepted Article published online 27 Aug