Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that offers a plethora of health benefits. It is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, K, and A, as well as fiber, folate, and potassium. Broccoli is also rich in antioxidants, which can help protect the body from free radical damage and may have anti-cancer properties. Its low-calorie and low-carbohydrate content make it a perfect choice for those looking to manage their weight. Additionally, broccoli’s delicious taste and versatility make it an excellent addition to any dish, from salads and stir-fries to soups and roasted vegetables.
Broccoli has long been hailed as a superfood due to its numerous health benefits. Recent research conducted by Penn State has revealed that broccoli contains molecules that protect the lining of the small intestine, inhibiting the development of disease. These findings support the theory that cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, should be incorporated into a healthy diet.
The small intestine plays a crucial role in nutrient absorption, while also preventing harmful bacteria and food particles from entering the body. The intestinal wall allows beneficial water and nutrients to pass into the body while keeping out harmful food particles and bacteria. Certain cells that line the intestine, such as enterocytes, goblet cells, and Paneth cells, help modulate this activity and maintain a healthy balance.
In a study published in the journal Laboratory Investigation, researchers found that molecules in broccoli, called aryl hydrocarbon receptor ligands, bind to aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), a type of protein called a transcription factor. This binding initiates various activities that affect the functions of intestinal cells. The team conducted the study by feeding one group of mice a diet containing 15% broccoli, equivalent to approximately 3.5 cups per day for humans. A control group was fed a typical lab diet that did not contain broccoli.
The team analyzed the tissues of the mice to determine the extent to which AHR was activated and quantities of various cell types and mucus concentrations, among other factors. The results revealed that mice not fed broccoli lacked AHR activity, resulting in altered intestinal barrier function, reduced transit time of food in the small intestine, decreased number of goblet cells and protective mucus, decreased Paneth cells and lysosome production, and decreased number of enterocyte cells. The gut health of the mice not fed broccoli was compromised in various ways known to be associated with disease.
“This research suggests that broccoli and likely other foods can be used as natural sources of AHR ligands, and that diets rich in these ligands contribute to the resilience of the small intestine,” said Gary Perdew, H. Thomas, and Dorothy Willits Hallowell Chair in Agricultural Sciences at Penn State.
The study’s findings demonstrate that dietary cues, relayed through the activity of AHR, can reshape the cellular and metabolic repertoire of the gastrointestinal tract. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health Grants, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Penn State Cancer Institute.