Broccoli is one of those foods most of us struggled to eat as children. Science has given us a pretty clear explanation of why: the juvenile palate is disposed to avoid bitter foods. In nature, bitter often means poisonous, so our bodies have evolved to naturally dislike bitter foods as children. Thankfully, as we get older, we understand that some bitter foods (like broccoli) are good to eat, and we force ourselves to get past the bitter flavor because we know the food will be good for us. It’s why adults can eat foods like kale, broccoli, or Brussel sprouts without cringing like we did as children.
That bitter flavor in the broccoli is actually amazing for your health. In cruciferous veggies, bitterness is usually the result of the calcium, which is needed for healthy bones, teeth, nails, and hair. But the bitterness can also come from the sulfur compounds and phytochemicals that make broccoli such an awesome food for weight loss.
One phytochemical, called Sulforaphane, is particularly effective for dropping pounds and getting slim. This phytochemical activates Nrf2, a transcription factor that regulates oxidation in the body. Activating Nrf2 enhances the anti-oxidation abilities of our body, specifically improving detoxification. A team of researchers from Kanazawa University found that mice fed a diet high in sulforaphane gained 15% less weight than the control group. Not only that, but the mice saw a 20% reduction in visceral fat, along with a noticeable decrease in blood glucose levels.
Sulforaphane can also accelerate the browning of adipose tissue, encouraging the body to turn inert white fat cells into active, calorie-burning beige and brown fat cells. This leads to an increase in energy consumption, meaning you burn more calories every day. At the same time, sulforaphane can improve gut bacteria health and stop the metabolism-slowing effects of obesity.
The two functions of sulforaphane newly uncovered by this study are expected to contribute to an improvement of inflammation of the liver or adipose tissues and insulin resistance as well as the possible prevention of other lifestyle diseases. Through further clinical studies, researchers hope to get a better understanding of sulforaphane as a supplementary diet product for ameliorating bacterial flora in the gut, after evaluation of its effects on obesity prevention, its effectiveness for inflammation and insulin resistance as well as its safety. There is a high expectation of success, according to the Japanese researchers.
1. Naoto Nagata, Liang Xu, Susumu Kohno, Yusuke Ushida, Yudai Aoki, Ryohei Umeda, Nobuo Fuke, Fen Zhuge, Yinhua Ni, Mayumi Nagashimada, Chiaki Takahashi, Hiroyuki Suganuma, Shuichi Kaneko, Tsuguhito Ota. “Glucoraphanin Ameliorates Obesity and Insulin Resistance Through Adipose Tissue Browning and Reduction of Metabolic Endotoxemia in Mice.” Diabetes, 2017.