What is Broccoli Extract?
Do you eat enough vegetables every day? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably “no.” Whether you don’t have time to cook broccoli, or you simply don’t like its taste or texture, broccoli is nonetheless one of the healthiest foods out there.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable in the same family as the cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Broccoli is high in fiber, great for helping digestion, and also contains a compound called sulforaphane, which stimulates enzyme production in the body. Enzymes are essential to life, accelerating chemical reactions in your cells to keep you alive.
Broccoli extract contains the bioactive compounds found in the florets and stems of this healthful cruciferous vegetable. These nutrients include potassium, iron and vitamins A, C and K, among others.
So how else can broccoli benefit your health?
Benefits of Broccoli Extract
Reduces Cancer Risk
Research continues, but preliminary studies suggest broccoli could help prevent cancer. While there are many nutrients in broccoli that the body needs, the one with the strongest anticancer potential is sulforaphane.
One study showed that a daily dose of sulforaphane dramatically reduced the size and number of cancer stem cells (x). Another study showed that consuming sulforaphane can help regulate key enzymes and immune system reactions that protect the body from cancer (x). This means broccoli extract may not only be useful for those who already have cancer, but could also prevent it altogether.
Broccoli extract can improve digestion and intestinal health. Broccoli forms a compound called indolocarbazole (ICZ) when the body breaks it down during digestion. ICZ binds to specific receptors in the intestines that help regulate the probiotic flora necessary to absorb nutrients from food. It also helps to keep the walls of the intestine strong, preventing undigested food from leaking into the bloodstream (x).
Broccoli extract may even be better than fresh broccoli for those with digestive problems. Some people experience pain, bloating, gas and other symptoms when they eat foods with high fiber. Since broccoli extract contains bioactive compounds without the fiber, you can get these nutrients without fear of side effects.
Fights Stomach Ulcers
If you’ve ever had an ulcer, you know that it can be painful and take a long time to heal. Ulcers are usually caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a spiral-shaped bacterium that can cause an infection in the stomach lining. If left untreated, this type of infection can cause stomach cancers, so it’s important to address it as soon as you suspect it.
The sulforaphane found in broccoli may help alleviate H. pylori infections by activating enzymes that help the stomach heal faster (x).
Lowers Cholesterol Levels
Some cholesterol is necessary for hormone production and overall health, but many people have too much cholesterol in their bodies. This can lead to heart disease, strokes and other serious health complications.
Broccoli can benefit your heart health by lowering levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. It can help even those genetically prone to high cholesterol regulate their cholesterol levels (x).
While inflammation doesn’t sound like a big deal, it’s an underlying cause of many other serious conditions. A little inflammation when you stub your toe is a perfectly normal reaction and helps heal any damage.
But too much inflammation can affect the whole body, impairing circulation, digestion, cognition and many other necessary functions. It can cause a great deal of pain, and sometimes there’s no known cause for it.
Broccoli extract can help stop inflammation at its source. It heals damaged tissues and calms painful inflammation. Antioxidants in broccoli extract, including sulforaphane and kaempferol, protect cellular DNA from damage caused by excessive inflammation, as well (x) (x).
Boosts Brain Health
Broccoli and broccoli extract contain two vital nutrients for cognition and memory: vitamin K and choline. Vitamin K is in very few foods, but it’s key to maintaining healthy brain function, and may even prevent diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s (x).
So how does it work? Vitamin K also plays a role in how calcium is metabolized. While calcium is important for strong bones, it’s also needed to keep neuron connections firing, which reduces the risk of cognitive decline (x).
Did You Know?
- Records show that people have been cultivating and eating broccoli since the 6th century, around the Mediterranean region.
- Thomas Jefferson was such a fan of broccoli that he imported seeds from Italy just so he could have a local supply.
- One hundred grams of broccoli, which is a 3.5 ounce serving, contains only 35 calories. This makes it one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, since it’s so low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals. The sulfur compounds in broccoli are responsible for its taste and distinct smell.
- From seed to harvest, broccoli can take anywhere from 60 to 150 days to grow, depending on environmental temperature and broccoli type.
- The most popular variety of broccoli has green florets, but there are also varieties that are purple, and even ones that are geometrically-shaped.
Cooking With Broccoli
If you want to add more broccoli to your meals, there are plenty of delicious and easy options to try. Fresh broccoli can be a refreshing snack when cut into small florets served alongside a healthy dressing or dip. You can also chop it up or shred it into a salad or wrap.
Try steaming broccoli for a few minutes to soften it and bring out a sweeter flavor. You can also mix it with other vegetables for a nutrient boost.
Cheese and broccoli soup is another nutrient-rich option, and you can boost its protein content by adding chicken to the mix
Side Effects of Broccoli Extract
Broccoli and broccoli extract are safe to eat for healthy adults. It may cause mild gastrointestinal upset, gas and bloating.
Pregnant and nursing women can safely eat broccoli as food, but should talk to their doctors before taking medicinal amounts of broccoli extract.
Broccoli Extract Dosage
Broccoli extract powder dissolves well in most liquids. As a dietary supplement, take 500 mg (1/8 tsp) daily, or as directed your physician.
This fine powder is best added to drinks like orange juice or fruit smoothies, but you can also add it to sauces and dips. Mix broccoli extract powder in pesto, marinara or even salad dressing for a nutritious boost to meals.
The Bottom Line
Broccoli is a healthful, nutrient-dense vegetable, though you may not be getting enough in your diet to reap its benefits. If you can’t add more broccoli to your diet, broccoli extract is the next best thing. It contains almost all the bioactive compounds that fresh broccoli does, minus the water and the fiber. It’s a condensed source of vitamins and minerals that can help you maintain excellent health.