Guest article by Sam Hadadi,
Ever since we were tiny, we’ve been told to clear our plates, to eat our greens. From leafy spinach to plump sprouts and fresh, vibrant kale, we know that eating them is part of the jigsaw to a healthy, energetic body.
Here at Lucy Bee, we love all kinds of veggies. So much so that we even have our very own vegetable patch, where we enjoy all kinds of home-grown goodness to add to our dishes.
Because of this, we never need an excuse to enjoy more vegetables. However, thanks to some top-notch new research, we’re more passionate than ever before about piling our plates high with leafy greens.
Want to know just how good broccoli is for you? Read on…
In a brand-new study, scientists have found that broccoli may be the ultimate veggie superstar, with their research showing that it could protect against liver cancer.
As if that weren’t enough to get you eating these leafy trees, broccoli could also fight non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which can cause malfunction of the liver and lead to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a particularly deadly form of liver cancer.
Honestly, we’ve heard all about the wonders of broccoli before – and endless stories that suggest it can fight cancer. So what makes this study so different? And does it have anything new to say at all?
Well, Elizabeth Jeffery, a professor of nutrition who worked on the study, said: "The normal story about broccoli and health is that it can protect against a number of different cancers. But nobody had looked at liver cancer.
"We decided that liver cancer needed to be studied particularly because of the obesity epidemic in the U.S. It is already in the literature that obesity enhances the risk for liver cancer and this is particularly true for men. They have almost a 5-fold greater risk for liver cancer if they are obese."
The problem? Well, it’s all down to nasty, processed foods. You see, Jeffery says that a huge amount of the US population eats a diet high in saturated fats and added sugars.
However, both of these are stored in the liver and will often be turned into body fat. In turn, this can lead to NAFLD, which can cause diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.
As we mentioned, old studies have found that broccoli, a brassica vegetable jam-packed with bioactive compounds, may prevent the build-up of fat in the liver and has been found to protect against NAFLD in mice.
Because of this, Jeffery and her team set themselves the task of finding out what would happen if they fed broccoli to mice with a known liver cancer-causing carcinogen. To do this, the researchers split the mice into four groups - some were on a control diet or the Westernised diet, some were given broccoli, and others had no broccoli at all.
As Jeffery said: "We wanted to look at this liver carcinogen in mice that were either obese or not obese.
"We did not do it using a genetic strain of obese mice, but mice that became obese the way that people do, by eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet."
Mainly, the researchers focused on broccoli's impact on the formation and growth of cancerous tumors in the liver. As well as these, these brainy scientists also examined the health of the liver and looked at how it metabolised lipids in high-fat diets.
Unsurprisingly, the study revealed that, when mice enjoyed a Westernised diet, both the number of cancer nodules and the size of the cancer nodules increased in the liver. Amazingly, though, when broccoli was added to the diet, the number of nodules decreased, although size wasn’t affected.
During the study, the researchers also discovered lipid globules (which form on the liver in NAFLD) on the livers of the mice on the Westernised diet.
Jeffery said: "We found that the Westernised diet did increase fatty liver, but we saw that the broccoli protected against it. Broccoli stopped too much uptake of fat into the liver by decreasing the uptake and increasing the output of lipid from the liver.”
Of course, this doesn’t make broccoli a complete wonder food. As Jeffery noted, simply adding broccoli to their diet didn’t make the mice thin, or affect their body weight. However, it did bring the liver under control, making them happier and healthier.
Well, it’s fairly simple, really – start adding broccoli to your meals! Jeffery's previous research shows that eating broccoli freshly chopped or lightly steamed is the best way to enjoy the vegetables' cancer-fighting compound, sulforaphane, so just be sure you don’t over-cook!
What’s more, Jeffery believes that other brassica vegetables, such as cauliflower or Brussel sprouts, may have the same effect on the liver, so pile your plate high! When it comes to leafy greens, go wild – just steam them and serve for maximum health benefits – and try to enjoy ½ a cup a day to really enjoy their cancer-fighting properties.
So, now that we know that broccoli could well be a powerful weapon in the fight against liver cancer, what other health benefits does it have? Is it the key to a healthy body all around?
Well…yes! In fact, broccoli is one of our favourite superfoods. Here are a few reasons why we love these tree-like veggies:
Since broccoli is packed with fibre, it can work wonders for a sluggish digestive system. It could even lower cholesterol levels, since fibre can make it easier for bile acids to be excreted.
Want to detox? Add broccoli to your diet! Broccoli is a powerhouse of phytonutrients, which support the body's detox process by activating, neutralising and eliminating unwanted contaminants.
Broccoli is also rich in a super special flavonoid called kaempferol, which helps to fight allergies in the body. This could explain why broccoli is so wonderful when it comes to anti-inflammatory diets.
Not only can broccoli help to fight liver cancer, but its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-detoxification components mean it’s also been linked to reducing other cancers, too. Broccoli could lower the risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer and ovarian cancer, too!
If you get bored of simply eating broccoli as a side, why not enjoy a few of our Lucy Bee favourites?
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Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.