Broccoli Boosts Defenses Against Carcinogens

Chemical in broccoli turns on cell defenses

A person can hardly leave the house without encountering a carcinogen these days. From secondhand smoke to air pollution, there are more than 100 environmental substances out there that cause cancer, and it’s almost impossible to avoid them. But there is a defense against them, and that defense’s name is broccoli.

The vegetable that most kids like best has long been known to have health benefits, as well as a strong and distinct flavor. That flavor comes from a component of broccoli called sulforaphane, which was developed to stop insects from eating the plants but turns out to be a big part of the reason humans should be devouring them.

Researchers have found that sulforaphane is capable of “switching on” a protein in cells that helps them protect themselves against environmental carcinogens. The protein, called Nrf2, also prevents tumors from developing their own blood supply, which is an essential part of tumor survival, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

“The sulforaphane found in broccoli is one of nature’s most potent inducers of Nrf2 signaling,” said Jed Fahey of Johns Hopkins.

For some more delicious ways to boost your cells’ defenses against environmental carcinogens, check out some of our best broccoli recipes.