Eat Your Broccoli: detoxifying the liver as a way to better health

By Caroltoo Latest Reply 2012-04-22 14:15:34 -0500
Started 2012-04-21 14:02:28 -0500

After posting about what the "bad" chemicals in our food can do to us, I thought I'd add some more cheerful information about how the enzymes in our food can also help our bodies remove the toxins we ingest.

Here's the article from
There’s lots of talk these days about detoxing, but talk is cheap—our liver is actually doing it, all day, every day. If we want to detoxify our bodies, the best thing we can do is to boost our liver’s own detoxifying enzymes, and one of the most potent such inducers is a phytonutrient called sulforaphane. So where do we find this stuff? Broccoli, which produces more than any other known plant (with the silver going to kohlrabi and bronze to cauliflower; broccoli raab, on the other hand, produces about 500 times less than broccoli).

Broccoli is an exceptional source of sulforaphane, but the surprising thing is that there’s none actually in the vegetable—until you bite it. You know those chemical flares, or glow sticks, where you snap them and chemicals in two different compartments mix and set off a reaction? Broccoli does the same thing. In one part of the cell it keeps the enzyme myrosinase, and in another part it keeps something called glucoraphanin. There is no sulforaphane, which is what we want, anywhere in broccoli—not until some herbivore starts chewing on it. At that point, plant cells get crushed, the enzyme mixes with the glucoraphanin, and sulforaphane is born. And the herbivore is like, “Ew, this tastes like broccoli!” and runs away. The plant uses this as a defense against nibblers and noshers. Little did broccoli count on a little lemon juice and some garlic—maybe a little tahini dressing? It’s our counterattack.

A similar enzymatic “glow stick” reaction happens in garlic. But the enzymes in both these cases are inactivated by cooking, so there’s a secret to preserving the benefits. (Note: video explains that Allicin in the garlic is inactivated by heat unless you WAIT 10 minutes after chopping your broccoli before adding it to the pan. That's simple to do, now that we know we need to!)

Broccoli sprouts are even healthier, and can be a cost-effective way to eat on the cheap if you make your own. Can you overdo it? Yes, four cups of broccoli sprouts a day may exceed the safe dose of sulforaphane. (Note: the waiting time after chopping broccoli is 40 minutes to maximize the enzyme production.)

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Read more or go this site to see informational videos that are a part of the article:

6 replies

jigsaw 2012-04-22 13:58:01 -0500 Report

I'm a big fan of fresh broccoli. I use in stir fries, salads, side dishes etc. I knew it was healthy, but now I have more understanding of why. Be warned however, it can cause some odoriferous side effects with an amazing bouquet! I usually give a few pieces of stem to my dog, and WOW, you definitely know when she's in the room with you!

Caroltoo 2012-04-22 14:15:34 -0500 Report

This is so true. It is one I have had to learn to like, but definitely do now and use it in all sorts of things. I, too, had no idea what it did in terms of detoxification, I just vaguely thought of it as "nutritious".

I recently discovered my cat liked to eat broccoli … amazed me, but he swiped a piece off my plate of stir fry not knowing, of course, what he would get and probably hoping for a bite of meat. He came back for more, so I gave him another little piece of broccoli which he ate and came back for a third. I was shocked.

Young1s 2012-04-22 13:06:57 -0500 Report

Thanks for the article, Carol. I'm a big fan of broccoli fresh and frozen. I'm wondering though, if frozen chopped broccoli contains this enzyme since it hasn't been cooked yet.

Caroltoo 2012-04-22 13:31:37 -0500 Report

I cook from fresh broccoli, so hadn't thought of tha possibility. As I think about the flash freezing process, I guess it's a question of how long it takes the conveyer belt to move the chopped into the flash freezer. I'm thinking it might be just about the right amount of time.