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In a recent Penn State study published in Journal of Functional Foods, researchers found that broccoli can help improve the intestinal barrier in the stomachs of mice, helping to prevent inflammatory digestive issues that can lead to conditions such as colitis. Other cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower may also have similar properties.
MEET THE GUT HELPERS: Lead researcher Gary Perdew, PhD, speculates that the anti-inflammatory effects may stem from a receptor in the gut called aryl hydrocarbon (AHR), which helps the body regulate its reaction to particular environmental toxins while also precipitating other responses to toxin exposure. Additionally, when cruciferous vegetables are consumed, an organic chemical compound called indole glucosinolates breaks down into other compounds, including indolocarbazole (ICZ), in the stomach.
DISEASE FIGHTER: ICZ activates AHR by binding to it, which helps maintain the health of the microbiome. This action also enhances the intestinal lining’s host barrier function, which may help prevent some cancers and inflammatory diseases of the gut such as Crohn’s.
UP YOUR INTAKE: While further research is needed, Perdew says humans would have to eat the equivalent of 3½ cups broccoli per day, or the same amount of other cruciferous foods such as cabbage or kale, to reap similar benefits.