Steaming broccoli on a fork
Like it or loathe it, broccoli should be on your grocery list.

Broccoli is now known to improve gut health; new research has uncovered a potential molecular mechanism to explain this protection — which is good news for broccoli lovers.

It is common knowledge that eating fresh fruit and vegetables on a regular basis can stave off a multitude of ills. However, as science delves deeper into the molecular details, certain vegetables are often found to impart specific benefits.

Recently, it has been broccoli’s turn in the grocery-related spotlight. Although this tree-like green is hated by children across the United States, its health benefits cannot be refuted.

Broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, is a member of the cabbage family. It is the result of careful cultivation in the Mediterranean that started around the 6th century B.C. It was introduced to the U.S. by South Italian immigrants but did not become broadly popular until the 1920s.

Broccoli and the gut

Earlier studies on broccoli’s health benefits had found that it reduces inflammation in the colon and decreases incidence of colon cancer, among other cancers. The new study, which is published in the Journal of Functional Foods, set out to understand exactly how broccoli positively influences gut health.

The researchers — from Pennsylvania State University in State College — were particularly keen to investigate “leaky gut.” This occurs if the intestinal barrier becomes compromised, opening up the gut to attack by toxins and microorganisms, and making it less able to absorb nutrients.

Gary Perdew, a professor in agricultural sciences, explains why he began his research in this field, saying, “There are a lot of reasons we want to explore helping with gastrointestinal health, and one reason is if you have problems, like a leaky gut, and start to suffer inflammation, that may then lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease.

“Keeping your gut healthy and making sure you have good barrier functions, so you’re not getting this leaky effect would be really big,” he adds.

One of the…