Scientists long believed that brain regeneration was not possible, but there’s growing evidence that a compound in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may be able to carry out this remarkable feat.
In the 1960s, scientists first started to report evidence of brain regeneration in the hippocampus of adult guinea pigs and rats and the cortex of cats. After that, more evidence started to emerge illustrating how the brain is constantly in a state of self-regeneration and self-repair, using neural stem cells to fix aged and damaged tissue.
With this new evidence that it is indeed possible for the brain to regenerate, scientists wanted to find a way to help this process, and one particularly promising neurogenerative agent has emerged in the form of sulforaphane, a biomolecule that is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. Sulforaphane is providing new hope for those who suffer from neurodegenerative disease and brain damage.
A study that was published in the journal Genesis showed that sulforaphane may possess significant therapeutic properties that can fight the underlying pathological disturbances that are seen in people with common neurodegenerative diseases. These include inflammation, neuronal death, increased oxidative stress and perturbed calcium homeostasis. In addition to mitigating these factors, the authors of the study also believe that sulforaphane can stimulate neural stem cell activity.
In the study, the researchers were able to determine the optimal concentration of sulforaphane that can be used to promote neural stem cell growth while keeping neurons intact. They also found that exposing neural stem cells to sulforaphane can lead to their differentiation to neurons, which supports their hypothesis that sulforaphane can indeed stimulate brain repair.
And it’s not just the brain that can benefit from sulforaphane. The compound has also been shown to be useful in treating around 200 other health conditions. For example, it has been linked to improved heart health and digestion. It is also believed to have anti-cancer and anti-diabetic effects and may even protect against sun damage.
How to get more sulforaphane in your diet
Sulforaphane can be found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, bok choy and cauliflower. Broccoli sprouts are considered to be one of the best sources of sulforaphane.
Researchers note that raw vegetables tend to have higher levels of this beneficial compound than cooked ones, with one study finding raw broccoli to contain 10 times the sulforaphane of cooked broccoli. If you simply cannot consume it raw, it is best to lightly steam cruciferous vegetables to preserve their beneficial compounds. Boiling or microwaving these vegetables is not recommended if you are trying to get the benefits of sulforaphane.
It is important to keep in mind that cruciferous vegetables must be chopped, chewed or cut in order to get the benefits. That’s because sulforaphane is only activated when it comes into contact with an enzyme involved in the defense response of plants known as glucoraphanin, which is released when the plant is damaged.
You can also enhance your intake of sulforaphane by adding mustard powder or mustard seed to your meals. The dietary myrosinase content of mustard seeds and powder can help raise the availability of sulforaphane in foods like broccoli, particularly when you are cooking these vegetables.
Although the researchers believe that further studies are needed, their finding serves as a powerful reminder of just how beneficial nature’s gifts can be when it comes to our health. Including more foods like broccoli in your diet could well have therapeutic value when it comes to brain degenerative disorders, something that is particularly timely as many people deal with the neurological effects of COVID-19 vaccines.
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