Is there enough green on your dinner plate? If not, you may want to consider eating more broccoli ‘” particularly if you have diabetes or are at high risk for heart disease. According to two recent studies, eating more broccoli may help to protect the heart and blood vessels against damage. With heart disease being the number one cause of death in this country, broccoli could be a powerful way to lower the risk of this common disease.
Can Broccoli Help to Prevent a Heart Attack?
According to study conducted on rats, a broccoli-rich diet could have benefits when it comes to heart disease protection. Researchers gave a group of rats a broccoli extract for one month and then deprived their hearts of oxygen ‘” similar to what happens to a human during a heart attack. Rats who had eaten the broccoli extract experienced less heart damage compared to rats that had been given a regular diet. If this effect holds true in humans, eating more broccoli could provide additional protection against heart attacks ‘” a compelling reason to eat more of this green vegetable. Broccoli is also a good source of cholesterol lowering soluble fiber which also helps to lower the risk of heart disease.
Why Diabetics Should Eat More Broccoli
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in diabetics and eating more broccoli may be a way to reduce some of the damage that occurs from chronically elevated blood sugar levels. Sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli, increases production of a protein that helps protect endothelial cells lining the blood vessels from damage. This may not only help to protect a diabetic against heart disease, but also atherosclerotic disease ‘” a condition which cuts off circulation to areas of the body such as the legs.
Other Reasons to Eat More Broccoli
Broccoli is a good source of antioxidants which may further help to prevent a heart attack or stroke. By mopping up free radicals, antioxidants help to protect the heart and blood vessels from damage. When free radicals form, it leads to inflammation in the blood vessels which can be the precursor to a heart attack. Eating more broccoli could be just what the doctor ordered to keep the heart muscle and blood vessels healthy.
How to Eat More Broccoli to Prevent a Heart Attack
Be careful how you prepare broccoli. Overcooking it can destroy many its nutrients and heart-healthy components such as sulforaphane. Steam it lightly or toss it uncooked onto salads to maximize its health benefits. To get a more concentrated source of sulforaphanes look for broccoli sprouts at your local grocery store. They require no cooking and can be added to soup, salads, and sandwiches. However you choose to eat it, make it a goal to get more of this heart healthy vegetable.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Jan. 23, 2008; vol 56: pp 609-617.
Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2002 May 28;99(11):7610-5 2002.