Pizza, chocolate chip cookies, baked goods…why is it that the foods that smell the best generally aren’t great for us? It’s a little unfair, if you ask us!
Using the reverse logic, it kind of makes sense that something that smells unpleasant could be amazing for our health. Don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest you go dumpster diving for food leftovers. The stench we’re referring to is the one you get you get a whiff of when you take the lid off a pot of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage or Brussels sprouts. You know the one — it kind of smells like what you’d get if you left a rotten egg out in the sun. It’s probably half the reason you refused to eat your veggies as a kid!
Well, it turns out – it’s that pungent odour that makes cruciferous veggies so good for us! What you’re actually smelling is a molecule called sulforaphane — and it happens to be one of the most powerful (albeit, stinky) superfoods on the block. Here’s what makes it so amazing.
What sulforaphane can do for your body
Sulforaphane is a powerful anti-inflammatory and detoxifier that has been proven to help you lose fat, enhance brain power and even kill cancer cells. We know, those are some mighty big claims, but they’re backed up by science. Here’s the deal.
Each cell in your body contains a protein called Nrf2. Usually, it’s pretty chilled — but when your body is inflamed or under stress, it jumps into action. It binds to something called the antioxidant response element (ARE) that controls the production of antioxidants. When this turns on, your body starts churning out antioxidants that help to safeguard against stress and inflammation.
Our stinky friend sulforaphane is what kickstarts this whole process. It’s known as a Nrf2 activator, switching it on so it can go on an antioxidant spree. Not only does this whole process ward off inflammation, it also does other incredible things for your body.
- It boosts your energy and makes you more resistant to stress by helping your mitochondria create more ATP (the energy that fuels your body.)
- It detoxes your body by creating detoxification enzymes that clear carcinogens and other toxins. One study revealed that sulforaphane makes the body 61% more efficient at excreting airborne pollutants from the body.
- It helps you burn fat. Activating Nrf2 has been found to accelerate fat-burning and prevent obesity in mice.
- It’s thought to kill cancer cells. Research has found that the compound kills cancer cells in petri dishes and prevents tumour growth in rats. It’s also been shown to reverse cancer in some humans too and as a result, drug companies are currently testing a synthetic version of sulforaphane as a cancer treatment.
Sounds amazing, right? The good news is, provided you eat these types of veggies, you’ve already got a head start, But to really reap the benefits, experts say to buy your cruciferous veggies fresh not frozen and lightly steam them (this cooking method makes your veggies release an enzyme called myrosinase, which helps to create more sulforaphane.) If you want to take it to the next level, you can grow your own broccoli sprouts at home or get your hands on an sulforphane supplement.