Monday, October 25, 2010

Research Shows that Bacteria Boost a Brassica's Benefits!

BBBB - That is a mouthful!!

In a nutshell, highly regarded scientists at The University of Illinois have shown for the first time (in rats) that sulforaphane, a potent cancer-fighting molecule in broccoli, can be released from within the food matrix by bacteria in the lower gut and then absorbed into the body in quantities large enough to have anti-cancer benefits.

That is great news, to actually demonstrate what had been hoped for but not perfectly clear in the past. We have millions, billions, maybe trillions of good bacteria in our large intestine (colon) that are doing a myriad of jobs as they munch away on remnants and components of our food that have not been absorbed by the small intestine. I have heard a scientist stand up from the audience at a National Cancer Institute-sponsored conference to say that without starting to study the actions of these bacteria in the colon, all other research involving food and nutrients' potential role in cancer prevention/survivorship is vastly incomplete and essentially uninterpretable.

How to increase the number of good bacteria in your gut? Please don't wait for (or pay for) the dietary supplement industry to develop a pill that combines a single molecule like sulphoraphane and some friendly bacteria (probiotics) or some "bioactive food constituent" to feed these friendly bacteria (prebiotics). Eat more foods that contain live and active probiotics (examples being cultured dairy foods, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchee) or prebiotics (foods containing digestive-resistant fiber, inulin, some examples being onions, leeks, apples, oats, barley). This is easy and delicious to do with foods without adding expensive dietary supplements.

The other important point from this research was the comment by the scientist that eating broccoli (or other brassica vegetables like kale) at a frequency of 3-5 times per week is enough to achieve a level of sulphoraphane in the body that has anti-cancer effects. However,  remember that these vegetables have many other molecules that are helping to optimize health and wellness, including an anti-inflammation effect which is important at reducing risk of many of the debilitating chronic diseases. So again, the message is food food food - find different foods to eat, different ways to prepare them, and enjoy cooking and eating them!

The study is the cover story of the November 2010 issue of the new journal Food & Function (Vol. 1, pp. 162-167) and is available online pre-publication at . The research was funded by the USDA.

 (Photo: Pasta with dried cherry tomatoes and broccolini)

Where kale is more than decoration on my plate!
Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Dutch said...

I was wondering what is your favorite recipe when it comes to kale. I just cut down 3 plants of kale since we are going to get a frost Thursday night. I have just been sauteing it & I might try kale chips also. I seen a recipe for kale and potato hash that looks good. I am also going to look at all your recipes on the side for kale. I was just thinking about what your favorite it.

Diana Dyer said...

My favorite is the Garlic-Kale-Sweet Potato Soup. I'm making some right now in our crockpot, hoping that the power does not go out with the super-windy storm today.

Next year, try to keep your kale going after the frost because the leaves will actually get sweeter. Yum, yum! :-) I have often harvested kale from our garden through November and even December from the kale plants next to our house. Until there is a hard freeze and the plants turn brown/dead, the leaves are great to eat! Next year at this time, we'll have our hoop house up and be able to have kale and other winter hardy greens most of the winter months here in SE Michigan.

Unknown said...

Jerusalem artichokes are also a great source of inulin, and they are very easy to grow.

Diana Dyer said...

True, true, in fact Jerusalem artichokes are so easy to grow that they are "banned" from Project Grow's community gardens in Ann Arbor because they "spread like weeds". :-) However, we do intend to plant some at our farm where we can just mow around that dedicated bed!

Kitty Deschanel said...

Question for ya: If you were going to recommend just 1 favorite kale recipe, which would it be? I have some kale that I don't know what to do with! :)