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Want a healthy gut? Eat your broccoli

If you’re yet to discover the joys of broccoli, it’s time you learned to love the vegetable — because it’s really, really good for your gut, suggests a new study.

Penn State University researchers found that broccoli-eating mice had better gut health than mice not fed broccoli. Basically, broccoli improves the intestinal barrier, meaning toxins and malicious microbes can’t pass through into the body but nutrients can.

“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,” said Gary Perdew, Penn State professor and co-author of the study, in a statement.

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

The reason broccoli is good for the gut is pretty science-y, but it’s essentially because the vegetable contains a compound that breaks down into anothercompound which binds to a receptor in the intestinal lining.

This bond “aids in maintaining a healthy balance in the gut flora and immune surveillance, and enhances host barrier function”, according to the researchers.

(The paper, published in the Journal of Functional Foods, has all the details.)

Broccoli is part of a family called cruciferous vegetables, which also includes brussels sprouts and cauliflower — which Perdew believes may carry the same gut benefits. He added that the mice in the study were fed a daily dose of broccoli that translates to about three-and-a-half cups in humans.

“Now, three and a half cups is a lot, but it’s not a huge amount, really,” Perdew conceded. “We used a cultivar — or variety — with about half the amount of this chemical in it, and there are cultivars with twice as much.

“Also, brussels sprouts have three times as much, which would mean a cup of brussels sprouts could get us to the same level.”

Future research will explore how people with digestive issues that stop them from eating too many fibrous vegetables (such as colitis) can consume and reap the benefits of broccoli, without suffering from the unpleasant digestive side-effects.

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