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The Best Detox

The most powerful natural inducer of our liver’s detoxifying enzyme system is sulforaphane, a phytonutrient produced by broccoli.

March 19, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Fir0002 and Jawahar Swaminathan via Wikimedia Commons, and Bruce Wylde and Spencer.

Transcript

There’s lots of talk these days about detoxing, but talk is cheap—our liver is actually doing it, all day every day, and if we want to detoxify, the best thing we can do is boost our liver’s own detoxifying enzymes … and sulforaphane is the most potent natural phase 2 enzyme-inducer known. That’s one of our livers’ detoxication systems. So where do we find this stuff? Broccoli, which produces more than any other known plant in the world
In micromoles per gram seed fresh weight broccoli’s #1, then kohlrabi, and cauliflower gets the bronze. It’s interesting, broccoli raab… which is all gourmet, expensive. Is it worth the extra price? No, broccoli raab produces about 500 times less than broccoli…
Broccoli is an exceptional source of sulforaphane, but at the same, there’s none actually in the vegetable… until, you bite it.
You know those chemical flares, or glow sticks, where you snap them and chemicals in two different compartments mix and sets off a reaction? Broccoli does the same thing. In one part of the cell it keeps an enzyme myrosinase, and in another part it keeps something called glucoraphanin. There is no ≈, which is what we want, anywhere in in broccoli—until some herbivore starts chewing on the poor thing.
Cells get crushed, the enzyme mixes with the glucoraphanin, which is a type of glucosinolate, and sulforaphane is born and the herbivore is like, ew, this tastes like broccoli and runs away. The plant uses it as a defense against nibblers and noshers. Little did broccoli count on a little lemon juice and some garlic, maybe a little tahini dressing. It’s our counterattack.
Just make sure to chew, otherwise you won’t get as much of that magical mixture. In this study they had people just swallow broccoli sprouts whole, day 1 and got some action—obviously their stomach stepped in and did a little churning, but on day three when they actually got to chew their sprouts, you can see significantly more got absorbed into their bodies.
Chew it or lose it.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

This "glow stick" reaction is similar to what happens in garlic. I talked about it in #14 of my Ask the Doctor Q&A blog. There is a level at which sulforaphane may become toxic, but that appears to be only at extremely high doses (see Liver Toxicity Due to Broccoli Juice and How Much Broccoli Is Too Much?). Watch my 18 other videos on liver health, as well as hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects. Note that most of the sources for this video are open access, so you can download them by clicking on the links above in the Sources Cited section.

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Fighting Inflammation with Food SynergyThe Best Detox Antioxidants in a Pinch: Dried Herbs and Spices, Stool Size and Breast Cancer RiskBreast Cancer Survival and SoyBreast Cancer Stem Cells vs. Broccoli, The Best Detox, Treating PMS with Saffron, Eating Green to Prevent Cancer, and Are Microgreens Healthier?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    This “glow stick” reaction is similar to what happens in garlic. I talked about it in #14 of my Ask the Doctor Q&A blog. There is a level at which sulforaphane may become toxic, but that appears to be only at extremely high doses (see Liver Toxicity Due to Broccoli Juice and How Much Broccoli Is Too Much?). Watch my 18 other videos on liver health, as well as hundreds of other videos on more than a thousand subjects. Note that most of the sources for this video are open access, so you can download them by clicking on the links above in the Sources Cited section.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/elvin/ Elvin

    ‘Chew it or lose it’? But it sounds as though putting it in a blender would be just fine, no?

    • p

      does the blender work as good as chewing?

    • Richard Hachem

      If not, masticating juicers should do the trick.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/auntyval/ AuntyVal

    In all these studies using broccoli sprouts, can we just assume the same results using broccoli instead?

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/yuli-90/ yuli.90

    hello! i’ve been a huge fan of your videos ever since i saw you speak at the nyc veg fest. thank you for bringing so much information into my life!

    i have a question regarding detox. this pas year i’ve been trying to do a raw food diet to try to cure my asthma, allergies, and just feel generally happier. i want to experience a full detox and get the detox phase over with, i have read about “monofruit island” and that eating only one type of fruit for a short period of time is the best and purest way to do a detox. i was considering doing bananas for two weeks. i was wondering if you had any input or suggestions on this.
    MUCH appreciated!!! thank you.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      Do not follow the “detox plan” myths. The best detox is drinking LOTS of water and eating totally whole foods plant based. Including a lot of broccoli in your diet will be highly beneficial for cleaning up your body.

      • Ivy

        l agreed with whole foods→unrefined! Thank you

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lynncs/ LynnCS

    Love when you talk science! Ooooh! :-)

  • Emily

    Hi Dr. Greger,
    Do you have any research on broccolini or broccolette (cross between broccoli and chinese broccoli – gai lan)?
    Thanks!
    Emily :)

  • Barbara Keene

    good news is I love these veggies, bad news is your Dad hates them.  Just got out of the hospital with my heart, his mind is going and my overall health is going,
     we make a heck of a combination, hope you are well!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For some context, please check out my associated blog post The Best Detox!

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please also check out my associated blog post Fighting Inflammation with Food Synergy

  • Deb

    Is broccoli’s detoxifying benefit lost when consumed pureed into soup rather than chewed? Thank you.

  • Deb

    Is broccoli’s detoxifying benefit lost when consumed pureed into soup rather than chewed? Thank you.

    • Toxins

      If u puree it beforehand and let it sit for 10 min, then apply heat and put it in the soup, you will probably get more of the sulphorophane, which “cleanses” you.

  • geekay

    Does it matter if the broccoli is cooked?

  • Timt

    Dear Michael Greger M.D. , Is broccoli’s detoxifying benefit lost when consumed blended into a juice rather than chewed? Thank you.

  • Michael

    Hi Dr,

    What happens to the body on the inside if we do a 10 day Master Cleanse (lemon diet), or a 20 day or 30 day? Is it safe? Are there risks?

    Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/valerie.b.tomsic Valerie Brook Tomsic

    hahaha….”the herbivore says ‘EWWWW, it tastes like broccoli’ and runs away.” LOLZ, Doc you crack me up…awesome information too! ♥!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.english3 Rob English

    One study says to cook the broccoli for ten minutes at 140 degrees to melt away a spoiler chemical that stops the formation of sulforaphane. Cooked that way brings big results. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050326114810.htm

  • Suzanne

    Million dollar question.. can it be cooked, steamed or must it be eaten raw to receive the optimal benefits?

    • Toxins

      Sulphorophane production is heat sensitive so yes, raw would be best.

    • Ronald Chavin

      The entire Brassica family (which includes cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, mustard greens, red radishes, giant white turnips, watercress, etc.) needs to be eaten raw and chewed well for maximum health benefit. About half of the glucosinolates are destroyed by boiling, about half are destroyed by freezing, and about three-quarters are destroyed by freezing-then-boiling.

      However, other families of vegetables are not as severely damaged by cooking. For example, eating cooked/canned tomatoes has some health advantages and some health disadvantages when compared to eating raw tomatoes. Legumes (including foods made from soybeans) tend to retain the vast majority of their health benefits even after cooking or factory processing. The beneficial chemicals in allium vegetables (garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and chives) are moderately damaged by drying or cooking but not as severely damaged as in cabbage family vegetables.

  • Ronald Chavin

    Here’s an interesting study from Lithuania which indicates that cabbage eaters have a lower death rate from stomach cancer than broccoli eaters:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16227704
    http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/isothio/

    Pesticides are less of a problem for cabbage eaters than broccoli eaters because the outer layers of the cabbage are almost always thrown away both by the farmer and the consumer.

    The fungus (black mold) which infects most cabbage family vegetables can more easily be removed by cabbage eaters than by broccoli eaters.

    As a result, head cabbage has a longer shelf life than broccoli.

    However, broccoli contains substantially more lutein, which is a carotenoid that is beneficial for preventing age-related eye diseases.

  • Amy Sullivan

    If you juice broccoli, do you still get the enzyme?

  • dynamicjoe

    Do Broccoli sprouts as a supplement help?

  • kabocha

    For people who are hypothyroid, how much cooking will render broccoli harmless to the thyroid gland?

  • acepex

    Wouldn’t juicing Broccoli work even better for getting the most out of it in terms of nutrition and sulforaphane?

  • Bettie Page

    Love your graphic example of the lite stic!