Broccoli is about to get even healthier

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Broccoli has long been considered a superfood — but it’s about to become even more super.

Scientists are working on a way to supercharge the vegetable by adding more phenolic content — a nutritious property that significantly lowers the the risk of life-threatening diseases like cancer and coronary heart disease.

Broccoli is already jam-packed with phenolics, a chemical compound that geneticist Jack Juvik from the University of Illinois discovered has great antioxidant powers. Phenolic compounds promote our bodies’ natural process of stopping harmful free radicals before they can damage cells in our bodies. In other words, the more phenolic compounds the better, as a larger dose could lessen the risk of a number of degenerative diseases, like type 2 diabetes or asthma.

Together with his team, Juvik cross-fertilised different strains of broccoli in order to find which combination would result in the highest concentration of phenolics. They hope to do the same to improve other vegetables like kale and cabbage.

“These [phenolic compounds] are things we can’t make ourselves, so we have to get them from our diets,” said Jubik. “These compounds don’t stick around forever, so we need to eat broccoli or some other Brassica vegetable every three or four days to lower the risk of cancers and other degenerative diseases.”

While broccoli might be getting a makeover, Juvik says it will taste and look the same as before.

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