Need a Liver Detox? Try Broccoli

Researchers just found out that the boost in detoxifying enzymes triggered by cruciferous vegetable consumption may last for weeks!

Last spring in my Care2 post The Best Detox I described this amazing phenomenon in which a phytonutrient produced by broccoli can enhance the function of our so-called phase II enzyme system that aids in the excretion of foreign molecules. For example if you feed people broccoli and Brussels sprouts, they clear caffeine quicker as you can see if you click on the above video. This means that if you eat a lot of these healthy vegetables you’d actually have to drink more coffee to get the same buzz because your liver is so revved up.

15 Ways to Use Broccoli

What about the carcinogens that I wrote about in my last three posts, Estrogens in Cooked Meat, Avoiding Cooked Meat Carcinogens, and Cancer Growth Blockers: Green Tea & Garlic? In the studies on Long Island, women that established increased breast cancer risk in those eating grilled meats found that the risk appeared greatest in women with the low fruit and vegetable consumption. Maybe having a side of broccoli can help your body deal with the carcinogen load? Researchers decided to put it to the test.

In the above video I detail a study in which subjects were fed cooked meat meals with and without broccoli and Brussels sprouts. You can see how dramatically the levels of these carcinogenic compounds circulating in their bodies drops. Now this wasn’t a surprise; that’s what cruciferous vegetables do—boost our liver’s ability to clear chemicals from our body. What blew the researchers away was the fact that when the veggies were taken away liver function remained enhanced–even two weeks later.

So there appears to be a prolonged beneficial effect of cruciferous vegetable consumption. You can eat broccoli days or even weeks before the big barbeque and still retain some protection. Of course if you grill veggie burgers instead it would be a non-issue. Since heterocyclic amines are byproducts of muscle tissue reacting to high heat, you can even deep-fry plant foods and still none of these carcinogens are formed.

For more on broccoli’s superpowers see my video Sometimes the Enzyme Myth Is True. You can overdo it, but apparently only at extremely high doses (see Liver Toxicity Due to Broccoli Juice, Overdosing on Greens, and How Much Broccoli Is Too Much?).

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here and watch my full 2012 year-in-review presentation Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

Image credit: [puamelia] via Flickr, and Dhaluza and David.Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons.

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da c.
Past Member 1 years ago

Whew! It's a good thing I like broccoli! :)

Freya H.
Freya H.2 years ago

Good - I LOVE broccoli! In an omelet, on pizza, or raw by itself.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener2 years ago

I feel a broccoli frenzy coming up!

Chinmayee Jog
Chinmayee Jog2 years ago

Thanks for sharing - not surprised at all, and one of the reasons I love being a vegetarian!

Lika S.
Lika S.2 years ago

Well, at our house, we like stuff like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc... All of these cruciferous veggies. Only downfall is, it can affect hypothyroidism, so, just remember, everything in moderation.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.2 years ago

Unfortunately, I really hate broccoli... :-(

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Nona E.
Nona E.2 years ago

Great news about detoxing the liver. Acetominophen is only pain med I'm allowed, and I know that can be bad for liver. Just made home-made cream of broccoli soup for the first time this week - no preservatives and other baddies - and it was "oh my goodness nummy". I'm on my way. Thanks.

Angela B.
Angela B.2 years ago

Awesome, Thanks for the info :)

Melinda K.
Past Member 2 years ago

its certainly a wonderful food.