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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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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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8:11AM PDT on Apr 5, 2014

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

4:27PM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

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

4:23PM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

I feel a broccoli frenzy coming up!

1:24AM PDT on Mar 21, 2013

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

11:10PM PDT on Mar 12, 2013

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.

7:50AM PST on Mar 9, 2013

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

4:27AM PST on Mar 9, 2013

Thank you :)

9:36AM PST on Mar 7, 2013

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.

7:55PM PST on Mar 6, 2013

Awesome, Thanks for the info :)

3:42PM PST on Mar 5, 2013

its certainly a wonderful food.

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people are talking

Wow I had no idea! Thanks for the helpful info.

Loved the video !! My dog loved it too ! He understood completely about the imaginary door :)

I was surprised to read only three positions! What about the fetal position and the starfish etc?

Thank you, Green Diva.


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