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Broccoli Protects Eye Health

Broccoli Protects Eye Health

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has revealed that sulforaphane, a cancer-fighting compound in broccoli, also packs a powerful and long lasting antioxidant punch. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University discovered that human retinal cells (the retina is the light-sensitive membrane lining the inner eyeball that focuses light rays) treated with sulforaphane continued to be protected from oxidizing free radicals for several days after the compound was removed. By increasing our cells' ability to defend themselves against oxidant free radicals, broccoli not only helps protect the eye, but boosts the body's resistance to disease.

Practical Tips

Lightly steaming or stir-frying broccoli helps to release its beneficial compounds.

Here are a few of the World's Healthiest Foods quick serving ideas to help you reap the antioxidant punch provided by broccoli:

  • Toss pasta with olive oil, pine nuts and healthy sautéed broccoli florets. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Purée cooked broccoli and cauliflower, then combine with seasonings of your choice to make a simple, yet delicious, soup.
  • Add broccoli florets and chopped stalks to omelets.

To learn more about this amazing member of the World's Healthiest Foods, including quick and easy cooking and serving ideas, simply click broccoli.

For some truly exceptional recipes that will help you enjoy broccoli more frequently as part of your healthy way of eating, take a look at the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes that feature broccoli. Simply, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the foods for which you'd like some recipes from the Healthy Foods List, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing the foods chosen will appear immediately below.

Research Summary

Sulforaphane is already well respected in research circles for its ability to induce powerful Phase 2 liver detoxification enzymes (e.g., glutathione transferases, NAD(P)H:quinone reductase) which are widely recognized as playing major protective roles against a number of carcinogens, but the ability of these enzymes to function as antioxidants has attracted far less attention.

In this study, the researchers pretreated human eye cells (adult retinal pigment epithelial cells) for 24 hours with varying concentrations of sulforaphane and then exposed the cells to four different free radical stressors (including one of the nastiest oxidants known, peroxynitrite). Not only did sulforaphane protect the cells in a dose-dependent manner (the more sulforaphane, the better protection), but the protection continued for two to three days after the sulforaphane was removed.

Study coauthor Paul Talalay, M.D., remarked, "Our work with sulforaphane has focused on cancer, but now it assumes wider significance for human disease because the compound also helps prevent oxidative damage. The finding that a compound from the diet can provide powerful, chemically versatile and prolonged protection against oxidative stress may particularly impact human retinal disease. There are many dangers to cells, and it makes sense that cells have protection against these dangers, which include oxidants. Elevating these intrinsic protection mechanisms by administering a wide variety of chemicals, many of which are in the diet already, can be an effective way to prevent disease. This adds to already good evidence that eating large quantities of vegetables—and cruciferous ones play a special role—is one thing that really works to fight disease."


Gao X, Dinkova-Kostova AT, Talalay P. Powerful and prolonged protection of human retinal pigment epithelial cells, keratinocytes, and mouse leukemia cells against oxidative damage: the indirect antioxidant effects of sulforaphane. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2001 Dec 18;98(26):15221-6.

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