Eating More Broccoli Could Protect Your Brain From Aging

steamed broccoliWhat are phytochemicals?

Plant-based biochemicals protect our bodies with respect to both overall health and wellbeing and longevity. Natural compounds produced by plants, known as phytochemicals, exert a protective and therapeutic effect against pathological changes in body tissue that may be not only a result of disease, but a cause of disease.1


Like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that contains potent phytonutrients. During digestion, the high levels of glucoraphanin contained in broccoli are converted into a potent antioxidant (sulforaphane).  This important natural compound has the potential to support brain function following reduced oxygen supply. For example, cognitive capacity after exposure to lead improves following treatment with sulforaphane and vitamin E.2. In other studies, sulforaphane treatment reduced inflammation and activated certain vascular pathways.3 Sulforaphane’s (and glucoraphanin’s) benefits have also been researched with respect to possible benefits for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.4

Broccoli also contains kaempferol, a flavonoid with powerful anti-tumor, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory ability.5 6

Broccoli also contains measurable amounts of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been well documented for their potential to prevent oxidative stress and cellular damage in your eyes.

Broccoli diversity and nutrients

One interesting study looked at flavonoid content in different broccoli accessions. An accession is plant material from a single species that is collected at one time from a specific location. This process allows scientists to accurately assess the qualities of different species and growing conditions of various broccoli varieties.

Researchers understand that diverse broccoli accessions may contain different levels of various flavonols as well as different antioxidant capacities. In one study scientists examined variations of the two major flavonols, kaempferol, and quercetin, in florets and leaves of 15 diverse broccoli accessions and found that leaves accumulated more kaempferol than the florets; quercetin content of leaves and florets was similar. Therefore, the antioxidant capacity of leaves was greater than florets.7

What this tells us is the common-sense fact that the quality of the plant is related to the quality and amount of the nutrient – a fact that is increasingly being researched with respect to organic versus non-organic foods.

Cooking broccoli

Another study tells us that steaming (and drying) broccoli is better than boiling (and freezing) for phytochemical content.8  So, steam your fresh, unfrozen broccoli for the best nutrition. And enjoy the leaves as well!

The best brain foods

Research shows that the best brain foods are the same ones that protect your heart and blood vessels, especially green leafy vegetables. Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are also rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Research suggests these plant-based foods may help slow cognitive decline.

Regular dietary consumption of vegetables and fruits containing phytochemicals from childhood to adulthood is associated with a reduced risk of several major pathological conditions. These include cancer, inflammatory diseases, and cardiovascular disease, as well as neurotraumatic conditions (stroke, traumatic brain injury, and spinal cord injury), neurodegenerative (Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease), neuropsychiatric diseases like depression.

Lifestyle considerations

    • Diet. Eat a healthy diet with lots of green, leafy vegetables and colored fruits and veggies.
    • Exercise regularly. Many studies have confirmed that physical exercise (PE) affects brain plasticity, influencing cognition and wellbeing. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury, which is supported by regular exercise.
    • Keep stress to a minimum. One cannot always control events in life that cause ongoing stress, but the effect of stress on the body can be minimized by doing some form of meditation daily. Stress is considered to predispose the brain to various neuropathological conditions. Physical and psychological stresses are believed to be associated with a broad range of diseases, such as mental disorders, anxiety, and depression, as well as neurodegenerative diseases. According to a growing body of evidence, psychological stress is implicated as a potential contributing factor to the development of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.


Brain and Memory Support Package 1 – a combination of products that include herbs and antioxidants to promote brain health. Any of the products within the package can be ordered individually as well.

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  1. Khalaj L, Nejad SC, Mohammadi M, Zadeh SS, Pour MH, et al. (2013). Assessing Competence of Broccoli Consumption on Inflammatory and Antioxidant Pathways in Restraint-Induced Models: Estimation in Rat Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex. Biomed Res Int. 2013;590379.
  2. Sun B, Zhang X, Yin Y, Sun H, Ge H, et al. (2017). Effects of sulforaphane and vitamin E on cognitive disorder and oxidative damage in lead-exposed mice hippocampus at lactation.  J Trace Elem Med Biol. Dec;44:88-92
  3. Zhao X, Wen L, Dong M, Lu X. (2016). Sulforaphane activates the cerebral vascular Nrf2-ARE pathway and suppresses inflammation to attenuate cerebral vasospasm in rat with subarachnoid hemorrhage. Brain Res. Dec 15;1653:1-7.
  4. Conzatti A, da Silva Froes FCT, Perry IDS, de Souza CG. (2014). Clinical and molecular evidence of the consumption of broccoli, glucoraphanin and sulforaphane in humans. Nutr Hosp. Nov 30;31(2):559-69.
  5. Wang J, Fang X, Ge L, Cao F, Zhao L, et al. (2018). Antitumor, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of kaempferol and its corresponding glycosides and the enzymatic preparation of kaempferol. PloS One. May 17;13(5):e0197563.
  6. Riso P, Vendrame S, Del Bo C, Martini D, Martinetti A, et al. (2014). Effect of 10-day broccoli consumption on inflammatory status of young healthy smokers. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2014 Feb;65(1):106-11.
  7. Duan Y, Santiago FEM, Dos Reis AR, de Figueiredo MA, Zhou S, et al. (2021). Genotype variation of flavonols and antioxidant capacity in broccoli. Food Chem. Feb 15;338:127997.
  8. Mahn A, Reyes A. (2012). An overview of health-promoting compounds of broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) and the effect of processing. Food Sci Technol Int. Dec;18(6):503-14.