When the Greek physician Hippocrates wrote “Let food be thy medicine, and let thy medicine be food,” around 440-350 B.C., I’m willing to bet he never imagined that so many years later most doctors would still have not much more than a rudimentary understanding of nutrition and of food’s role in our health.
And I’m also willing to bet that if he were still around today he’d have been as pleased as punch these last couple of weeks when the news of the power of functional foods hit the headlines no less than three times.
Recently I told you about watermelon’s being used to control blood pressure and about how foods rich in vitamin B12 were showing great promise for warding off Alzheimer’s disease.
Now it’s broccoli, and its cancer-fighting ability, that’s grabbing the headlines.
Broccoli is an antioxidant powerhouse
We already knew that broccoli, like its other cruciferous cousins, is an antioxidant powerhouse.
But a study done at the University of Illinois has shown that bacteria found in the lower gut can cause sulforaphane, the cancer-fighting compound found in this superfood, to be released from its parent compound and absorbed by the body.
When we are 100 percent healthy, our guts are already full of the good bacteria that can spur the release of the cancer-fighting compounds in broccoli.
But with such negative influences as everyday stress and the typical Western diet, most of us could use a little help with our intestinal-tract health.
That’s where prebiotics and probiotics come into play.
Good gut bugs salvage cancer fighting sulforaphane
Researchers say that most people tend to overcook broccoli, accidentally destroying much of the important enzyme that gives us cancer-fighting sulforaphane.
But we now know that having healthy gut flora can salvage some of this vital compound, even when that happens.
By adding more fiber and other prebiotic-containing foods to your diet you can literally feed the good bacteria, encouraging them to thrive and multiply. You can also up the good-bacteria count in your intestinal tract by eating more probiotics in the form of fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and buttermilk that contain live cultures.
Since most of us will still have a hard time getting our guts in tip-top shape, you should also consider adding in both a prebiotic and probiotic supplement. There are a number of good ones on the market, and some formulations even combine the two into a single convenient product.
And, of course, don’t forget to eat lots of cancer-fighting broccoli!