Broccoli may be a diabetic’s best friend, protecting blood vessels from damage that quadruples their risk of heart disease. Diabetics’ high blood sugar can triple their levels of free radicals — unstable molecules which wreak havoc on healthy cells, including those that line the insides of our arteries and veins. Compromised vascular health contributes to a variety of diabetic woes, ranging from kidney failure to heart attack and stroke. Fortunately, encouraging new research suggests broccoli consumption can counter this dysfunction.

British researchers observing the linings of human blood vessels under laboratory conditions found that sulforaphane — an indirect antioxidant in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables — reduced production of free radicals by 73%. The sulforaphane triggers a biochemical chain reaction, activating detoxifying Phase II enzymes, which in turn protect the body’s circulatory system from oxidative stress.

Everyone, including diabetics, can enjoy broccoli’s myriad other health advantages. In addition to being a antioxidant powerhouse, broccoli is also beneficial for the heart, bones, and prostate. Other benefits may surprise you: Broccoli could protect the brain in the event of a head injury.

Published December 1, 2008