Broccoli is such a healthy food it has been referred to as a superfood. The University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences reported on June 22, 2016, broccoli and related vegetables which are in the Brassica family are filled with health-promoting compounds which are known as phenolics. Researchers are working on breeding programs aimed at loading even more phenolic compounds into broccoli and the other Brassica vegetables.

The researchers have identified candidate genes which control the accumulation of phenolic compounds which are found in broccoli. Consuming phenolic compounds, including certain flavonoids, has been found to be associated with a decreased risk of many diseases including:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type II diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Several types of cancer

University of Illinois geneticist Jack Juvik says there is good antioxidant activity in phenolic compounds. This antioxidant activity affects biochemical pathways which are associated with inflammation in mammals. Inflammation is a response to disease or damage which is associated with initiation of many degenerative diseases. In people with high levels of these compounds there is less of a risk of getting these diseases.

Juvik says there is now work being done on breeding programs to improve the health benefits of these vegetables. In the meantime they are working to make certain the yield, appearance and taste of these vegetables is maintained. It has been pointed out that fortunately because phenolic compounds are flavorless and stable these vegetables can be cooked without losing their health-promoting qualities.

This research has been published in the journal Molecular Breeding. Researchers are identifying candidate genes which control phenolic compound accumulation in broccoli. They hope to develop Brassica vegetables which have enhanced phenolic compound profiles. So we may someday have broccoli and other Brassica vegetables which are even better superfoods than they already ar