Beneforté – a Super Healthy Broccoli Bred
Whether you like it or not, based on recent research broccoli has gained a superfood status. It is questionable whether any single food deserves that rather pointless compliment, which is just a made-up marketing slogan, as after all, it is whole diets and whole lifestyles that ultimately influence our health, not any single food. But could you imagine there was a specially enhanced type of broccoli that had been bred to have all the benefits of regular broccoli but multiplied by three? Does it deserve a closer look? If yes, then welcome to broccoli Beneforté.
In order to understand why Beneforté broccoli is thought to be so superior, we first need to get to grips with glucosinolates. If you do not know yet, glucosinolates are a unique group of phytochemicals present at high levels in cruciferous vegetables, a genus of green leafy vegetables in the cabbage family, including not only broccoli but the likes of cabbage, cauliflower, kale, garden cress, Brussels sprouts, rocket, watercress and radish. Glucosinolates are a diverse group of phytochemicals, with more than 120 glucosinolates identified.
In fact, glucosinolates happen to be biologically inactive compounds. It is actually their hydrolytic breakdown products, known as isothiocyanates, that are biologically active and award cruciferous vegetables their health credentials. In order to turn glucosinolates into isothiocyanates, an enzyme myrosinase is required and this enzyme is released from cruciferous vegetables when their plant cells get damaged, for instance through chewing. These natural chemicals are used by the plant as a form of self-defence. The plant stores glucosinolates within its cells and once damage has been done to them (e.g. by an insect bite) the glucosinolates start mixing with the enzyme myrosinase (that would normally be kept apart within the cell) to produce a natural pest deterrent in the form of active isothiocyanates.
So, why all this fuss about a naturally occurring insect deterrent? The main focus of isothiocyanates research is dedicated to cancer prevention. Epidemiological evidence associates consumption of cruciferous vegetables (at least 3-5 servings per week) with a reduced risk of many types of cancer, such as colon, rectum, breast, prostate, kidney and bladder cancers. Several experiments have shown that their active substance, the isothiocyanates, possess multiple anti-cancer effects, such as acting as inhibitors, blocking phase 1 enzymes that convert procarcinogens to carcinogens, regulating phase 2 detoxification enzymes and thus promoting the body’s ability to get rid of potential carcinogens, reducing chronic inflammation and perhaps most critically, through the induction of cytoprotective enzymes an antioxidant gene expression.
Health Benefits of Beneforté
Beneforté is a type of broccoli specially bred to yield high amounts of glucosinolates, particularly a type called glucoraphanin, which is the precursor to its active form called sulforaphane. It needs to be mentioned here that Beneforté broccoli is a product of conventional breeding (no genetic manipulation), developed by British scientists as a cross between standard broccoli and a glucosinolate-rich wild broccoli (Brassica villosa) from southern Italy. The result of this breeding is a broccoli with roughly three times the level of glucoraphanin when compared with standard broccoli. Studies have confirmed that eating Beneforté broccoli results in two to four times higher level of sulforaphane in the blood compared with standard broccoli.
As the evidence in favour of Beneforté broccoli is mounting, we are beginning to see that these benefits may not be only limited to potential for cancer protection. One recent study found that glucoraphanin-rich Beneforté broccoli can help re-tune our metabolism, activating natural defences to make sure that our metabolic system – mitochondria – functions well. By doing this, Beneforté could perhaps offer protection against conditions associated with ageing, such as diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease along with some forms of cancer.
Even if you have not noticed the recent news, hailing broccoli as a potential remedy for arthritis, you may not be surprised to learn that it is Beneforté broccoli again that is at the centre of this work. Following successful preliminary studies, it looks as though the active broccoli component sulforaphane has the ability to block specific destructive chemicals, called metalloproteinases, as well as blocking inflammation, thus protecting against cartilage destruction. Based on this finding, researchers are now undertaking a human trial with Beneforté broccoli to see what impact it will have on the joints of patients with arthritis.
It looks increasingly likely that sulforaphane, so abundant in broccoli, favourably regulates certain key signalling pathways relevant to preventing various chronic diseases associated with ageing. If you believe that eating an optimal diet can potentially help against chronic illnesses and lessen the need for medical intervention, then you should be welcoming innovations like Beneforté broccoli with great enthusiasm.