The body’s detoxification system has two phases to process the chemicals we are exposed to every day: Firstly, when these chemicals enter the body, phase one detoxifying enzymes begin to process them into metabolites which may be potentially harmful. An easy way to imagine these metabolites is a broken piece of glass with “rough edges”. These “rough edges”, if not processed further, can harm normal cell function by damaging cellular DNA, proteins and lipids.
Next, phase two detoxifying enzymes process the potentially harmful metabolites into water-soluble and other compounds that can be easily excreted from the body.
Research has shown sulforaphane also supports the body’s defences against oxidative stress and cell damage.
Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance in the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to detoxify their harmful effects by neutralizing them with antioxidants. Free radicals, which can damage DNA, proteins and lipids, are by products of normal metabolism and can also be derived from certain environmental toxins. Sulforaphane can boost the natural production of antioxidant enzymes which reduce oxidative stress, thereby acting indirectly as an antioxidant.
Since sulforaphane is associated with cruciferous vegetables, namely broccoli and broccoli sprouts, many people think they can get the benefits of sulforaphane just by eating their vegetables.
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple, as sulforaphane itself is not found in broccoli. Rather it is the essential ingredients, glucoraphanin and myrosinase, that are present. Unfortunately, there may not be enough of either compound in the plant to allow for adequate sulforaphane production.
This can be due to seed quality, soil composition, the age of the plant, and many other factors. Cooking broccoli typically destroys the myrosinase enzyme, thereby limiting the production of sulforaphane.