The #1 Nutrient You Need To Know About, a Doctor Says
By this point you know how important it is to make sure you're getting adequate levels of vitamins D and C, as well as minerals such as zinc and magnesium to keep your immune system strong. However, there's another (lesser known) nutrient that you want to make sure you don't neglect—especially during flu season.
Sulforaphane is a phytonutrient produced in the body by components found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale. It holds a host of health benefits, including facilitating your body's natural detoxification and anti-inflammatory processes and is known to support immune function. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.)
Brian Cornblatt, PhD, Medical Director at Nutramax Laboratories and Avmacol says that sulforaphane can help combat inflammation in the body that occurs, for example, after eating foods that are high in saturated fat. Everyday exposure to air pollution can also cause inflammation, which is why it's important to equip your diet with plenty of inflammation-fighting nutrients each day.
"Sulforaphane is not often talked about, though it should be," he says. "Not only is sulforaphane a complicated word to say, but it also affects complex mechanisms at the molecular level."
While there is no recommended daily value for sulforphane, Cornblatt says that in order to receive adequate amounts of the nutrient, it may take more than just eating cruciferous vegetables.
"Due to varying growing conditions and the cooking process, it is often difficult to get meaningful amounts of sulforaphane from food sources like broccoli alone," he says. "Which is why a high quality supplement with standardized and consistent amounts of glucoraphanin and the myrosinase enzyme is needed and recognized by a growing number of nutritionists."
Glucoraphanin and the myrosinase enzyme are the two components that help the body produce sulforaphane.
"Sulforaphane has been shown to support one's immune system with published research linking its anti-viral impacts," says Cornblatt.
For example, a 2016 study that was published in the American Journal of Immunology showed that a combination of sulforaphane and beta-glucans (soluble fibers found in cereal grains, yeast, and even some mushrooms) was able to protect mice from adverse (fatal) symptoms of the flu virus.
In short, Cornblatt suggests taking a supplement (if approved by your doctor) that's rich in the nutrient to stay healthy this winter.
"I would advise anyone who wants to explore further to check out ClinicalTrials.gov for more product supportive clinical trial information," he adds.
For more, be sure to check out Foods You Shouldn't Eat If You Have COVID.