Green guardians: Broccoli and kale unleash flu-fighting power

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broccoli-protects-against-lung-infections(NaturalHealth365)  The average person’s annual broccoli consumption in the United States barely reaches 5.2 pounds.  Despite being packed with vitamins, broccoli often faces resistance in regular diets due to its perceived bland taste and the time it takes to chew unless well-cooked.

If broccoli doesn’t top your list of favorites and tends to be overshadowed by more enticing choices, it’s worth noting that this unassuming vegetable holds remarkable potential to enhance your overall health and well-being.  In fact, recent research from the Francis Crick Institute reveals that broccoli and its companions, like kale, cauliflower, and cabbage, play a pivotal role in safeguarding the human body against viral lung infections.

How lung endothelial cells and AHR keep viruses at bay

When we get infected by respiratory viruses, the barrier between lung endothelial and epithelial cells can get disrupted.  This can lead to the accumulation of cells and fluid in the lungs’ air spaces, affecting the exchange of gases we need to breathe properly.  The cells that line our blood vessels (endothelial cells) play a role in this process.  Researchers found that a specific sensor called the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is very active in these endothelial cells and helps protect against lung leakage caused by influenza.

When this AHR is missing in endothelial cells, it worsens lung damage and allows red blood cells and immune cells to enter the air spaces.  This weakens the barrier and makes us more vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections.  The AHR also activates protective systems in these cells, which helps prevent unhealthy changes and cell death in the airway cells that help us breathe.  Interestingly, the virus itself can weaken this protective AHR response.

The authors of the study mentioned above also discovered that maintaining a healthy AHR function requires consuming foods that naturally activate it.  These foods – like broccoli and kale – trigger processes in the endothelial cells that help prevent damage.  This shows that the health of our blood vessels affects our lung defense.  Moreover, there’s a connection between what we eat and how well we can fight off viruses in our lungs.

Why the study is important

The highlighted research is causing a stir due to its significant advancement beyond previous studies, which mainly focused on the protective role of the body’s immune cells in the mentioned barrier.  By unveiling the fundamental role of AHR in maintaining a resilient lung barrier through endothelial cells during infections, a deeper comprehension of this phenomenon has emerged.

The Francis Crick researchers also believe AHR might play a vital role in safeguarding additional organs within the human body.

Tips to incorporate broccoli and kale into your diet

Now that it is known that broccoli and kale play the role of green guardians in the battle against the flu, let’s shift our attention to how to make these bland veggies that much more appealing to the taste buds.  If you dislike the taste of cold kale, as often used in salads, sprinkle some sea salt, pepper, and other tasty seasonings on the leaves and bake them for kale chips.  Kale is also commonly used in smoothies.

Get creative in the kitchen, and you just might become a fan of cooked broccoli; in particular, steaming broccoli and flavoring it with lemon, olive oil and sea salt is especially satisfying to the taste buds.  Roast your broccoli, add sage, rosemary, basil, thyme, tarragon, and parsley, and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for this flu-fighting vegetable.

Broccoli also tastes great in soups or stir-fry dishes.  If you are in a rush or looking for a healthy midday snack, dunk some raw broccoli into hummus or the dip of your choice.  Of course, as an added benefit, chew your food well to improve digestion and enjoy!

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