A new study has put some specifics around how broccoli and kale can lower inflammation in the body.  Check out any good anti-inflammatory food pyramid and you’ll see that vegetables make up the base, meaning they’re the foundations of an anti-inflammatory diet.  Yet there aren’t a ton of scientific studies demonstrating just how vegetables actually lower inflammation.

So it’s great to see this study, which shows just how powerful cruciferous vegetables are.  Cruciferous vegetables are those in the cabbage family, and include all cabbages, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli and cauliflower.  Research was led by Dr. Gong Yang  at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.  Read below for an overview of his methods and findings:

“Yang and colleagues analyzed signs of inflammation in the blood of 1,005 middle-aged Chinese women who filled out questionnaires about their diets as part of the Shanghai Women’s Health Study.

The participants included in the new analysis were generally healthy, and had an average age of 58. Yang and his colleagues divided the women into five groups based on their daily intake of cruciferous vegetables.

The median intake of cruciferous vegetables was just under one cup per day, with women in the lowest fifth consuming about half that amount. The women in the top fifth of consumption took in about 1.5 cups of cruciferous vegetables every day.

The researchers then measured levels of signaling molecules involved in causing inflammation in the women’s blood. Blood levels of three important inflammatory molecules – tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin-1beta (IL-1b) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) were lowest among women with the highest intakes of cruciferous vegetables.

The women who consumed the most cruciferous vegetables had, on average, 13 percent less TNF-a, 18 percent less IL-1b, and 25 percent less IL-6 than women who ate the fewest.

It’s interesting to note that women in the lowest percentile group were still consuming half a cup of cruciferous vegetables per day.  I wonder how a group that doesn’t consume any of these valuable vegetables might compare?  It’s been known for quite a while that crucifers have a special sulfur-containing compound that is protective against cancer and has actually shrunk tumors in animal studies.  So go eat some kale today!  Our meal plans will show you how.  Your body will thank you.

Sources: Yahoo News and the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, online March 17, 2014