Tag Archives: #broccoli

This Is The Healthiest Way To Prepare Broccoli, According To Science (Food)

Ask any unhappy little kid at the dinner table and they’ll tell you: Ya gotta eat your veggies. But you can do even better — scientists found a new way to prepare one common vegetable to boost its benefits to the max. Bring it on, broccoli.

Broccoli has long been a poster child for healthy foods. And that’s no coincidence: Broccoli has been found to slash blood sugar in type II diabetics, fight cancer, and more. The bad news is that not a lot of the stuff that makes broccoli so good for us survives our usual methods of preparing it. The good stuff here being sulforaphane, an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer.

Sulforaphane turns out to be pretty tricky to get at in raw broccoli. It, and compounds like it, exists in the form of glucosinolates, which need an enzyme called myrosinase to break them down. How do you get myrosinase working? Just by doing damage to the broccoli. Unfortunately, preparation methods like boiling and microwaving don’t count. They seriously reduce the levels of glucosinolates in broccoli, thus giving us less sulforaphane. Bummer.

For a study published in January 2018, Chinese researchers dove into ways of cooking broccoli that could possibly maintain its cancer-fighting goodness. They started by examining a common method in China: stir-frying. “Surprisingly, few methods have reported the sulforaphane concentrations in stir-fried broccoli, and to the best of our knowledge, no report has focused on sulforaphane stability in the stir-frying process,” the researchers noted in the study. Luckily, they figured out a method for preparing broccoli that maintains as much of the good stuff as possible.

By trying several methods and measuring the resulting sulforaphane levels, they found a healthier alternative to stir-frying. Ready? The researchers chopped up the broccoli into tiny pieces, let it sit for 90 minutes, then lightly stir-fried it. The broccoli that was left out to let the enzymes do their thing had 2.8 times as much sulforaphane content as the broccoli that was stir-fried right away. Though it increases your meal prep time, it also increases your broccoli’s nutritional power. Is it worth the extra effort? That’s up to you.

Neuroscience Study Finds ‘Hidden’ Thoughts In Visual Part Of Brain (Neuroscience)

How much control do you have over your thoughts? What if you were specifically told not to think of something—like a pink elephant?

Participants used the left side of their brains to come up with the thought, and the right side to try and suppress it.

A recent study led by UNSW psychologists has mapped what happens in the brain when a person tries to suppress a thought. The neuroscientists managed to ‘decode’ the complex brain activity using functional brain imaging (called fMRI) and an imaging algorithm.

Their findings suggest that even when a person succeeds in ignoring a thought, like the pink elephant, it can still exist in another part of the brain—without them being aware of it.

In their study they tracked the brain activity in 15 participants as they completed several visualizations and thought suppression exercises. Participants were given a written prompt—either green broccoli or a red apple—and challenged not to think of it. To make this task even harder, they were asked to not replace the image with another thought.

After 12 seconds, participants confirmed whether they were able to successfully suppress the image or if the thought suppression failed. Eight people were confident they’d successfully suppressed the images—but their brain scans told a different story. They found that visual cortex—the part of the brain responsible for mental imagery—seemed to be producing thoughts without their awareness.

Brain neurons fired and then pulled oxygen into the blood each time a thought took place. This movement of oxygen, which was measured by the fMRI machine, created particular spatial patterns in the brain.

The researchers decoded these spatial patterns using an algorithm called multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA). MVPA is a type of decoding algorithm based in machine learning that allows us to read thoughts. The algorithm could distinguish brain patterns caused by the vegetable/fruit prompts.

Eight study participants were confident they’d successfully suppressed the images of the red apple or green broccoli, but their brain scans suggested otherwise. Credit: Shutterstock

The scans showed that participants used the left side of their brains to come up with the thought, and the right side to try and suppress it. Prof. Pearson hopes this functional brain mapping will help future researchers know which areas of the brain to target for potential intrusive thought therapies. This study can help explain why forcefully trying not to think about something always fails. For example, for someone trying to quit smoking, trying not to think about having a cigarette is a very bad strategy.

These findings build on a behavioral study Prof. Pearson’s team at UNSW Science’s Future Minds Lab conducted last year, which tested how suppressed thoughts can influence perception.

They know that you can have conscious and unconscious perception in your visual cortex—for example, they can show someone an image of a spider, make the image invisible, but their brain will still process it. But until now, they didn’t know this also worked with thoughts.

Both studies point towards the elusive world of the “unconscious,” which Prof. Pearson plans to explore in his future work.

They’re interested in this idea that imagination can be unconscious—that these thoughts can appear and influence our behavior, without us even noticing. More evidence is starting to suggest unconscious thoughts do occur, and they can decode them.

References: Roger Koenig-Robert et al. Decoding Nonconscious Thought Representations during Successful Thought Suppression, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (2020). DOI: 10.1162/jocn_a_01617