Broccoli has long been hailed as an all-star food thanks to its anti-cancer properties and healthy doses of vitamin C, calcium, and B vitamins. Now, a new study suggests that the crunchy cruciferous vegetable could be helpful in managing schizophrenia.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins say that extracts found in the vegetable can tweak chemical imbalances in the brain of those suffering from the mental disorder. They used the compound sulforaphane, derived from broccoli sprouts, to restore glutamate and glutathione to lower levels.

Broccoli’s high levels of sulforaphane also mean that potentially it could be used as an alternative to antipsychotic drugs, which often have painful or dangerous side effects.

In a study published in January in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers measured brain regions of 81 people who had suffered a recent episode of psychosis. Those patients, on average, showed 4% less of the chemical glutamate in certain areas of their brain as compared to healthy people.

Get more broccoli in your diet with the tasty broccoli salad.

A separate study published in April found that taking two capsules of sprout-extracted sulforaphane daily for 7 days increased levels of glutathione by about 30%. Experts believe the findings could pave the way for new treatments that don’t require powerful drugs.

“It’s possible that future studies could show sulforaphane to be a safe supplement to give people at risk of developing schizophrenia as a way to precent, delay, or blunt the onset of symptoms,” said Akira Sawa, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Johns Hopkins Schizophrenia Center.

Participants reported only mild side effects like stomach upset, as opposed to side effects like involuntary movements, restlessness, and increased cardiovascular risk associated with current schizophrenic medications.

Schizophrenia is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behavior.

According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia affects about 21 million people worldwide.

Also see,ย Try this one pot broccoli bisque.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. Sheโ€™s thrown away just as many meals as sheโ€™s proud of.