Leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts may sound like a child’s nightmare, but new research suggests that these green vegetables play an integral role in helping the body heal and fight off disease.
A team of scientists at the Babraham Institute in the U.K. found that consuming verdant produce sends a chemical signal to immune cells found in the gut and the skin. These are known as intra-epithelial lymphocytes (IELs), which are located just beneath the surface of the epidermis where they stimulate healing after an injury and serve as a barrier against disease.
Authors of the study said their findings in a mouse model were surprising.
“After feeding otherwise healthy mice a vegetable-poor diet for two to three weeks, I was amazed to see 70 [percent] to 80 percent of these protective cells disappeared,” said researcher Marc Veldhoen, Ph.D.
Rodents with low levels of IELs were deficient in antimicrobial proteins had an overactive immune response and were more likely to experience injury than counterparts that were fed a healthy diet. Authors of the study said their findings provide a good reason to “eat your greens.”