A chemical found in the vegetable boosts the body’s defence system to keep arteries unclogged.
Cauliflower, sprouts and cabbage can also keep the blood flowing freely.
They all contain sulforaphane, along with rocket, kale and pak choi, but broccoli contains the highest levels.
The discovery by scientists at Imperial College London could finally crack the code to using the vital vegetable ingredient in treating heart patients.
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, which funded the research, said: ‘As well as adding evidence to support the importance of eating “five a day”, the biochemistry revealed in this research could lead to more targeted dietary or medical approaches to prevent or lessen disease that leads to heart attacks and strokes.’
The researchers found bent or branched arteries are more susceptible to disease because they lack a protein called Nrf2.
In contrast, straight sections of artery are protected by the protein, which prevents cells becoming inflamed, an early indication for the development of heart disease.
The researchers discovered that Nrf2 was disabled by a protein in the bent or branched areas of arteries, stifling its protective properties.
But sulforaphane reactivated Nrf2 in these at-risk regions of the arteries, restoring the ability of the arteries to look after themselves.
The researchers believe the chemical could help these trouble spots remain disease-free for longer.