Attention vegetable-haters from 4 to 40: broccoli helps protect skin cells from the ultraviolet radiation in sunlight. The good news is you do not have to eat it to benefit.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University made a paste from broccoli seeds and sprouts and smeared it on the skin of human test subjects before exposing them to the sun. The extract turned out to reduce redness and sunburn damage by more than one-third. The effect lasted as long as two days after the treatment was stopped.

The extract does not work the same way as sunscreen lotions do, according to Dr. Paul Talalay, leader of the Johns Hopkins team. Sunblock prevents UV radiation from reaching the skin. Sulforaphane, the active component of the broccoli sprout extract, increases the ability of skin cells to protect themselves by boosting the skin's production of protective enzymes.

The team decided to look into sulforaphane's value as a skin protector because it had been found to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors in animals. Talalay says that he hopes this discovery will lead to products that may decrease our long-term risk of developing skin and other cancers.