NOT MANY CHILDREN (or adults, for that matter) are big fans of broccoli—especially if you grew up in a household where the cruciferous crusader was exclusively prepared via boiling and more boiling. Limp and soggy anything isn’t going to win any admirers.

Thankfully, most of us who are dedicated to eating healthy know how to properly prepare the green giant (steaming, roasting, or sautéing) and enjoy its many health benefits. And there are many health benefits to be had from broccoli.

The cruciferous vegetable can help the gastrointestinal tract keep toxins and “bag bugs” from getting into your intestines, according to new research from Penn State. The study, which appeared in the Journal of Functional Foods, found that a compound in cruciferous veggies (including Brussels sprouts and cabbage) called indole glucosinolates can help keep nasty crap out of your intestines while also promoting populations of beneficial bacteria. The bonuses can lower risk of a “leaky gut” (aka increased intestine porousness) and chronic conditions like colitis, or inflammation in the bowels.

“There are a lot of reasons we want to explore helping with gastrointestinal health. If you have problems, like a leaky gut, and start to suffer inflammation, that may then lead to other conditions, like arthritis and heart disease,” said Gary Perdew, Ph.D., the John T. and Paige S. Smith Professor in Agricultural Sciences at Penn State. “Keeping your gut healthy and making sure you have good barrier functions so you’re not getting this leaky effect would be really big.”

More important: Mama was right.