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I eat a lot of broccoli–an average of two or more servings a day–so this story was of great interest to me when I first ran it over one year ago. It’s so important, I thought it was worth repeating…
Broccoli fights cancer best when it gets a little steamed
Sun, 02/06/2011 - Debra Pressey
URBANA – Microwaving your broccoli might be the most convenient way to cook it, but to get benefit of this cruciferous veggie’s cancer-fighting properties, steaming it lightly is the better way to go, a University of Illinois study suggests.
Elizabeth Jeffery, a UI nutrition professor, says broccoli eaten three to five times a week is a potent cancer-fighter, but it all depends on how you cook it.
Her research also found some benefit to combining broccoli with some other foods, among them broccoli sprouts, eaten at the same meal.
A member of the cabbage family, broccoli is rich in vitamin C, fiber, folate, calcium and carotenoids.
Broccoli is also a source of plant chemicals and several compounds that may have anti-cancer properties, according to the American Cancer Society.
The best way to cook broccoli to preserve the health benefit is steaming it for two to four minutes, rather than boiling it or cooking it in a microwave oven, Jeffery said.
That’s because an enzyme in broccoli called myrosinase must be present to help broccoli’s cancer-fighting and anti-inflammatory compound – called sulforaphane – to form, and overcooking your broccoli destroys the enzyme, she said.
Jeffery and the study’s co-author, Jenna Cramer, also found people who use broccoli powder as a nutritional supplement may not be getting what they hope for, because the powder often lacks the necessary enzyme.
In their study, Jeffery and Cramer recruited four healthy men to eat meals of either broccoli sprouts (which are rich in the enzyme myrosinase) or broccoli powder (which often contains the sulforaphane precursor) or a combination of sprouts and powder.
They found a nearly twofold increase in sulforaphane absorption with the combination – indicating the enzyme in the sprouts produced sulforaphane from both the sprouts and the precursor in the broccoli powder.
For the rest of us who want to boost health benefits by combining foods with broccoli: Add some broccoli sprouts or other foods containing sulforaphane, such as mustard, arugula, wasabi. radishes, watercress or papaya, she said.
Sprinkle some sprouts on your salad or make a mustard sauce for your broccoli, Jeffery suggests.
But you can’t have mustard on your sandwich for lunch and broccoli for dinner and reap the same combination benefit.
“It would have to be with the same meal,” Jeffery adds.
The study was published in the January issue of Nutrition and Cancer
I pour horseradish sauce all over my broccoli. Wonder if that counts? But mustard works, too. And they make a horseradish/mustard sauce which is pretty good. Did you know mustard doesn’t have any calories?
I stopped microwave steaming my broccoli four or five years ago after reading a study showing microwaving destroyed too many nutrients.
Feel good, keep smiling and eat lots of raw–or lightly steamed–vegetables! Pat