Make a Superfood More Super

Broccoli most effective at preventing cancer when not overcooked

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Broccoli's cancer-fighting power is all in how you prepare and eat the vegetable, according to a new study from the University of Illinois.

Three to five servings of broccoli per week are enough to effectively fight against cancer, said study leader Elizabeth Jeffrey, a University of Illinois nutrition professor. The catch is the broccoli must be prepared effectively -- which means not overcooking it and preserving the enzyme known as myrosinase. Otherwise, the veggie's cancer-preventive and anti-inflammatory component doesn't form.

Broccoli supplements do no contain the vital myrosinase enzyme, according to Jeffrey.

Furthermore, broccoli sprouts (broccoli sprouts are 3 to 4 day old broccoli plants that look like alfalfa sprouts but taste like radish), are not often eatenbut contain myrosinase in abundance.

Researchers looked at plasma and urine levels of biomarkers associated with cancer prevention in four healthy men who ate meals containing broccoli sprouts alone, broccoli powder alone, or a combination of the two. The scientists found a definite synergistic effect between the powder and the sprouts three hours after the men ate the combination meal, including an almost two-fold increase in sulforaphane absorption. (Sulforaphane is a compound that holds anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and antimicrobial properties in experimental models.)

Mustard, wasabi, arugula and radishes are others foods that can be paired with broccoli to boost sulforaphane levels.

And, according to Wikipedia, in 1992 a team of Johns Hopkins University scientists isolated a cancer fighting phytochemical in broccoli called glucoraphanin, which is the glucosinolate precursor of sulforaphane (thus, sulforaphane glucosinolate or SGS).

When chewed, broccoli releases glucoraphanin and myrosinase which work together to produce sulforaphane, which, in turn, stimulates the body’s immune system to deactivate free radicals. The 1992 study was followed by the discovery in 1997 that SGS is in higher concentrations in the 3 to 4 day old broccoli sprouts, at least 20 times the concentration of full grown broccoli. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 14, 2011
Last Updated:
February 15, 2011