Broccoli is The Real Deal

Dietary supplements for certain phytochemicals do not cut it

(RxWiki News) Many people don’t eat the daily recommended serving of vegetables even though it’s an important part of a well balanced diet. So many supplement, but does it have the same benefits?

Dietary supplements are usually taken to enhance one's diet of the many vitamins and minerals people lack. But there’s a reason why the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends more than 25 percent of a healthy dinner plate to include vegetables.

"Steam broccoli to gain the most health benefits."

Principal investigator, Emily Ho, an associate professor in the Oregon State University School of Biological and Population Health Sciences, says supplements for phytochemicals found in vegetables aren’t effective.

Not all supplements are bad. Folic acid, a vitamin often recommended for pregnant mothers to prevent birth defects, is absorbed best as a supplement, Ho explains. And many people don’t get enough vitamin D from their diets alone, so supplementing would be beneficial, she adds.

However, broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables need to come from the complete food, Ho says. The reason being, supplements don’t have the necessary enzyme, myrosinase, which helps with absorption. Cooking vegetables at high temperatures can also have the same effects because the high heat will damage the enzyme.

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, contain a class of phytochemicals known as glucosinolates. These phytochemicals have been known to reduce the risk for prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancer. The myrosinase breaks down the glucosinolates into sulforaphane and erucin which are the cancer-fighting compounds.

So if there’s no enzyme, then the phytochemicals can’t do their job properly. So follow this simple guideline: If you’re looking for health benefits in vegetables, just eat the vegetables.

Cruciferous vegetables (also known as green leafy vegetables):

  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Bok choy

Mark Bans, D.C., recommends, "Whole foods or whole food supplements - they are always the best, most natural form. I use whole food supplements in my practice and feel good about the supplements. They are from a very reputable, highly acclaimed company called Standard Process. You have to be either an MD, ND, DDS, or Registered Nurse to order from them. They maintain the highest standards in whole food supplements."

"Another option that I personally do for myself and my family is juicing. We certainly don't eat enough cruciferous vegetables on a day to day basis and not everyone in my family is fond of them. So, at least twice a week we juice with mostly cruciferous vegetables and then a couple of other non-cruciferous vegetables and fruits," Bans adds..

The research is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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Review Date: 
October 11, 2011