More evidence that spicing up broccoli boosts its cancer-fighting power

September 13, 2011, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Teaming fresh broccoli with a spicy food that contains the enzyme myrosinase significantly enhances each food's individual cancer-fighting power and ensures that absorption takes place in the upper part of the digestive system where you'll get the maximum health benefit, suggests a new University of Illinois study.

"To get this effect, spice up your broccoli with , mustard, horseradish, or wasabi. The spicier, the better; that means it's being effective," said Elizabeth Jeffery, a U of I professor of nutrition.

In the study, when fresh broccoli sprouts were eaten with broccoli powder, the scientists were able to measure in the blood 30 minutes later. When these peaked at three hours, they were much higher when the foods were eaten together than when either was eaten alone. corroborated the blood results, said Jenna Cramer, lead author of the study.

It's no secret that many people cook the benefits right out of broccoli instead of steaming it lightly for two to four minutes to protect its healthful properties, she said.

"However, this study shows that even if broccoli is overcooked, you can still boost its benefits by pairing it with another that contains myrosinase," she said.

Myrosinase is the enzyme necessary to form sulforaphane, the vegetable's cancer-preventive component, co-author Margarita Teran-Garcia explained.

Note what happened with the fresh broccoli sprouts and broccoli powder eaten in this experiment. The powder doesn't contain myrosinase, but it does contain the precursor to the anti-cancer agent sulforaphane. Eaten together, the sprouts were able to lend their myrosinase to the powder. As predicted, both foods produced sulforaphane and provided greater anti-cancer benefit, Jeffery said.

Other foods that will boost broccoli's benefits if they are paired together include radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress, and Brussels sprouts.

"Here's another benefit of protecting and enhancing the myrosinase in your foods," Jeffery said. "If myrosinase is present, sulforaphane is released in the ilium, the first part of your . Absorption happens well and quickly there, which is why we saw bioactivity in 30 minutes."

An earlier Jeffery study showed that microbiota are capable of releasing sulforaphane in the lower gut, but absorption happens more slowly in the colon than in the upper intestine, she said.

Scientists say that as little as three to five servings of broccoli a week provide a cancer-protective benefit.

"But it pays to spice it up for added benefits and find ways to make it appealing so you don't mind eating it if you're not a broccoli fan. I add fresh sprouts to sandwiches and add them as one of my pizza toppings after the pie is out of the oven," Cramer said.

More information: The study is available pre-publication online in the British Journal of Nutrition at journals.cambridge.org/jeffery

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Isaacsname
not rated yet Sep 13, 2011
I don't know about myrosinase but it's good with mayonaise.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.