How spicing up broccoli boosts its cancer-fighting abilityPublished On: Wed, Sep 14th, 2011 | Food & Nutrition | By BioNews
Broccoli is well known for its cancer-fighting abilities, but now researchers from the University of Illinois have found that teaming the vegetable with a spicy food could further boost its anti-cancer properties.
It also suggested that combining the vegetable with spicy food containing the enzyme myrosinase also ensures it is absorbed in the upper part of the digestive system for maximum health benefit.
“To get this effect, spice up your broccoli with broccoli sprouts, 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 bioactive compounds 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.
Myrosinase is the enzyme necessary to form sulforaphane, the vegetable’s cancer-preventive component, co-author Margarita Teran-Garcia explained.
Broccoli powder does not contain myrosinase, but it does contain the precursor to the anti-cancer agent sulforaphane. But when eaten together, the sprouts were able to lend their myrosinase to the powder.
Both foods produced sulforaphane and provided greater anti-cancer benefit, said Jeffery.
Other foods that will boost broccoli’s benefits include radishes, cabbage and watercress.
Lead researcher Jenna Cramer said urine samples corroborated the blood results.
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 food that contains myrosinase,” she said.
The finding is available online ahead of its publication in the British Journal of Nutrition.