Spice up your broccoli to help cancer fight

By Colin Ricketts - 13 Sep 2011 20:40:1 GMT
Spice up your broccoli to help cancer fight

Everyone likes to spice up their food now and then but new research shows that mixing two beneficial foods in a piquant dish boosts the anti-cancer power of both ingredients.

Broccoli is the vegetable in need of a lift which comes courtesy of the enzyme myrosinase. While you may struggle to find myrosinase on a menu, University of Illinois professor of nutrition Elizabeth Jeffery has some suggestions.

"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," she said.

Jenna Cramer, led the study, which used broccoli powder mixed with broccoli sprouts as the spice provider containing myrosinase. The powder contained no myrosinase, but when the sprouts were added to the mix, they activated chemicals to produce the anti-cancer agent called sulforaphane. Cramer's team measured the cancer fighting chemical in the bloodstream after half-an-hour.

She said: "When these peaked at three hours, they were much higher when the foods were eaten together than when either was eaten alone. Urine samples corroborated the blood results."

According to Cramer, to get the best out of your broccoli you should cook it as little as possible - steaming for no more than four minutes.

"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," Cramer added, listing spouts, cabbage, arugula, watercress, and radishes as other good cancer fighting partners for broccoli.

As well as boosting the amounts of cancer fighting chemicals in your body, adding myrosinase-containing spice to your greens means the goodness is absorbed higher up in the gut which is better at taking it in than the lower intestine.

Eating broccoli three or more times a week may have a beneficial effect on cancer risks according to nutrition scientists.

"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 broccoli sprouts to sandwiches and add them as one of my pizza toppings after the pie is out of the oven," Cramer said.

You can read their research here.

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