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November 7, 2013 | 2 minute read

Broccoli: Steam It to Boost Cancer-Fighting Compounds

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can lower risk of cancer, and it’s worth concerning yourself with how you cook them, says Elizabeth Jeffery, PhD, a scientist who spoke this morning at our annual research conference.Kohl

Her studies suggest that steaming your broccoli for three to four minutes until it turns a bright green will boost its cancer-fighting compounds.

Broccoli contains lots of compounds studied for their cancer-fighting abilities. One of the top contenders is sulforaphane. Sulforaphane isn’t found naturally in broccoli: it forms when other compounds in broccoli come together: glucosinolates and the enzyme myrosinase.

But microwave or boil your broccoli too much and it can destroy its myrosinase. Destroy that — sulforaphane can’t form.

A study by Jeffery that compared boiling, microwaving, and steaming found that steaming broccoli for up to five minutes was the best way to retain its myrosinase. Boiling and microwaving broccoli for one minute or less destroyed the majority of the enzyme.

If you prefer your broccoli cooked longer — even mushy —  you can still get sulforaphane to form by eating your broccoli with raw foods that contain myrosinase. Radishes, arugula, even Brussels sprouts are a few.

Of course, Jeffery closed her talk with what we hear a lot of experts say: the most important thing is to eat your broccoli.

We have more on the cancer-broccoli link in our Foods that FIght Cancer.

You can follow more research at our conference on Twitter – at #AICR13.

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