Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable with numerous health benefits. If a new study holds true, you may be better off eating raw broccoli rather than cooked. Here’s why.
Unless you’ve had your head in the sand, you’ve probably heard about the wonderful health benefits of broccoli. Not only is this cruciferous vegetable high in vitamin C and fiber, it’s also a rich source of compounds known as glucosinolates which are broken down in the body to form sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been demonstrated in numerous studies to have potent anti-cancer properties. No wonder broccoli is touted as one of the best vegetables for cancer prevention. Unfortunately, if you’re enjoying cooked broccoli as opposed to raw, you may be missing out on these important anti-cancer benefits if the results of a recent study holds true.
This study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, looked at sulforaphane levels in the blood and urine of a group of people who had eaten raw broccoli versus a group who had eaten cooked broccoli. When the researchers determined the bioavailability of sulforaphane in the two groups, they found that the group who ate the raw broccoli had sulforaphane bioavailability of 34 percent versus the cooked broccoli group where the bioavailability was only 3.4 percent. This means that very little of the sulforaphane in the cooked broccoli was made available for the body to use.
The researchers also noted in this study that in the group that ate the cooked broccoli, absorption of sulforaphane was significantly delayed and peak levels were achieved much later. All in all, the subjects who ate the raw broccoli had faster absorption of sulforaphane as well as higher peak levels of this potent anti-cancer compound.
What does this mean if you’re eating broccoli for health reasons? Even if you enjoy cooked broccoli more than raw, it would be advisable to add raw broccoli to your diet in order to maximize your blood levels of sulforaphane. Instead of eating steamed or sautéed broccoli, choose a raw broccoli salad instead. In this particular study it was stated how the broccoli was cooked so it’s unclear whether very lightly steaming broccoli would significantly lower sulforaphane levels. The best approach may be to eat a combination of both lightly steamed broccoli and raw broccoli for maximum health benefits since certain other nutrients may be made more bioavailable by the cooking process.
Another alternative to both raw broccoli and cooked broccoli would be adding young broccoli sprouts to your salads which has up to fifty times the amount of sulforaphane found in the mature broccoli florets. These are available at many grocery stores nationwide marketed under the name of Broccosprouts. Adding Broccosprouts or raw broccoli to your salads may be a simple way to boost your blood levels of sulforaphane and potentially decrease your risk of certain types of cancer. The next time you’re planning your salad, don’t forget to add some raw broccoli!