Better Broccoli

November 18, 2013 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Eating healthfully requires more than just consuming fresh, whole foods. The manner by which you combine foods and how you prepare them also plays an important role. A case in point was presented at this year’s meeting of the American Institute for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Maryland.

Cruciferous vegetables are frequently cited as among the healthiest known foods. Popular members of this revered category of non-starchy vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale and mustard. When cooked gently or eaten raw, cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane – a potent phytochemical which possesses anti-cancer properties. However, if these vegetables are cooked for prolonged periods of time or heavily processed, sulforaphane decomposes.

So, what’s the best way to ensure that you’ll get the most out the broccoli you’re eating? For starters, lightly steaming broccoli for up to 5 minutes ensures that myrosionase, an enzyme needed to form sulforaphane, remains active. In addition, if you eat raw cruciferous vegetables at the same time as cooked cruciferous vegetables, the production of sulforaphane will still take place. As a practical example, this might mean eating some grilled chicken or fish with a side of roasted broccoli and an arugula salad (another member of the cruciferous family).

It’s also worth noting that there are many other healthful components present in broccoli and its relatives. For example, broccoli is a good source of carotenoids, a group of antioxidants which support bone, ocular health and beyond. However, in order to efficiently absorb these fat-soluble substances, broccoli and other vegetables need to be eaten with fatty foods. Studies published in the medical literature reveal that adding oil-based condiments, such as mayonnaise and olive oil to cruciferous vegetables increases the bioavailability of many of their health promoting nutrients and phytochemicals.

Last, but not least, if you really don’t care for the taste of lightly cooked or raw broccoli, you can always add some broccoli sprouts to salads or sandwiches. Fresh broccoli sprouts contain an abundance of sulforaphane and do not possess the characteristic flavor or odor associated with cooked broccoli. Instead, they have a much milder taste that is reminiscent of radishes. What’s more, recent studies have documented numerous health benefits related to broccoli sprouts, including their potential to protect against heart disease, insulin resistance and oxidative stress.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Steaming Broccoli Preserves Potential Power to Fight Cancer, Study (link)

Study 2 - Effects of Mayonnaise on Postprandial Serum Lutein/Zeaxanthin and (link)

Study 3 – Effects of Stir-Fry Cooking w/ Different Edible Oils on the Phytochemical … (link)

Study 4 - Bioactive Compounds and Antioxidant Activity of Fresh and Processed … (link)

Study 5 - Effect of Broccoli Sprouts on Insulin Resistance in Type 2 Diabetic (link)

Study 6 – Broccoli Sprouts Powder Could Improve Serum Triglyceride & Oxidized (link)

Study 7 - Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Oxidative Stress in Type 2 Diabetes ... (link)

Cooking/Processing Broccoli Affects Antioxidant Activity (FRS)

Source: Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:367819. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Food and Drink, Nutrition

10 Comments to “Better Broccoli”

  1. rob Says:

    Cant eat broccoli raw, but lightly cooked with some butter and garlic equals rum

  2. JP Says:

    Hi Rob,

    That’s a winning combo in my book too. :-)

    Be well!


  3. G Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    Thank You!

    Particularly intriguing the benefits of absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin when eating broccoli with mayonnaise! If a person does not like mayonnaise, do you think that a similar synergy could be be attained adding hard boiled eggs to the broccoli?

  4. JP Says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful question, Paul.

    I suspect a similar effect could be expected if a sort of deconstructed mayonnaise is eaten with broccoli. For instance, one might drizzle lightly steamed broccoli with extra virgin olive oil and top it with chopped or sliced hard boiled eggs.

    Be well!


  5. rob Says:

    Adding some fat to veggies and most foods apparently allows for better absorption of nutrients/vitamins

  6. JP Says:

    Indeed. Fat soluble antioxidants (carotenoids such as lutein, lycopene and zeaxanthin) and nutrients (vitamin A, D, E and K) require a lipid “shuttle” to assist absorption. Egg yolks and monounsaturated fats (avovados, nuts, olive oil) are excellent options.

    Be well!


  7. G Paul F. Says:

    Thank you JP,

    Your idea of reconstructing the mayonnaise solves the puzzle!


  8. JP Says:

    Happy to help, Paul!

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update: Attention farmers …

    The effects of UV radiation during the vegetative period on antioxidant compounds and postharvest quality of broccoli (Brassica oleracea L.).

    In this study, the effects of supplementary UV radiation during the vegetative period on antioxidant compounds, antioxidant activity and postharvest quality of broccoli heads during long term storage was studied. The broccolis were grown under three different doses of supplementary UV radiation (2.2, 8.8 and 16.4 kJ/m2/day) in a soilless system in a glasshouse. Harvested broccoli heads were stored at 0 °C in modified atmosphere packaging for 60 days. The supplementary UV radiation (280-315 nm) during the vegetative period significantly decreased total carotenoid, the chlorophyll a and chlorophyll b content but increased the ascorbic acid, total phenolic and flavonoid contents of broccolis. All supplementary UV treatments slightly reduced the antioxidant activity of the broccolis, however, no remarkable change was observed between 2.2 and 8.8 kJ/m2 radiation levels. The sinigrin and glucotropaeolin contents of the broccolis were substantially increased by UV treatments. The prolonged storage period resulted in decreased ascorbic acid, total phenolic and flavonoid contents, as well as antioxidant activity. Discoloration of the heads, due to decreased chlorophyll and carotenoid contents, was also observed with prolonged storage duration. Glucosinolates levels showed an increasing tendency till the 45th day of storage, and then their levels started to decline. The weight loss of broccoli heads during storage progressively increased with storage time in all treatments. Total soluble solids, solids content and titratable acidity decreased continuously during storage. Titratable acidity was not affected by UV radiation doses during the storage time whereas soluble solids and solids content (dry matter) were significantly affected by UV doses. Supplementary UV radiation increased the lightness (L*) and chroma (C*) values of the broccoli heads. Pre-harvest UV radiation during vegetative period seems to be a promising tool for increasing the beneficial health components of broccolis.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update: Frozen broccoli is just fine, maybe even better than fresh in some ways …

    Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2015 Feb 18:1-7.

    Effect of industrial freezing on the stability of chemopreventive compounds in broccoli.

    Abstract: Broccoli (Brassica oleracea L. var. Italica) is largely consumed all over the world and has a high economic importance. Likewise, broccoli contains high levels of glucosinolates, carotenoids and total phenols, which are related with the prevention of chronic diseases. The present project’s objective was to evaluate the effect of industrial freezing on the stability of bioactive molecules in seven commercial broccoli cultivars (Tlaloc®, Endurance®, Florapack®, Domador®, Steel®, Iron Man® and Avenger®). In general, industrial freezing increased the extractability of total glucosinolates, whereas total phenols remained constant in most broccoli cultivars. Likewise, broccoli subjected to industrial freezing showed higher levels of total carotenoids (∼60-300% higher) as compared with fresh broccoli. Results suggest that bioactive compounds in frozen broccoli would be more bioavailable than in raw.

    Be well!


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