Spice Up Your Broccoli

If you want to boost broccoli’s cancer-fighting power, spice it up. According to new research, teaming fresh broccoli with a spicy food containing an enzyme called myrosinase enhances its power to fight cancer and ensures that the food will be absorbed in the upper part of the digestive system where you’ll get the maximum health benefit.

Researchers at the University of Illinois conducted a study in which fresh broccoli sprouts were eaten with broccoli powder, and bioactive compounds in the blood were measured 30 minutes later. They found that when the compounds peaked at three hours, they were much higher when the foods were eaten together than when either was eaten alone. Urine samples showed the same results.

The authors of the study say many people overcook broccoli instead of steaming it lightly for two to four minutes to protect its healthful properties, but according to these findings you can still boost broccoli’s benefits even if it is overcooked by pairing it with another food that contains myrosinase. Myrosinase is the enzyme necessary to form the vegetable’s cancer-preventative component. The study authors suggest spicing up your broccoli with broccoli sprouts, mustard, horseradish or wasabi — the spicier the better. Foods including radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress and brussels sprouts will also boost broccoli’s benefits if they are paired together.

According to scientists, as little as three to five servings of broccoli a week can help protect against cancer.