broccoli stem and florets

Broccoli is full of potent anti-cancer agents only if it is eaten raw. We will show you how to cook broccoli without losing all the healthy cancer fighting agents.

Why broccoli is healthy

Broccoli is one of the most healthiest vegetables around. It belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables. It owns  it’s healthy reputation to the fact that broccoli forms an active compound called sulforaphane (SPN) that is proven to kill cancer cells. SPN is also believed to protect us from free radicals, boost our livers detoxification ability and prevent formation of cancer cells. A study conducted over 8 years has shown that people with bladder cancer who ate even just one portion of raw broccoli a month had a much better survival rate than those not eating raw broccoli.

This potent compound (SPN) is found in cruciferous vegetables with broccoli being one of the richest sources. It can also be found in brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, broccoli seeds, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, mustard greens etc.

Vegetables with sulforaphane

Why raw broccoli is healthier than cooked

Sulforophane isn’t directly present in broccoli but it is formed in a reaction from glucoraphanin. To get SPN from glucoraphnin an enzyme called myrosinase must be released from the brocolli cells. When brocolli cells are destroyed, eg. when we are chewing, cutting or chopping broccoli,  myrosinase is released and reacts with glucoraphanin through a hydrolysis process. The result is the forming of SPN. Only when SPN is successfully formed in adequate amounts it can be used by our bodies for preventing and fighting cancer.

The problem is that the enzyme myrosinase is water-soluble and it is destroyed under high temperatures. In other words when you cook, stir-fry, microwave or heat your brocolli in any other way you are destroying all the enzymes and SPN can’t be formed. That way you might think you’re eating healthy vegetables but you’re actually depriving yourself from the most beneficial ingredient brocolli can give you.

Frozen broccoli isn’t any better

Although frozen vegetables have many benefits, frozen brocolli can’t form any SPN because it has been blanched prior to being packaged. This way all the enzymes were destroyed, which means that it is impossible to get any SPN from this kind of broccoli.

But for many of us eating raw broccoli isn’t the most appealing idea.

How you can cook broccoli and get sulforaphane after all


Broccoli with sulforaphane

Glucoraphanin, the main compound from which SPN is formed isn’t destroyed by heat. It is present in raw, cooked, boiled, roasted, baked and even frozen brocolli. Only the enzyme has been destroyed. So why not add some enzyme from the side? A study from the University of Reading in the UK, did just that. They researched if adding mustard powder, that contains the same enzyme like broccoli, will aid the formation of SPN in cooked and frozen brocolli. The researchers found out that adding only a small amount of powdered mustard seeds to the heat processed broccoli significantly increased the formation of SPN. Researchers have found that the amount of SPN that is formed this way is almost identical to the amount that is formed when eating raw broccoli.

It seems that only a pinch of mustard powder will do the trick. Simply cook brocolli the way you are used to and add a pinch of mustard powder over the finished meal. This will allow the formation of SPN in your body helping you prevent cancer. This way you can even use frozen brocolli while cooking and adding the enzyme at the end.

Simply cook brocolli the way you are used to and add a pinch of mustard powder over the finished meal. This will allow the formation of SPN in your body helping you prevent cancer.

The myrosinase enzyme is not only found in mustard seeds but also in horseradish, wasabi powder or daikon radish. Simply add a little bit of any of these foods to your finished meals at the end and enjoy all the health benefits of brocolli.

Practical tips how to aid sulforaphane production in your kitchen

Fish with grated broccoli

Fish with grated raw broccoli


Here is a list of practical tips of how to cook broccoli to aid SPN formation. I find the solution of adding mustard powder by far the most practical but if you don’t like the taste try one of these techniques:

  • Chop your broccoli prior to cooking
    After chopping let it sit for about an hour. This way the enzyme will have reacted with glucoraphanin and SPN will already be formed when you start cooking. After SPN has been formed you can cook your broccoli all you want.
  • Use raw broccoli in your cooking
    Check out this delicious recipe for raw broccoli balls.
  • Add raw broccoli to cooked one
    Add some raw, grated broccoli to the cooked broccoli. This way your adding the enzymes from the raw broccoli that will react with glucoraphanin from the cooked and raw broccoli forming much more SPN.
  • Add mustard powder
    I have to add this to the list again since it is an excellent way to activate all the detoxifying, cancer fighting agents of broccoli.
  • Soak and wash your broccoli
    Make broccoli even healthier by getting rid of the pesticides on the food. Simply soak your vegetables before cooking in a salt bath for 5 minutes and rinse before cooking.

Remember that these tips can be used not only with broccoli but with all the vegetables from the cruciferouse family. Although broccoli can form the most amount of SPN all the cabbage-like vegetables have the ability to form SPN making them all, important for our health.

Photo credit: fresh broccoli, Designed by Freepik