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Overcooking broccoli hurts health benefit

URBANA, Ill., Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A U.S. researcher says overcooking broccoli may hinder its cancer-fighting effect but cooking broccoli powder with its sprouts can double its power.

"Broccoli, prepared correctly, is an extremely potent cancer-fighting agent -- three to five servings a week are enough to have an effect," Elizabeth Jeffery of the University of Illinois says in a statement. "To get broccoli's benefits, though, the enzyme myrosinase has to be present; if it's not there, sulforaphane, broccoli's cancer-preventive and anti-inflammatory component, doesn't form.

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"Steaming broccoli for 2 to 4 minutes is the perfect way to protect both the enzyme and the vegetable's nutrients."

Jeffery cautions overcooking destroys myrosinase. In addition, health-conscious consumers who cook with broccoli powder supplements may be missing out since the supplements may not contain the necessary enzyme.

However Jeffrey and study co-author Jenna Cramer suggest the sulforaphane potential in broccoli powder could be tapped into by adding broccoli sprouts -- which contain myrosinase in abundance.

Jeffry and Cramer are co-authors of a pilot study that determined the powder and sprouts eaten together created high levels of the desired sulforaphane metabolites not found when the powder or sprouts were eaten alone

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"To increase the vegetable's benefits, you could sprinkle broccoli sprouts on your broccoli or make a mustard sauce to serve with broccoli," the researchers say.

The findings are published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.

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