This Is the Healthiest Way to Prepare Broccoli, According to Science

Ask any unhappy little kid at the dinner table and they'll tell you: Ya gotta eat your veggies. But you can do even better — scientists found a new way to prepare one common vegetable to boost its benefits to the max. Bring it on, broccoli.

Buh-Bye, Boiling

Broccoli has long been a poster child for healthy foods. And that's no coincidence: Broccoli has been found to slash blood sugar in type II diabetics, fight cancer, and more. The bad news is that not a lot of the stuff that makes broccoli so good for us survives our usual methods of preparing it. The good stuff here being sulforaphane, an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer.

Sulforaphane turns out to be pretty tricky to get at in raw broccoli. It, and compounds like it, exists in the form of glucosinolates, which need an enzyme called myrosinase to break them down. How do you get myrosinase working? Just by doing damage to the broccoli. Unfortunately, preparation methods like boiling and microwaving don't count. They seriously reduce the levels of glucosinolates in broccoli, thus giving us less sulforaphane. Bummer.

Boost Your Broc

For a study published in January 2018, Chinese researchers dove into ways of cooking broccoli that could possibly maintain its cancer-fighting goodness. They started by examining a common method in China: stir-frying. "Surprisingly, few methods have reported the sulforaphane concentrations in stir-fried broccoli, and to the best of our knowledge, no report has focused on sulforaphane stability in the stir-frying process," the researchers noted in the study. Luckily, they figured out a method for preparing broccoli that maintains as much of the good stuff as possible.

By trying several methods and measuring the resulting sulforaphane levels, they found a healthier alternative to stir-frying. Ready? The researchers chopped up the broccoli into tiny pieces, let it sit for 90 minutes, then lightly stir-fried it. The broccoli that was left out to let the enzymes do their thing had 2.8 times as much sulforaphane content as the broccoli that was stir-fried right away. Though it increases your meal prep time, it also increases your broccoli's nutritional power. Is it worth the extra effort? That's up to you.

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For a deep dive into the science of your food, check out "Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition" by T. Colin Campbell. The audiobook is free with a 30-day trial of Audible. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Joanie Faletto February 27, 2018

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