Sulforaphane is formed from cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower and has many potential benefits on the body. But how we prepare our vegetables can impact the amount of sulforaphane created. Let’s look at how to maximize sulforaphane production from our veggies.
Last week in my blog post, we covered the different types of cruciferous vegetables and discussed the phytonutrients that we can get from cruciferous vegetables. One of the most beneficial is sulforaphane/sulphoraphane. It is an isothiocyanate (ICT). Other ICTs are formed by different cruciferous veg, but as sulforaphane is the most researched, I will use it as an example here but the same principles apply for other ICTs.
Sulforaphane can have key actions defending our cells by switching on and off certain genes. Many studies and reviews show a positive effect of cruciferous vegetables on cardiovascular mortality, cancer, cognitive decline, and many other chronic illnesses.
But cruciferous vegetables don’t come with pre-formed sulforaphane. Instead, it’s more like a little package of chemical reactions waiting to happen. Some chemicals are in one area of the plant and they need to come into contact with chemicals in others. When the chemicals mix, sulforaphane is formed.
FYI, the chemicals are:
Glycosinolates + myrosinase = sulforaphane and other ICTs.
Myrosinase is an enzyme that is held in a different part of the plant than the glycosinolates. By cutting or chewing the vegetables, we release myrosinase which can then come in contact with glycosinolates. This combination results in sulforaphane being formed. This process works well when eating raw cruciferous vegetables.
However, myrosinase is a little bit delicate and is destroyed by heat. So how do we prepare our cruciferous vegetables so as not to destroy myrosinase so it can do its magic and make sulforaphane?
Maximize sulforaphane production
As you can see, how we cook these veggies is important because how efficiently the plant makes sulforaphane from glycosinolates and myrosinase is key to controlling the health-promoting properties.
Make time for myrosinase
So chopping and chewing are integral to eating cruciferous vegetables in order to get the most health-promoting benefits.
If eating raw – chop into small pieces and chew well. The sulforaphane reaction will begin on the chopping board or in your mouth and can continue in the stomach. Think about the broccoli hummus recipe from last week. I chopped the broccoli in the food processor first to release the myrosinase.
If cooking, chop first and wait at least 15 minutes before cooking.
To look at a cooking example, if you make broccoli soup, you may well hardly chop your broccoli before boiling it and then at the end of the recipe, you throw the whole thing in a blender or food processor to blend it up. The better way to ensure you get more sulforaphane is to put the broccoli in the blender or food processor first, then let it sit for 15+ minutes and then make the soup. The soup will then have higher sulforaphane levels.
Similarly, if you are doing a stir fry with cruciferous vegetables, cut up the veg first. Let them sit for 15 minutes while you prepare everything else. Then cook everything together.
Think of that “myrosinase time” as a time to do other prep like laying the table, organizing the other food, pouring some water, etc.
Let me know what you do in your “myrosinase time” this week! Maybe you could go for a walk, do some exercise, drink some water…..or relax, journal, meditate. Make the most of this new little 15-minute window in your life!
Stay tuned for a cruciferous vegetable recipe this Friday, to maximize sulforaphane production. Also, next Tuesday I’ll explain how to remedy a situation if you have cooked or used frozen cruciferous vegetables and destroyed the myrosinase.
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