If you've ever thought that the piece of broccoli on your plate needed a little extra "something," chances are you're right, according to a report published on September 13, 2011 in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Broccoli contains glucoraphanin, which converts in the body to a compound known as sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is an isothiocyanate that is responsible for broccoli's cancer-preventive benefit. While the gut's flora enable the release of sulforaphane in the lower intestine, it is necessary for glucoraphanin to be hydrolyzed by the enzyme myrosinase in order for sulforaphane to be released in the upper intestine. Myrosinase is found in broccoli sprouts, mustard, horseradish and other foods, but is deficient in some powdered broccoli supplements.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign evaluated the absorption of a glucoraphanin-rich broccoli powder alone and in combination with fresh broccoli sprouts. Four men were assigned to consume four meals enhanced with broccoli powder, broccoli sprouts, broccoli powder and sprouts, or neither, after which sulforaphane metabolites were measured in blood and urine.
Plasma isothiocyanate levels were higher one-half hour after meals containing broccoli sprouts alone or in combination with broccoli powder. Isothiocyanates peaked in blood plasma after the consumption of broccoli with sprouts in half the time as that determined for broccoli or sprouts alone, and levels were higher than those measured after the other meals. The highest urinary sulforaphane metabolite levels were observed following the consumption of both broccoli and broccoli sprouts.
"Here's another benefit of protecting and enhancing the myrosinase in your foods," stated coauthor Elizabeth H. Jeffrey. "If myrosinase is present, sulforaphane is released in the ileum, the first part of your digestive system. Absorption happens well and quickly there, which is why we saw bioactivity in 30 minutes."
"To get this effect, spice up your broccoli with broccoli sprouts, mustard, horseradish, or wasabi," she recommended. "The spicier, the better; that means it's being effective."
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