I visited my favorite used book store over the weekend and I came across this great book, Food as Medicine by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD. The first chapters discuss fruits and vegetables and their phytochemical compounds and the physiological effects of these compounds on the human body. This book sparked my interest in cruciferous vegetables and I wanted to share what I learnt so far.

Sulforaphane is the most sought after component of Broccoli with proven anti-cancer effects

Sulforaphane is the most sought after component of Broccoli with proven anti-cancer effects

Cruciferous vegetables – for example cauliflower, cabbage, cress, bok choy, broccoli – are considered “health foods”, but not everyone knows why. These vegetables are generally high in vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain multiple nutrients and phytochemicals with possible anticancer properties. These effects have been attributed to the activity of isothiocyanates that are converted from their inactive precursors, glucosinolates.

Broccoli, the cancer fighter

Paul Talalay, MD (Service Professor of Pharmacology and Director of the Laboratory for Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) recently expanded our knowledge about Sulforaphane. His research proved that active compounds in broccoli help rid the body from harmful stress and alarm signal molecules and that broccoli is particularly helpful in preventing cancers of the breast and prostate.

Scientists at the American Health Foundation recently discovered that sulforaphane inhibited the formation of premalignant lesions in the colons of rats.

It has been shown to be not only effective in preventing chemically induced cancers in animal models, including colon, lung, breast, pancreatic, skin and stomach cancer, but also inhibit the growth of established tumors.

How to prepare broccoli for maximum health benefits?

Steam cooking had minimal effects on glucosinolate content of broccoli florets compared to high pressure boiling, conventional boiling, and microwave cooking. Sulforaphane however was rapidly degraded when the temperature was 60 °C or above and was degraded by more than 90% after a 20 min treatment at 90 °C. Sulforaphane was found to decompose to volatile compounds due to high temperature – so for the highest Sulphoraphane load it is recommended to eat raw broccoli sprouts instead of cooked/steamed broccoli. Broccoli sprouts contain approximately 20 times more glucoraphanin than broccoli, which represents typically 74% of all glucosinolates in the sprouts.

Broccoli Sprouts

Broccoli Sprouts


Food as Nutrition, Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD
Cancer Chemoprevention by Sulforaphane, a Bioactive Compound from Broccoli/Broccoli Sprouts, Yanyan Li, Graduate Program in Food Science and Nutrition – Dissertation
Promoter de-methylation of cyclin D2 by sulforaphane in prostate cancer cells, Anna Hsu, Carmen P Wong, Zhen Yu, David E Williams, Roderick H Dashwood and Emily Ho

Want to buy Sulforaphane instead of eating broccoli sprouts?