You may not have heard of sulforaphane, but you’ll definitely want its benefits.
This tiny sulfur-based nutrient is one of the reasons why dark green vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and even cauliflower are so good for you.
It is found in all cruciferous vegetables including kale, bok choy, cabbage and more.
Benefits of sulforaphane
It neutralizes toxins. Phytochemicals like sulforaphane are antioxidants that cancel out free radicals. Free radical are tiny particles that weaken and damage healthy cells. They form in your body because of pollution, UV rays, food additives and preservatives, and even through natural processes like digestion.
It reduces inflammation. Because sulforaphane neutralizes toxins, it also calms inflammation in your body. Inflammation has been linked to several kinds of cancer.
It may protect your DNA. Some studies have shown that sulforaphane blocks mutations in DNA that lead to cancer.
It may slow tumor growth. Sulforaphane has been shown to reduce the ability of cancerous cells to multiply. That means it may slow tumor growth or reduce its ability to spread to other parts of your body.
It is readily available. You don’t have to do anything complicated to access the sulforaphane in cruciferous vegetables. All you have to do is steam the veggies or eat them raw. Roasting them also retains most of the nutrients.
Eat sulforaphane in plant form
The best way to access this nutrient is to eat it in its plant form, along with a variety of other vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
That’s because there are many other nutrients in plant foods and it’s likely they all work together to provide the most benefit.
“We aren’t sure if it’s one phytochemical that’s working against cancer or if it’s a combination of all of them,” says MD Anderson Research Dietitian Erma Levy. “Many different phytochemicals have been shown to have anti-cancer properties and no one fruit or vegetable will provide everything your body needs.”
This means supplements are out because they isolate nutrients and remove many of the benefits of plants.
Also out are broccoli-only diets. To ensure you get all the benefits, always focus on eating a variety of different colored plant foods.
More about phytochemicals
Sulforaphane is associated with leafy vegetables that are usually green but can be purple. But plants of other colors have different phytochemicals and antioxidants.
And the way you cook them can increase the amount of healthy nutrients available to you. For example, cooked tomatoes have more lycopene. Lycopene also helps reduce your cancer risk.
Here are more vital nutrients and tips on how to eat them.
Whatever you do, use healthy cooking techniques and avoid methods that destroy the benefits of plants. That includes deep frying, adding a lot of sugar and coating vegetables in cream or cheese sauces.