You're Eating Your Broccoli Wrong And Missing Out On Cancer-Fighting Benefits

Broccoli in its more immature sprout form may be an underrated health food. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Broccoli is healthy, but baby broccoli sprouts may be even healthier and have between 10 to 100 times more cancer-fighting compounds than the more mature florets. There's just one catch: cooking these veggies can completely deplete these powerful compounds. Luckily a team of researchers has figured out a way to cook the sprouts while still conserving the majority of their health benefits.

Raw broccoli sprouts contain high amounts of a powerful compound called glucosinolates. These compounds and their metabolites—what they become when broken down—may contribute to various aspect of human health and disease prevention, including fighting both cancer and inflammation.

A new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed that cooking broccoli sprouts with high pressure can help to preserve up to 85 percent of the glucosinolates found in the veggies—something boiling and microwaving can't quite do. The new findings mean that high-pressure processed broccoli sprouts could soon be added to the ever-changing list of popular health foods.

Related: Sulforaphane, A Chemical In Broccoli May Help Diabetics Control Blood Sugar

Lead study author Volker Böhm of the Institute of Nutrition at Friedrich Schiller University Jena, explains that these properties are most effective when someone regularly eats the sprouts. "Thus, especially young people starting to regularly eat sprouts will take advantage of this habit," Böhm told Newsweek.

Although you may think that eating the sprouts raw and simply washed in water may help you reap these benefits without losing large amounts of cancer-fighting compounds, Böhm warns against this as well. "Washing with water is not enough to decrease the numbers of diverse bacteria and to get microbial safety of the product," he explained. "Decreasing of numbers of bacteria is especially difficult for sprouts due to the texture."

This isn't the first time scientists have eyed immature broccoli sprouts for their underrated health benefits. A 2014 study suggested that another chemical found in the sprouts called sulforaphane helped to relieve some symptoms of moderate to severe autism such as social interaction, verbal communication, and decreases in repetitive behavior.

Related: Move Over Broccoli, Cauliflower Is The Newest Superfood

Of course a high-pressure processing machine is not something that the average person has in their kitchen cabinet, and Böhm explained that the process is not even possible at home. Consumers could theoretically buy products already processed this way, but at the moment high-pressure processed broccoli sprouts are not widely available. Still, perhaps if word gets out about how healthy these tiny veggies actually are, high pressure processed broccoli sprouts may soon be debuted at your nearest health store.