Why a Broccoli Supplement Is No Substitute for the Whole Food

Photo credit: Bigstockphoto
Photo credit: Bigstockphoto

Broccoli is a polarizing vegetable. In surveys, broccoli tops the charts as one of the top three favorite vegetables Americans love to munch on right after potatoes and corn. But there are still plenty of people who despise the taste of this green, crunchy vegetable and refuse to put it on their plate.

Broccoli Supplements: Are They a Good Substitute for the Real Thing?

Despite its polarizing taste, no one can deny the health benefits of broccoli. That’s why some health conscious people head over to the health food store to pick up a broccoli supplement in hopes of getting the benefits of broccoli without the taste. But according to a recent study, broccoli supplements may not have the same benefits as eating broccoli sprouts.

The Benefits of Broccoli

Broccoli is a rich source of compounds called glucosinolates. When you chew on broccoli sprouts, glucosinolates are converted into powerful anti-cancer chemicals called isothiocyanates. This requires the action of an enzyme called myosinase found in large amounts in young broccoli sprouts. The isothiocyanates created by the action of myrosinase pack a powerful punch against cancer cells in the laboratory.

When you buy broccoli supplements at health food stores, the supplements are processed in such a way that it reduces myrosinase activity. This means there fewer isothiocyanates available for your body to use to keep cancer at bay.

Researchers from Ohio State University and Oregon State University studied this by comparing the bioavailability of isothiocyanates in humans who took either a broccoli supplement (BroccoMax) or ate fresh broccoli sprouts. More cancer-fighting isothiocyanates were formed when participants ate broccoli sprouts, and they got far fewer when they took a broccoli supplement.

What Does This Mean?

You probably won’t get the same anti-cancer benefits from popping a broccoli pill. Broccoli supplements have been processed in a way that removes the enzyme necessary for converting glucosinolates into cancer-protective isothiocyanates. Therefore, the benefits are reduced.

To get the cancer-fighting power of broccoli, nothing beats the whole food. There may be other compounds in broccoli and broccoli sprouts yet to be isolated that work in conjunction with isothiocyanates to boost their effectiveness. You may not get those when you take a broccoli supplement.

The Bottom Line?

Nature has provided the perfect balance of cancer-fighting compounds that work together in broccoli and broccoli sprouts. Broccoli sprouts are one of the best sources of myosinase. The mature broccoli plant has less of it, and some of it’s destroyed with cooking. That’s why some experts suggest eating broccoli sprouts with mature broccoli to supply the enzyme that’s lacking in mature, cooked broccoli.

If you do this, wash your broccoli sprouts well and soak them in a dilute vinegar solution before eating them. Sprouts can harbor bacteria that cause food poisoning. Get the benefits of broccoli by eating it whole. Don’t waste your money on supplements.


Nutraingredients-USA.com. “Sprouts Beat Supplements for Broccoli Benefits: Study”
World’s Healthiest Foods. “Broccoli”
Foodreference.com. “National Survey Reveals Potatoes Are America’s Favorite Vegetable”

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