Even more reasons to EAT your greens

29 April 2019

Sulforaphane is a naturally occurring compound in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and kale that I have mentioned a few times in the past.

It is well studied to be antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and may even protect against ageing and diabetes. I now wanted to share some newer information I’ve come across,  that the Sulforaphane is activated only when vegetables are chopped or chewed!

How so?

Sulforaphane is formed in cruciferous veggies by the mixing of a precursor compound called glucosinolate glucoraphanin with an enzyme also present in the plant called myrosinase - which transforms the glucosinolate glucoraphanin into sulforaphane. This magical reaction occurs when the plant is damaged (by chewing, blending, chopping, etc.) allowing the two compounds to mix and create Sulforaphane.

Cooking inactivates myrosinase, as such raw veggies have the highest levels of sulforaphane - this study found that raw broccoli had ten times more sulforaphane than cooked broccoli (1) -  but eating a plethora of raw broccoli is not the most palatable to be fair is it?! - but there is a way around this:

If you get into the habit of chopping up your broccoli (or sprouts, cauliflower, kale etc) and then WAIT for 45 mins, you can then steam or roast your veggies and the sulforaphane has already been formed so the enzyme is not required.

Frozen vegetables lacks this ability because they are blanched (flash-cooked) before being frozen - but I have now got into the habit of chopping my cruciferous veggies in the morning before work and popping them in a bowl in the fridge ready for the evening meal.

How to then cook once your pre-chopped?

  • Steaming them for one to three minutes
  • Roasting below  (200˚C)
  • Avoid boiling or microwaving (ewhhh) cruciferous vegetables.

Some health benefits of Sulforaphane

1. Anti Inflammatory

Sulforaphane activates the Nrf2 pathway. This sounds like warlords off a Dr Who episode, but Nrf2 is a protein inside every cell in the body which when activated triggers the production of our most potent antioxidant - Glutathione which reduces inflammation and helps the body protect against disease.

2. Brain power

Sulforaphane is considered a nootropic (improves cognitive function) because it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Studies in humans after mouse studies, showed that this compound reduced depressive symptoms and anxiety. Other studies found that it increases neurite growth. This means that it may help damaged neurons repair after injury or from ageing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27255600

3. May Protect Against Cancer

Sulforaphane has been shown to:

  • target cancer cells while protecting healthy cells

  • prohibit the growth of cancer cells while encouraging the growth of healthy cells

  • increase the efficacy of anti-cancer drugs (meaning a lower dose can be used).


4. Liver support

A 2011 study showed sulforaphane protecting the liver from oxidative damage, even at the mitochondrial level. By scavenging both free radicals and reducing inflammatory stress on the liver, it helped boost overall liver health as a “hepatoprotector.”

And finally  - my favourite dish at the moment is roasted Cauliflower, here’s my recipe:

Roasted Cauliflower Steaks and Lemon Tahini Dressing


  • 1 medium cauliflower
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 50g Tahini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to season


  1. Slice raw cauliflower into “steaks” in the morning or at least 45 mins before roasting.
  2. Drizzle in olive oil - just to coat and roast at  200c for half an hour.
  3. Now make the Lemon and Tahini dressing. Put the lemon juice, garlic, tahini and 50ml cold water in a small bowl. Mix well to form a loose dressing and season to taste.
  4. Take the cauliflower out of the oven after 30 mins, pour the tahini sauce over and enjoy with a fresh green mixed salad for lunch - delicious x