Whether you steam it, microwave it or just eat it raw – broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse that boasts numerous health benefits, including cancer-fighting compounds.
Buying frozen broccoli is convenient, but does it have the same benefits as fresh broccoli?
“People are buying [frozen broccoli] thinking they’re getting the same health-promoting benefits that they are from fresh and we found that they’re not,” said Edward Dosz, a Ph.D. student and food scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
During manufacturing when soon-to-be frozen broccoli is blanched – or quickly heated – it loses its ability to form cancer-fighting compounds by the time it reaches the dinner table. Now, researchers found that the addition of a daikon radish can put the benefits back into frozen broccoli – without affecting its taste.
“If we freeze-dry [the radish] we can add a very, very little to the frozen broccoli and give you all of the health-promoting compounds,” said Elizabeth Jeffrey, a nutritional scientist at the university.
The daikon radish has some of the same beneficial compounds as fresh broccoli. Sprinkling a small amount of a daikon radish freeze-dried powder onto frozen broccoli helps consumers get back the cancer-fighting benefits from the broccoli.
“The manufacturer could add this radish after blanching and before they freeze [the broccoli], … you could … cook it the same way you would right now and you would get the benefit,” Dosz said.
Adding such a small amount of radish powder to frozen broccoli doesn’t change the taste and can’t even be seen. Consumers could also simply add a radish to any dish.
“Like a fresh red radish on your salad, that will do the job,” said Jeffrey.
The researchers say that they have frozen vegetable manufacturers interested in working on putting the freeze-dried daikon radish powder into the frozen manufacturing process. Manufacturers could also blanch the broccoli at a slightly lower temperature and save about 82 percent of the beneficial chemicals in frozen broccoli without hurting food safety and quality.
Horseradish, mustard and raw cauliflower also have anti-cancer properties.
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Elizabeth Jeffrey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign