Nutritionists have long touted broccoli's healthful qualities, but now they think that spicing it up with broccoli sprouts, mustard, horseradish or wasabi can actually boost its cancer-fighting powers.

When fresh broccoli is teamed with a spicy food that contains myrosinase, the enzyme necessary to form sulforaphane (the vegetable's cancer-preventive component), it significantly enhances each food's cancer-fighting power, according to a new University of Illinois study.

The magic (read: complex scientific concepts we don't understand) happens when you increase the amount of myrosinase in your food, which ensures that sulforaphane is released and absorbed in the upper part of the digestive system, where you derive the most benefit from it.

The key is pairing broccoli with a food that contains the enzyme myrosinase. You can also eat it with radishes, cabbage, arugula, watercress and Brussels sprouts to amp up its cancer-fighting power.

It's also best not to cook broccoli for too long. Even if it's overcooked, however, you can still derive some cancer-fighting benefits.

Though they're scientists, not chefs, they recommend lightly steaming broccoli for two to four minutes. Recommended dosage: three to five servings of broccoli per week. And the spicier it gets, the better it is for you. Praise the science, and pass the mustard.

The study is available pre-publication online in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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LA Weekly