A Gastroenterologist's Hack To Ensure Frozen Cruciferous Veggies Don't Lose Antioxidants

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Overhead of sliced red cabbage on wooden cutting board with lemon, pepitas / pumpkin seeds, and walnuts

As trips to the market are few and far between, perhaps your grocery list sticks to the basics—that fresh, easily spoiled produce making its way to the freezer aisle. Or perhaps you simply love the ease and convenience of sautéing a bag of pre-steamed broccoli. No matter your motivations, our new normal has us leaning on frozen foods more than ever before.

But here's the thing: Frozen, precooked cruciferous veggies can lose their antioxidant power (namely, sulforaphanes). Good news is, there's a way to pour back in the antioxidants and make sure your frozen veggies are just as nutritious as their raw, crunchy counterparts: All it takes is a sprinkle of mustard seed powder. 

How mustard seed powder helps. 

"Cruciferous veggies contain these phytochemicals called glucosinolates," says gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., MSCI, on the mindbodygreen podcast, "which are kept separate from another enzyme, called myrosinase. Those two chambers are separated, but when you chew those veggies, they create a reaction when mixed together that results in isothiocyanates like sulforaphanes." 

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Tons of scientific jargon here, but basically the two classes of chemicals are combined when you chew the vegetable, causing a reaction that creates those incredible, anti-carcinogenic sulforaphanes. A pretty impressive feat, considering all you had to do is munch on some cauliflower. But when you buy frozen foods, those veggies are typically pre-blanched in order to reduce quality loss over time; when they're scalded as such, they lose the myrosinase enzyme needed to activate the reaction. 

That's not to say you should toss your arsenal of frozen foods; all Bulsiewicz says to do is invest in some mustard seed powder. "Mustard seed powder has the enzyme, myrosinase," he says. Meaning, sprinkle it over your frozen cruciferous veggie stew, and you'll be able to create that same chemical reaction. The result? Antioxidant-rich vegetables with a whole lot of health benefits (gut, skin, you name it). 

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The takeaway. 

Yes, you can rely on frozen foods and still receive all the health benefits cruciferous veggies have to offer. Just snag some mustard seed powder the next time you venture out to the store, and you've got yourself a nutritious, antioxidant-packed meal. Plus, it adds a bit of spicy flavor to whatever dish you're whipping up—perfect to sprinkle on top of some turmeric-roasted cauliflower. 

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