Plus, by overcooking, you've not simply created an unappealing side dish, you've probably destroyed a bulk of the disease-fighting compounds inside. Glucosinolates can easily be lost in cooking, especially during boiling. So use cooking methods that use less water, such as steaming or microwaving.
Here are other ways you can maximize the cruciferous vegetables at your Thanksgiving meal -- and year-round:
Mix it up. Serve a combination of cruciferous vegetables, such as steamed broccoli and cauliflower, or a medley of roasted root vegetables. Some research suggests there is a beneficial synergy between the various compounds in cruciferous vegetables.
Swap out your salad. Instead of iceberg lettuce (or your aunt's favorite Jell-O salad with minimarshmallows), make a cruciferous-rich salad. Try a mixture of arugula and watercress topped with sliced radishes. Or add broccoli sprouts; they contain about 50 times the amount of cancer-fighting compounds as mature broccoli.
Take a fresh look. Give Brussels sprouts a second chance. Try sautéing or roasting them with a little olive oil. Farm-fresh Brussels sprouts are less pungent, and sautéing and roasting actually bring out their sweetness.
Start off raw. Before the big meal, serve a raw veggie platter with broccoli and cauliflower florets. Cruciferous vegetables in their raw form contain more of the anti-cancer compounds.
Spice it up. Cook cruciferous vegetables with garlic and lots of spices. Garlic offers heart health benefits, and spices are rich in antioxidants. Some research suggests spices help maximize the antioxidant content of the final dish.
Banish the bitterness. If you're sensitive to the bitterness of cruciferous vegetables, a salty, sweet or sour flavor can reduce the bitter taste. Try adding a dash of soy sauce, lemon juice or vinegar. Or glaze them with a little honey, syrup or marmalade.
Janet Helm, MS, RD, is a Chicago-based registered dietitian and nutrition consultant.