Does fresh broccoli trump broccoli supplements? According to recent research, you may need to eat the whole vegetable to reap the full health benefits.

When eaten raw or lightly cooked, broccoli’s enzymes help break down glucosinolates into two beneficial compounds: sulforaphane and erucin. Because supplements lack these enzymes, the body absorbs five to eight times fewer healthy metabolites, say researchers.

But don’t ditch your sulforaphane supplements yet: Researchers from the University of Illinois recently reported that combining supplements with nutrient-dense broccoli sprouts may boost sulforaphane absorption. Plus, epidemiological studies indicate that you would need to eat 11/2 pounds of minimally cooked or raw broccoli or other brassica vegetables every day for years to get the full benefit of these compounds.

For a synergistic solution, eat one serving of brassicas (cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy) in combination with a dose of broccoli-seed extract daily.