Broccoli contains sulforaphanes, which target cancer stem cells. Raw broccoli contains the highest levels of sulforaphanes, followed by the steamed one. Creative Commons

Researchers at Britain's Institute of Food Research and the John Innes Centre have developed a new broccoli, known as Beneforté, with capabilities to fight cancer. It is now available in the UK market.

The researchers used conventional breeding techniques to develop the new broccoli, which contains two to three times the level of the phytonutrient glucoraphanin than standard broccoli. Glucoraphanin is a beneficial chemical that is found naturally in broccoli and useful against heart disease and cancer and boosts the body's antioxidant enzyme levels.

"Our research has given new insights into the role of broccoli and other similar vegetables in promoting health, and has shown how this understanding can lead to the development of potentially more nutritious varieties of our familiar vegetables," said Professor Richard Mithen at Institute of Food Research.

The new Beneforté broccoli is now available at Marks and Spencer stores across the country, and will be more widely available in other supermarkets next summer.

"This is a fantastic achievement and testament to the quality of research we have in this country and its ability to drive growth. This excellent work has led to the development of a highly commercial food product that will be both grown and sold in the UK, giving a real boost to agriculture, our personal health and the economy," said Science Minister David Willetts.

Broccoli is the only commonly eaten vegetable that contains meaningful quantities of glucoraphanin. This naturally occurring compound is converted in the gut to the bioactive compound sulforaphane, which then circulates in the bloodstream.

Scientific evidence gathered so far shows that sulforaphane is likely to have beneficial effects such as reducing chronic inflammation, stopping uncontrolled cell division associated with early stages of cancer, and inducing antioxidant enzymes.