Phenylethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC) was reported as a useful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and chemopreventive agent. Due to technological and stability issues, it is necessary to be able to extract PEITC from its natural matrix (watercress) through sustainable and scalable methodologies. In this article, we explored, for the first time, the extractive capacity of aqueous micellar systems (AMSs) of two non-ionic surfactants. For this, we compared the AMSs with conventional organic solvents. Furthermore, we developed and optimised a new integral PEITC production and extraction process by a multifactorial experimental design. Finally, we analysed the antioxidant capacity by the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) and ABTS methods. As results, the AMSs were able to extract PEITC at the same level as the tested conventional solvents. In addition, we optimised by response surface methodology the integrated process (2.0% m/m, 25.0 °C, pH 9.0), which was equally effective (ca. 2900 µg PEITC/g watercress), regardless of the surfactant used. The optimal extracts showed greater antioxidant capacity than pure PEITC, due to other antioxidant compounds extracted in the process. In conclusion, by the present work, we developed an innovative cost-effective and low environmental impact process for obtaining PEITC extracts from watercress by-products.
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