Broccoli Sprouts: All You Need to Know About This Amazing Superfood and 3 Health Benefits
Broccoli Sprouts: All You Need to Know About This Amazing Superfood and 4 Health Benefits
Broccoli Sprouts are widely accepted (even though not so heartily enjoyed!) as one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods on the planet. Broccoli sprouts that germinate from seeds of the broccoli plant are increasingly popular for their high nutritional value and wide-ranging health benefits. Research suggests that sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts may help fight free radical damage, boost brain function, soothe inflammation, and prevent various types of cancer.
Read on to find out more about broccoli sprouts, their numerous benefits, and how to grow them at home.
Broccoli comes from the family of cruciferous vegetables – the same family that includes some highly nutritious vegetables like kale, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and bok choy. Extensively studied for their role in cancer prevention, vegetables from this family contain an inactive compound called glucoraphanin. When broken down by chewing or chopping, glucoraphanin releases an enzyme and reacts with it to produce a biologically active compound called sulforaphane.
While all cruciferous vegetables contain this compound, broccoli sprouts are one of the most abundant plant sources of sulforaphane, containing over 100-400 times more glucoraphanin than any member of this family. Scientists believe that sulforaphane is responsible for some surprising health benefits of broccoli sprouts, particularly those related to chemoprevention and brain health.
Health benefits of broccoli sprouts
1. Cancer prevention
According to a 2020 study, sulforaphane has multiple mechanisms of action that may help prevent the progression of various types of cancer, including breast, liver, prostate, bladder, colon, and lung cancer. Numerous independent studies have shown that this compound promotes programmed cell death, induces cell cycle arrest, and inhibits the formation of new blood vessels – thereby choking the blood supply of tumors and reducing their growth.
Researchers also found that people who consumed sulforaphane regularly expressed higher levels of tumor suppressor gene p16 than those who did not consume any cruciferous vegetable – which also indicates that sulforaphane triggers epigenetic alterations (temporary genetic changes due to food and environment) that enhance protection even after this compound has been eliminated from the body.
Sulforaphane present in broccoli sprouts has been shown to activate certain key enzymes that help the liver eliminate potential carcinogens and toxic chemicals from the bloodstream, which we may have ingested or absorbed from food, personal care products, or the environment. One 2014 trial found that participants who were given broccoli sprouts excreted significantly higher amounts of carcinogen benzene (61% higher elimination) and air pollutants than the placebo group. Another study suggested that sulforaphane may help activate a signaling molecule Nrf2, which increases the capacity of cells to survive a broad range of environmental stressors and toxins.
3. Boosts brain health
Being a well-known nootropic, sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts improves cognition, lowers stress levels, regulates mood, and supports the nervous system. Because of their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, broccoli sprouts may also help prevent premature death of brain cells and protect them against the harmful effects of free radicals and inflammation. By activating the Nrf2 signaling pathway, sulforaphane reduces the accumulation of amyloid-beta plaques in the brain cells – a type of metabolic toxin that impairs cognition and memory. According to a 2017 study, dietary sources of sulforaphane may help reduce the risk of brain diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, brain stroke, autism spectrum disorders, and traumatic brain injury.
4. Incredibly nutritious
Just like the nutritional powerhouse broccoli, its sprouts are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds. A 3-ounce serving of broccoli sprouts can alone provide 60% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Vitamin C is crucial for a well-functioning immune system and plays a key role in the regeneration of tissues. It also helps maintain healthy skin and hair since our body uses vitamin C to make structural proteins like collagen, elastin, and keratin. Broccoli sprouts also provide good amounts of protein, fiber, vitamin A, iron, and calcium while being quite low in calories and fats.
Broccoli sprouts vs. broccoli vegetable: which one is more nutritious?
While both broccoli sprouts and broccoli are among the healthiest foods on the planet, they contain different kinds of nutrients and phytochemicals – and hence different health benefits, too. This is why picking one over the other is never a good idea. However, the amount of cancer-fighting sulforaphane is about 100 times higher in broccoli sprouts than in any cruciferous vegetable, including broccoli.
On the other hand, broccoli provides powerful antioxidants that boost eye health, lower the risk of heart disease, lower inflammation, promote hormonal balance, and support gut health. Also, broccoli can be cooked, whereas cooking sprouts may destroy many of their beneficial compounds. Therefore, including both of them in your diet can bring you the best of both worlds.
How to grow broccoli sprouts at home
While growing broccoli sprouts at home can be an extremely simple and inexpensive alternative to purchasing them, even if you are a complete beginner, this process requires utmost care and some basic understanding of how living foods work.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to growing broccoli sprouts safely at home.
- Soak broccoli seeds in water overnight.
- Next morning, rinse thoroughly and transfer them to a sprouting jar. Keep the jar at room temperature and possibly in a dark place.
- Rinse the seeds well at least 2-3 times a day. This step is extremely important to minimize the risk of bacterial contamination.
- When the sprouts are fully formed (usually within 3-5 days), give them a final rinse and store them in the fridge.
Make broccoli sprouts in small batches and use them within 4-5 days. If you notice mold formation or any kind of sour smell, it probably means that they are not safe to eat anymore.
Safety and risks of eating raw broccoli sprouts
While eating raw broccoli sprouts is generally considered safe, some people may experience digestive problems like cramps, diarrhea, or bloating. Sprouts are living foods that are grown in warm and humid conditions, because of which they run the risk of being contaminated by bacteria and pathogens.
It is important to wash them properly before enjoying them. According to FDA guidelines, eating raw sprouts is not recommended for people with compromised immunity, pregnant women, children, breastfeeding mothers, and elderly individuals.
If you frequently experience digestive problems after eating raw broccoli sprouts, you can still get the beneficial sulforaphane (though in lesser concentration) by eating cooked broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. Some studies have found that adding a pinch of mustard seed powder to cooked broccoli can increase the bioavailability of sulforaphane by up to four times.
Broccoli sprouts are a highly nutritious addition to any diet. Apart from being high in vitamins and protein, they are also one of the richest sources of a therapeutic compound called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane has been known to protect cells against oxidative damage, support heart health, lower inflammation, enhance detoxification of cancer-causing chemicals, and reduce the progression of tumors. However, having a high risk of contamination, broccoli sprouts need to be grown and eaten with utmost care and cleanliness.
To Your Health!