Broccoli Sprouts: Why You Should Eat Them & How To Grow Them at Home
There is a one-word answer to why everyone should eat broccoli sprouts: Sulforaphane.
Sulfur-o-what? Let’s start with the basics.
What is sulforaphane and where is it found?
Sulforaphane is a sulfur-rich compound found in cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, etc…
Why should you be eating foods rich in sulforaphane?
Sulforaphane has been shown to have a plethora of health benefits including anticancer, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and neuroprotective properties. There are even clinical studies that have shown that autistic individuals who were given relatively low doses of sulforaphane showed an increase in brain function. In layman’s terms, it’s a super potent dietary component that we should all be trying to include in our daily lives.
So… why sprouts? Why not just eat raw broccoli?
Well, you can. However, studies have shown that broccoli sprouts may contain up to 100x as much glucoraphanin (remember that bio-unavailable compound that you need to munch on to make it a potent superfood?) as mature broccoli.
How To Get Sulforaphane In Your Diet
Now, bear with me here, as I am going to dive into the biochemistry for a minute.
In cruciferous veggies, sulforaphane is present in an inactive form called glucoraphanin. What does this mean?
It means that our bodies use sulforaphane, but the form of sulforaphane present in veggies is not available to us (also known as being bio-unavailable). To get to the good stuff (sulforaphane, bioavailable) that our bodies can use to fight cancer, bugs, inflammation, etc…, the sulforaphane needs to be activated (made available) by an enzyme called myrosinase. Myrosinase enzymes are produced by plants when the plant itself is beat up.
What? Yep, you read that right – the broccoli needs to be damaged and when the damage occurs the plant itself will produce myrosinase that is required to convert glucoraphanin to sulforaphane. This damage can come in the form of cutting, blending, or, simply, chewing.
Now, it’s time to note that I did not mention “heat” as a form of damage that results in bioavailable sulforaphane. Unfortunately, cooking your cruciferous veggies above 60°C for any longer than 10 minutes deactivates myrosinase, which results in the sulforaphane being trapped as the precursor glucoraphanin.
For reference, when I roast broccoli at home, I set the oven to 400-425°F and roast the broccoli for 15-20 minutes. This combination of heat and time doesn’t completely turn the broccoli to mush (as what normally happens when I try to steam broccoli) and leave it with that wonderful al-dente texture I prefer.
However, I’ll take a minute here to do the conversion for you: 400°F is over 200°C. This means that not only am I cooking for nearly 2x the length of time but also over 3x the temperature at which myrosinase is deactivated.
Therefore, to optimize your sulforaphane intake while eating cruciferous veggies, raw or *barely* steamed is key.
If you can simply just not stomach raw broccoli, there is still hope for you increasing your sulforaphane intake (…maybe). Keep in mind, the precursor glucoraphanin is STILL in your veggies after cooking, you’ve just deactivated the naturally present myrosinase that can help you convert the glucoraphanin to sulforaphane. A recent study reports that adding dry mustard powder to your cooked cruciferous veggies results in up to 4x the amount of bioavailable sulforaphane when compared to eating the cooked broccoli with no mustard powder. So, if you cannot stomach raw broccoli, just make sure to add mustard powder to your broccoli after cooking it.
Note: the minerals in your cruciferous veggies (like magnesium, calcium, etc…) are more bioavailable when you cook the vegetables prior to ingesting. Therefore, to get all the goodness out of your vegetables, a mix of both raw and cooked is likely your best bet.
We add sprouts on top of salads, egg dishes, and even on top of vegetable hashes. Anything that would benefit from broccoli is usually a good way to add sprouts to your diet.Have you ever sprouted your own broccoli sprouts? What about other seeds?
The Growing Of
Rumor has it that high-end grocery stores that specialize in fresh produce sell broccoli sprouts. Personally, I have never come across broccoli sprouts in the grocery store; however, do not fear. Growing broccoli sprouts in your home is so easy. The seed is very inexpensive (even if you buy organic, which you should), the gear required is very minimal, and you can go from seed to edible sprouts in as little as 4-5 days.
Next, I will give you a run-down on how to grow sprouts at home and the materials I personally use. I’m sure there are many comparable products and seeds on the market, but I’ll let you know where I got mine (I have no affiliation with the sites/companies).
- Broccoli Seeds
- 1 Quart Jar
- Sprouting Lid
- 1 Tablespoon Measuring Spoon
We jumped in head first and bought a 1 kg bag of organic broccoli seed from Mumms Seeds (certified organic and non-gmo). The only items, other than seed, that you need is a jar (I use a quart sized canning jar) and a lid that allows for drainage. I bought a set of “Sprouting” lids that used normal canning jar rings and had very fine mesh screens for the cover. It’s key that you have a lid that doesn’t allow the seeds to pass through but allows for good drainage since you’ll be rinsing your sprouts regularly.
Step by Step Instructions
Soak 2T broccoli seeds in 1 cup lukewarm/cool water for 3-12 hours. The ratios are very flexible and can be altered as fits your needs. We have found that 2T works well with a quart-sized jar and have found that as little as 3 hours works for sprouting (and if you forget and leave the seeds soaking overnight, no worries, we’ve done that too and still had successful sprouts).
Drain off water, rinse, and drain again. Keep your jar inverted, at an angle, to promote all water to shed from the seeds. I prop my jar up in a bowl but there are fancy racks made for this exact purpose available on amazon.
Twice a day (we do morning & dinner-time) rinse and drain your sprouts.
Note: We keep our sprouts out of direct sunlight mostly because we do not get a lot of direct sunlight in our kitchen. If you are lucky enough to have good sunlight in your kitchen, you may want to move your seeds out of direct sunlight after the seeds have fully sprouted (say day 2-3).
Harvest on day 4-6 when the sprouts are mostly green and fully open. The sprouts will smell strong (pungent) like broccoli.
Optional: de-hull your crop. I use a mesh strainer that has big enough holes for the spent seed-hulls to fall through but small enough not to allow the sprouts to easily pass through. This is not required, you can eat the hulls, but they offer very little nutritional value at this point.
We drain our sprouts well, even allow them to sit on a kitchen towel for a few hours before transferring to a leftover container or zip lock bag. Refrigerate & enjoy!
For additional information on broccoli sprouts (and nutrition in general), I strongly recommend all readers to look into Dr. Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., of Found My Fitness. The woman is amazing and so full of knowledge and is the reason I started looking into broccoli sprouts myself (particularly, her appearance on the Joe Rogan Podcast).
Bose, Awasthi, Sharma, Benes, Hauer-Jensen, Boerma, Singh. Sulforaphane potentiates anticancer effects of doxorubicin and attenuates its cardiotoxicity in a breast cancer model. PLoS One, 2018, Mar 8; 13(3): e0193918.
Fahey, Haristoy, Dolan, Kensler, Scholtus, Stephenson, Talalay, Lozniewski. Sulforaphane inhibits extracellular, intracellular, and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori and prevents benzo[a]pyrene-induced stomach tumors. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2002, May 28; 99(11): 7610-7615.
Qi, Xu, Yan, Li, Li. Sulforaphane exerts anti-inflammatory effects against lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury in mice through the Nrf2/ARE pathway. Int J Mol Med. 2016, Jan; 37(1): 182-188.
Santín-Márquez, Alarcón-Aguilar, López-Diazguerrero, Chondrogianni, Königsberg. Sulforaphane – role in aging and neurodegeneration. Geroscience, 2019, Oct; 41(5): 655-670.
Klomparens, Ding. The neuroprotective mechanisms and effects of sulforaphane. Brain Circ, 2019 Jun 24; 5(2): 74-83.
Singh, Connors, Macklin, Smith, Fahey, Talalay, and Zimmerman. Sulforaphane treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2014, Oct 28; 111(43): 15550-15555.
Royston, Tollefsbol. The Epigenetic Impact of Cruciferous Vegetables on Cancer Prevention. Curr Pharmacol Rep, 2015, Feb 01; 1(1): 46-51.
Okunade, Niranjan, Ghawi, Kuhnle, Methven. Supplementation of the Diet by Exogenous Myrosinase via Mustard Seeds to Increase the Bioavailability of Sulforaphane in Healthy Human Subjects after the Consumption of Cooked Broccoli. Mol Nutr Food Res, 2018 Sept, 62(18): e1700980.
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