A diet of mostly whole, organically-grown foods is undoubtedly among the most effective ways to prevent disease and achieve optimal health, and sprouts may offer some of the highest levels of nutrition.
From my perspective, broccoli, watercress, and sunflower sprouts are foods that virtually everyone can and would benefit from growing. Adding these to your diet can go a long way toward improving your nutritional status—and it won’t cost you much to grow them.
The Many Health Benefits of Broccoli Sprouts
Science has proven time and again that Mother Nature is the best physician, and food is the best medicine.
Broccoli, for example—and to an even greater degree, sprouted broccoli seeds—has been linked to a rather impressive list of health benefits. Research has shown broccoli has the capacity to prevent a number of health issues, including but not limited to:
- Heart disease
- Ulcers caused by Helicobacter pylori
- UV radiation damage to your skin, when applied topically
Broccoli Sprouts Can Help Combat Exposure to Environmental Pollutants
“Broccoli sprouts specifically are a source of glucoraphanin, which creates sulforaphane when chewed or swallowed. That compound accelerates the body’s ability to detoxify from various pollutants…”
The three-month long study included about 300 Chinese men and women living in one of the most polluted areas of China, a rural community in the Jiangsu Province.
The test group drank half a cup a day of a beverage consisting of sterilized water, pineapple, and lime juice, with dissolved freeze-dried broccoli sprout powder. The control group drank the same mixture without the addition of the sprouts.
After urine and blood tests were collected and analyzed, the researchers found that the test group, who received the broccoli sprout powder, excreted far greater levels of two carcinogens. Excretion of benzene increased 61 percent, and the rate of excretion of acrolein increased by 23 percent.
Benzene is usually found in car exhaust fumes, but can also be ingested via soda, where it can form from benzoate salt—used as a preservative. Acrolein forms from the breakdown of certain indoor air pollutants, from the burning of organic matter such as tobacco, and the burning of fuels like gasoline. Study author Tom Kensler told Time Magazine:
“The situation is that people throughout China are breathing dirty air, and the exposure is largely unavoidable. We wanted to boost the defense mechanism that accelerates the rate that these are cleared form the body so there is less opportunity for harm to be evoked by chemicals.”
When asked if people living in other large cities like New York or Los Angeles could benefit from drinking the same mixture, Kensler says he thinks their approach could be extended across all people.”
Broccoli Sprouts Contain a Number of Health-Promoting Compounds
As mentioned, fresh broccoli sprouts are FAR more potent than whole broccoli, allowing you to eat far less in terms of quantity. For example, previous tests have revealed that three-day old broccoli sprouts consistently contain anywhere from 10-100 times the amount of glucoraphanin—a chemoprotective compound—found in mature broccoli.
Broccoli sprouts are also an excellent alternative if you don’t like the taste or smell of broccoli. Best of all, you can easily and inexpensively grow broccoli sprouts at home. Another major benefit is that you don’t have to cook them. They are eaten raw, usually as an addition to salad or juice.
As noted in the featured study, the compound called glucoraphanin appears to have a protective effect against toxic pollutants by improving your body’s ability to eliminate or excrete them. Glucoraphanin has also been shown to protect against cancer. Other health-promoting compounds found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli sprouts (and mature broccoli) include:
- Glucosinolate glucoraphanin, which helps improve blood pressure and kidney function. It also boosts cell enzymes that protect against molecular damage from cancer-causing chemicals.
- Sulforaphane, a metabolite of the glucosinolate glucoraphanin, has been shown to normalize DNA methylation — a crucial part of normal cell function that allows cells to “remember who they are and where they have been.”
It’s also important for regulating gene expression, and this compound has been found to play a role in activating more than 200 different genes.
Sulforaphane also has anti-diabetic and antimicrobial properties, and kills cancer stem cells, which slows tumor growth.
- Isothiocyanate, a specific sulforaphane compound, has very strong cancer-protective benefits, sparking hundreds of beneficial gene changes. This compound activates some genes that fight cancer, and switch off other genes whose job it is to aid in tumor growth.
One 2008 study found that just four extra servings (equating to about 10 spears) of broccoli per week could protect men from prostate cancer, largely because of the anti-cancer activity of this compound.