Broccoli sprouts are nutritionally dense. Cancer researchers have identified the potential ways that cruciferous compounds may help prevent cancer. Studies show that broccoli sprouts may have around 20 to 50 times more chemo-protective compounds than mature broccoli heads. These sprouts have a phyto-chemical called glucoraphanin, which is a precursor to produce an enzyme named sulforaphane in our digestive tract that interrupts the cancer’s growth cycle.
Spanish conquistadors noticed the cross like figure on the top of cruciferous vegetables, hence the name which comes from “cross bearer”.
Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and garden cress, all help fight cancer by mitigating the effects of environmental carcinogens.
Broccoli is the most powerful of all the cruciferous family of vegetables with its excellent anti-oxidant properties. Enjoy the benefits of this natural cancer-fighting super food by eating just a small amount of broccoli sprouts. Sprouts have superior chemo-preventive benefits and may reverse and suppress cancer.
There is evidence that broccoli sprout consumption may be effective in reducing our breast cancer epidemic.
Broccoli Sprouts, Sulforaphane and Cancer
Sulforaphane works as a catalyst to enhance detoxification enzymes in the body, triggers ongoing antioxidant action and boosts the effectiveness of vitamins like C, E and beta carotene. These processes build body’s immunity and improve liver’s ability to detoxify environmental pollutants, carcinogens and other toxins. This helps in substantially reducing the incidence, rate of development and size of tumors. In studies, consumption of broccoli sprouts has shown a significant decrease in a biomarker for DNA damage, which strongly suggests that it enhances cleansing of cancer-causing substances from your body.
Indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach (1,2).
In a study in Japan, it has been shown that broccoli sprouts, if eaten regularly can significantly reduce Helicobacteri pylori (H. Pylori) infection. These bacteria have caused significant gastric problems and may contribute to peptic ulcer and even stomach cancer.
Sulforaphane and Breast Cancer
Another studies suggest that broccoli sprouts help prevent breast cancer by stimulating production of 13C (indole-3-carbinol). 13C is a substance known for its ability to fight cancer cells’ proliferation by targeting cancer stem cells i.e. the small number of cells that fuel a tumor’s growth. This helps in seizing the spread of breast cancer. Researchers believe that 13C can be beneficial in fighting other cancers and can even reverse Alzheimer’s disease. Sulforaphane also inhibits breast cancer stem cells and prevents new tumors from growing.
Eating cruciferous vegetables regularly and more specifically, a handful of broccoli sprouts per day can help you prevent cancer.
Many studies in animals and experiments with cells grown in the laboratory have identified several potential ways in which these compounds may help prevent cancer.
Broccoli Sprouts May Help Fight Prostate Cancer
Research shows that a substance called isothiocyanate in the broccoli sprouts sparks hundreds of genetic changes. These changes activate genes that fight cancer and switch off others that fuel tumors. Isothiocyanate have been found helpful in reducing the risk of prostate and lung cancer.
You can get broccoli sprouts from your grocery store but to get the best of nutritional and protective benefits you need to grow your own sprouts. In the past, few outbreaks of salmonella and E. coli food poisoning were traced to a few lots of raw sprouts. Scientists explain that sprouts often get contaminated during the seeding process by runoff water. This tainted water often comes from animal production facilities, poorly balanced manure fertilizer, or unsanitary seed harvesting.
Broccoli Sprouts May Fight Other Cancers
Broccoli sprouts extract has been found effective in protecting against oral cancer. People who are overcome head and neck cancer are found at higher risk for developing a fatal second cancer in their mouth or throat. Research shows that sulforaphane-biomarkers in broccoli sprouts are beneficial in killing the stem cells that make cancer immortal. The sulforaphane then bring protective changes in the oral lining, where these second cancer are formed.
How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts
- First, buy seeds for sprouting that are either approved by International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA) or USDA certified organic.
- Find a glass container with large mouth, some cheesecloth and a few strong rubber bands.
- Place around 3 tablespoons of sprouting seeds with three times the amount of purified water into the jar. Gently shake the jar to soak up all the seeds. Place the cheesecloth over the mouth and secure it with a rubber band.
- Allow the seeds to soak for six to twelve hours, then drain them thoroughly and rinse.
- Leave the jar on its side and away from direct sunlight. Repeat this process till sprouts appear.
- By day 3, the seeds will sprout. In 3 more days, the sprouts will attain their maximum carcinogen detoxifying properties.
Growing Options for Broccoli Sprouts
Grow broccoli seeds using commercial sprouting kits with trays, then when broccoli sprouts are ready to eat, enjoy the protective benefits. Eat a handful of raw sprouts as a topping or edible garnishes for any salad, soup and savory pancake. Add broccoli sprouts in spreads, sandwiches, wraps and pasta dishes. Remember to refrigerate the remaining batch of sprouts.
Best Way to Cook Broccoli Sprouts
For maximum benefits you also need to make sure that the broccoli you eat has live enzyme called myrosinase, which is required to form sulforaphane. Avoid overcooking i.e. cooking for too long or at too high heat, as it destroys the myrosinase. Even just 2 minutes in a microwave or 7 minutes of steaming is enough to destroy myrosinase.
To protect this enzyme and other vital nutrients, it’s best to either eat raw broccoli sprouts or steam for only 2-4 minutes until these are tough-tender. Even if you are thinking to take broccoli powder supplements you need myrosinase from raw sprouts for sulforaphane absorption. Other research found that heating for just a little while helps in killing off a heat-sensitive protein (epithiospecifier protein) that greatly depletes the amount of sulforaphane in a serving of broccoli.
Eat Broccoli Sprouts Often
Eating a handful of broccoli sprouts per day will help provide anti cancer activity, but if you are fighting an existing cancer, you need a therapeutic dosage. For that you need to consider blending broccoli sprouts into green smoothies or juicing them. If you find the flavor difficult to enjoy then add other vegetables and fruits like carrot, apple, celery, cucumber or tomato. Mix together and make a mixed vegetable fruit juice.
An option is to buy broccoli sprout extracts in pill form from your health food store.
Start adding a small amount of broccoli sprouts in your daily diet as a feasible and tasty alternative to get all the chemo-preventive benefits you get by eating pounds of broccoli.
(1) Hecht SS. Inhibition of carcinogenesis by isothiocyanates. Drug Metabolism Reviews2000;32(3-4):395-411.
(2) Murillo G, Mehta RG. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention. Nutrition and Cancer 2001;41(1-2):17-28.