Broccoli sprouts have become a highly desirable health food in recent times. These tiny plants have been shown to fight many types of cancer, support heart health, help fight inflammation, and protect the brain. All of these benefits come from the way the active compounds interact with our DNA and influence many disease-fighting functions.
You might be wondering, can’t you just east broccoli? Cruciferous vegetables certainly offer up many nutritional benefits. But surprisingly, three-day-old sprouts of broccoli contain 10–100 times higher levels of cancer-fighting compounds than the corresponding mature plants. Hence, small quantities of broccoli sprouts may protect against the risk of cancer as effectively as much larger quantities of mature vegetables of the same variety. Putting just a half-cup of broccoli sprouts on your salad or sandwich could protect you from disease, but you would have to munch through an awful lot of broccoli heads to get the same benefits
What Are Broccoli Sprouts?
Broccoli sprouts are young broccoli plants that are rich in glucoraphanin, a precursor of a compound called sulforaphane. Studies suggest that sulforaphane has anticancer effects against prostate, breast, and urinary cancers. It may also protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation.
Sulforaphane fights cancer in multiple different ways:
- It blocks the first stage of cancer growth by inhibiting chemical signals that turn potentially cancerous precursors into cancer-causing agents.
- It kickstarts the production of enzymes that facilitate the safe excretion of these cancer-causing agents.
- It triggers a process which stops damaged cells from replicating and also causes direct cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells.
The sprouts have many other potential benefits too. One human study showed that broccoli sprout constituents enhance antiviral defenses by activating the production of helpful immune cells. Research has also found that consuming broccoli sprouts can lower inflammation levels in overweight people, potentially fighting obesity. Other benefits include helping to fight autoimmune diseases and H. pylori infection, protecting heart health, and supporting healthy brain function.
Broccoli Sprout Warnings
Why grow your own sprouts? You could just save yourself the hassle and buy sprouts from the grocery store, but commercially supplied sprouts are often treated to prevent contamination. Heat treating can affect the integrity of the active constituents and reduce their nutritional properties.
Therefore, it’s important to grow your own broccoli sprouts for the most health benefits. Not only will they be untreated, but they will be fresher with more antioxidants intact. You can also control their growing conditions, such as using a glass container instead of a plastic one and watering with filtered water rather than tap water.
Studies have shown that broccoli sprouts are generally safe and well-tolerated. However, they must be grown the right way to ensure they don’t carry food-borne illnesses. The FDA warns against eating raw sprouts because some outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella have been traced to contaminated seeds. If the bacteria is on the seeds, it can flourish during sprouting even under clean conditions. For that reason, children and pregnant women should err on the side of caution and avoid sprouts. There are precautions you can take to help ensure your sprouts are safe to eat.
How To Grow Broccoli Sprouts Safely At Home
Yields approximately 3 Cups (1/2 lb.) of Sprouts
- Green broccoli seeds (organic if possible)
- Tall, wide-mouth mason jar
- Strainer lid for the mason jar
- Container which will hold your jar inverted on an angle
- White vinegar
- Filtered water
- Wash your equipment thoroughly with hot water and soap. Rinse and dry well.
- Put 3 tablespoons of seed into your jar. Soak the seeds in undiluted white vinegar for 15 minutes.
- Drain the vinegar and rinse the seeds. Add a few inches of water into the jar, put the strainer lid on, and leave the seeds to soak for 15 minutes.
- Rinse the seed in running tap water for 1 minute. Place the rinsed seed in a container with enough water to cover the seed plus one inch. Then carefully skim off all floating seed, seed coat fragments, and other debris and dispose of them. Although skimming can be a tedious process, research has tied most contamination to these materials.
- Leaving the lid on, drain the water, rinse the seeds, and drain the jar thoroughly.
- Place the jar upside down on an angle in your container, and leave on the countertop (out of direct sunlight).
- Rinse and drain your jar morning and night. Be sure to use plenty of flowing water to wash away any mold or bacteria that may have developed. After rinsing, leave the jar leaning upside down in the base container to continue draining. Empty any stagnant water out of the bottom of the base container each time.
- If you see very thin white ‘hairs’ growing from the sprouts, note that these are root hairs and not mold.
- On the 4th day, put your sprouts closer to a window (still out of direct sunlight) to allow them to photosynthesize and create chlorophyll.
- Continue to rinse and drain them twice a day, until they are finished on day 5 or 6. You know they are ready when the majority of sprouts have open leaves.
- Give your sprouts a final rinse in a bowl and remove as many hulls as possible (they will float to the top of the water). You can use a rinse mixture of equal parts lime juice and vinegar to reduce any bacteria that could be present.
- Place your sprouts on a tea towel or paper towels for a few hours to allow them to dry prior to storing in the fridge. Storing with a folded paper towel will help keep them fresh in the fridge.
How To Consume Your Broccoli Sprouts
Once your broccoli sprouts are ready to eat, there are many different ways to enjoy them. Add to a salad, eat on top of avocado toast, or put them in a wrap or sandwich. Some people even make smoothies with them. Just make sure you consume your broccoli sprouts raw for the most active nutritional benefits. Also, be sure to chew broccoli sprouts well, as this process is what increases the excretion of beneficial compounds.
-The UpWellness Team