Most of you have probably eaten, and subsequently learnt to hate, Brussel sprouts. But in recent years another sprout has been hitting the headlines, and if you've ever been to one of our nutrition talks you've probably heard us talk about them. We're referring to broccoli sprouts. My one celebrity crush, Rhonda Patrick, got me into them a few years ago and I've been intrigued ever since. Along with other vegetables like Swiss Chard, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, radishes & cabbage, they are collectively known as Cruciferous vegetables. These little sprouts, similar looking to their alfalfa cousins, are one of the easiest things to grow at home (even young Robert won't be able to screw these up) and possess some powerful properties. One of the compounds that is thought to be responsible for the amazing health benefits is known as sulforaphane, and is found almost exclusively in the Cruciferous family. But what is sulforaphane?
Well it isn't actually found in the plant itself. Instead it is created when two other compounds, myrosinase (an enzyme) and glucoraphanin(a precursor), meet in a match made in heaven when we chew, grind, chop or crush up Cruciferous veg. It originally evolved as a plants natural defense system. Insects or bugs would take a juicy bite only to be hit with a big dose of the newly formed sulforaphane, be put off and never return again. However when we get a big hit, it's great for us! But in what way is it great for us?
Sulforaphane is being heavily studied at the moment and has some pretty cool benefits:
- Shown to lower Benzene levels almost instantly (which is a carcinogen and found in particularly high levels in polluted cities & cigarettes).
- Reducing brain inflammation & effectively just helps the brain to function better.
- Strong links with improving autism.
But for me the coolest (I am a geek) benefit is that it directly fires up and super-charges our anti-oxidant pathways, such as Nrf2. Nrf2 is one of the body's most important master switches, controlling over 200 genes, many of which are responsible for reducing inflammation, oxidative stress and the impact of carcinogens in the body. We've written about the how polyphenols in plants & vegetables can help switch on these pathways as well, but sulforaphane appears to be the most potent of the Nrf2 activators. Now the mere mortals of the Cruciferous veg family have some pretty decent sulforaphane levels, but our young little broccoli sprouts can have nearly 100x (!) the amount of sulforaphane than their more mature counterparts. This makes them one of the best things to include in your breakfast smoothie, shake, sprinkled on salads or on top of your scrambled eggs as I like to do. My darling Rhonda suggests up to 100g of sprouts a day is optimal, but this is quite a lot if you've never had them, so start with a small batch and see how you go.
Below, we’ll share a step by step guide on how to grow your own at home, but for some people that's not their thing, so you can still get a healthy dose of the big S through other cruciferous veg, but a few things to note. I mentioned earlier that myrisonase (the enzyme & mother in this scenario) and glucoraphanin (the precursor and father in this ever weirder scenario) combine to form a beautiful baby (sulforaphane). Bare with me. However when we cook our kale, chard, broccoli etc the myrisonase doesn't like the heat, the poor thing, and becomes deactivated and we essentially lose all the sulforaphane goodness (glucoraphanin is fine and remains unaffected). So in order to maximize the amount you're getting you have two options:
- Ensure you shred, chop, cut or blitz up your veg around 40 mins before you intend to cook it. This process allows the myrisonase to combine with the glucoraphanin, outside of the hot and sultry pan, to form sulforaphane. And the good thing about that is that sulforaphane doesn't mind the heat and will survive the cooking process once fully formed.
- Now if you don't have 40 mins to spare and need to get cooking (me in the mornings) then mustard powder is your friend. Mustard powder is naturally high in myrisonase (our enzyme) and when sprinkled on your cooked veg will combine with glucoraphanin to make sulforaphane. Very cool workaround in my eyes!
Eating more greens and veggies in general is something I'm really passionate about getting people to do, the additional sulforaphane content is just another reason in my eyes to be packing our diets with some green goodness!
FANCY GROWING YOUR OWN? HERE’S HOW…
- Head to Amazon and order your broccoli sprouts seeds and germinator seed jar
- Take a tablespoon of the seeds and place into the clean jar
- Fill the jar a third of the way with water and soak your seeds for three hours
- Place the green cap onto the jar (this has air holes) and tip away the water ensuring the seeds stay within.
- Lie the jar on its side stand on a plate to catch any excess water
- Fill the glass with a third of water, screw the lid back on, swirl the seeds around for 15 seconds and then empty out the water
- The seeds will start to sprout quickly and you’ll notice them becoming greener
- Repeat step six everyday for about 5 days until your seeds turn super green and fill the jar
- The broccoli sprouts are now ready to eat - store in the fridge and sprinkle over whatever you desire!