In a word: sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane is a remarkable chemical you can get by chewing and ingesting broccoli sprouts. It’s a very powerful chemical that can help with everything from diabetes type II, to heart burn, to detoxing, to cancer prevention!
Addendum, April 21, 2020: Some the links herein may be outdated and/or unavailable for my U.K./E.U. audience. Please reach out to me if you would like help finding services and products mentioned. Thanks! — CF
Disclaimer: None of the following information is intended to treat or cure disease of any type. Before making any changes to your diet or exercise, please seek the advice of your general practitioner or primary health physician.
Sulforaphane is a terrific activator of the NRF2 genetic pathway, which facilitates the expression of around 200 genes that promote longevity, cognitive ability, healthy heart function, sugar metabolism, and that fight cancer and inflammation.
Sulforaphane also deactivates enzymes in the body that could create carcinogens – cancer causing molecules — and also prevents damage to DNA that can lead to the development of cancer, particularly in smokers.
In fact, 4-5 servings of cruciferous vegetables a month could possibly decrease the risk of lung cancer by 55%! Bladder cancer: by 60%!
Sulforaphane is pretty unstable as a molecule, though. That means, it can easily break down before your body can use it properly.
One needs to consume the precursor, glucoraphanin, in order to produce bioavailable sulforaphane in our bodies.
Glucoraphanin is tucked away in the nooks and crannies of the whole plant. An enzyme called myronsinase, housed in a separate part of the plant, interacts with glucoraphanin to make bio-available sulforaphane.
Glucoraphanin + myronsinase =
sulforaphane = health benefits!
You can steam and freeze-dry broccoli sprouts, and the myronsinase remains. That’s the good news.
However, if you extract the juice of the broccoli sprout, the myrosinase breaks down. So don’t do that, because the chemical interaction that makes sulforaphane won’t happen.
100x More Sulforaphane!
What’s also remarkable is that broccoli seeds produce close to 100 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli!
That doesn’t mean you can skip mature broccoli. Broccoli has a ton of other nutritional benefits that the sprouts don’t yet possess.
But it does mean that you can actually get a meaningful dose of sulforaphane by eating the sprouts – about 100-140 mg a day gives us a meaningful dose.
Cue the smoothie! You can eat that many sprouts a day if you make a smoothie from them.
I swear; every day I’m getting more and more enamored with the healing potential of smoothies.
How to sprout broccoli seeds:
- 3 tbsp. organic broccoli sprouting seeds
- One large-mouth mason jar, about 1 quart size
- A sprouting lid or cheesecloth and thick rubber bands
- Purified water
Put the seeds and the purified water into the jar and screw on the lid. Swirl the seeds in the water until they’re soaked.
Remove the lid and put the cheesecloth over the opening, secured with a rubber band around the mouth of the jar.
Let the seeds soak for 8-12 hours. Drain and rinse the seeds.
Put the rinsed seeds back in the jar, put the cheesecloth back on. Turn the jar on its side so it can get some air – or better, tip it so the excess water can drip out — and place it in indirect sunlight.
Repeat the rinsing process with purified water 2 or 3 more times a day for 5-7 days, until the sprouts are fully ready to eat.
Thank them for bringing you health, stick them in a smoothie, and enjoy. Or, eat them as a salad – but you have to eat 100-140 mg of them to be meaningfully healthy for you so smoothies are easiest, I think.
If all this sounds too complicated and you’re too busy to grow your own, there are products that have concentrated broccoli sprouts that you can take as a supplement.
Or, if you don’t want to bother with growing broccoli sprouts for eating or smoothies, you can buy broccoli sprout supplements here:
Cruciferous Vegetables and the Thyroid Gland
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable. You’ve probably heard that cruciferous vegetables are great for heart health and for fighting cancer. It’s true.
In fact, studies show that people who eat cruciferous vegetables every day reduce their risk of “all cause death (meaning, death by all means other than accidents or injury)” by 22%, over 16% of consumers of vegetables in general. That’s a stand-alone figure, regardless of other preventative measures like exercise.
Here’s a fairly comprehensive list of cruciferous vegetables for your eatification (ack! A pun!). Click here!
What you may have also heard…
…is that, if your thyroid has trouble functioning (hypothyroid), you have to watch your cruciferous vegetable intake.
Which is also true. In part.
Thiocyanate and goitrin are the chemicals in cruciferous vegetables that one with an underactive thyroid has to watch for. These two chemicals can interfere with iodine uptake at the receptor sites of the thyroid cells.
Thiocyanate and goitrin are present in dangerous levels in collards, brussels sprouts, and some strains of Russian kale (however, if you steam these vegetables, it helps break down the thiocynanate and goitrin).
The good news is that broccoli, along with regular kale and broccoli rabe, do not contain dangerous levels of these two pesky chemicals.
From Nutrition Reviews, April 2016: “Radioiodine uptake to the thyroid is inhibited by 194 μmol of goitrin, but not by 77 μmol of goitrin. Collards, Brussels sprouts, and some Russian kale (Brassica napus) contain sufficient goitrin to potentially decrease iodine uptake by the thyroid. However, turnip tops, commercial broccoli, broccoli rabe, and kale belonging to Brassica oleracae contain less than 10 μmol of goitrin per 100-g serving and can be considered of minimal risk.” – Felker et al.
So that’s one less thing to worry about!
- Nutr Rev. 2016 Apr;74(4):248-58. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuv110. Epub 2016 Mar 5. Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassica vegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism. Felker P1, Bunch R2, Leung AM2.
- Sulforaphane inhibits thyroid cancer cell growth and invasiveness through the reactive oxygen species-dependent pathway, Wang L, Tian Z, Yang Q, Li H, Guan H, Shi B, Hou P, Ji M., Oncotarget. 2015 Sep 22;6(28):25917-31. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.4542.
- Sulforaphane inhibits multiple inflammasomes through an Nrf2-independent mechanism, Greaney AJ, Maier NK, Leppla SH, Moayeri M., J Leukoc Biol. 2016 Jan;99(1):189-99. doi: 10.1189/jlb.3A0415-155RR.
- Effect of Se treatment on glucosinolate metabolism and health-promoting compounds in the broccoli sprouts of three cultivars, Tian M, Xu X, Liu Y, Xie L, Pan S, Food Chem. 2016 Jan 1;190:374-80. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2015.05.098.
- Neuroprotective Effect of Brassica oleracea Sprouts Crude Juice in a Cellular Model of Alzheimer’s Disease, Masci A, Mattioli R, Costantino P, Baima S, Morelli G, Punzi P, Giordano C, Pinto A, Donini LM, d’Erme M, Mosca L., Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2015;2015:781938. doi: 10.1155/2015/781938.