Broccoli sprouts – The ultrafood thanks to sulforaphane

Ernährung und Gesundheit, Life Balance, Superfoods

M.A. Dirk de Pol, aktualisiert am 21. Dezember 2021, Lesezeit: 6 Minuten

Sprouts are germinated seeds, which are also called young plants. Sprouts actually need no introduction, because their health-promoting effect is already almost universally known. However, broccoli sprouts are particularly attracting the attention of researchers. The reason: these sprouts have a very high content of sulforaphane. This is a highly effective phytochemical substance that is found in all cruciferous vegetables.

What are broccoli sprouts?

Broccoli sprouts are 3-5 days young broccoli plants. They have them small green leaves and white stalks still attached to the seed. They taste earthy, similar to radishes.

For them to develop their full effect, they are best eaten raw, e.g. on breads, in salads or even in smoothies. Of course, you can also cook them, but they lose some of their valuable nutrients.

Important nutrients

Broccoli sprouts provide protein, vitamins, minerals and various bioactive plant compounds that have numerous health benefits. 100 grams of broccoli sprouts contain approximately:

  • Calories: 41
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 5 grams
  • Protein: 2.5 grams
  • Fat: 0.6 g
  • Vitamin C: 70% of the daily value (DV)
  • Vitamin A: 12% of the daily requirement
  • Calcium: 7% of the daily requirement

In addition, broccoli sprouts contain glucoraphanin, 100 times more than broccoli. Glucoraphanin is an inactive compound. Cutting or chewing converts it into the phytochemical sulforaphane, which in turn is responsible for most of the health benefits.

Studies show that sulforaphane has a very high bioavailability of 82%, so it is very quickly absorbed and used by the body.

Sources:  NCBI April 2021, NCBI January 2016

Health benefits of broccoli sprouts

Due to their high sulforaphane content, broccoli sprouts offer significant health benefits.

Anti-cancer properties

Sulforaphane has strong anti-cancer properties. For this reason, broccoli sprouts have long been repeatedly studied for their anti-cancer effects.

Studies show that sulforaphane:

  • promotes the programmed cell death of cancer cells
  • inhibits the growth of new blood vessels that feed malignant cells
  • Inflammation reduced
  • Reduces the susceptibility to carcinogenic substances
  • reduces the spread of cancer cells.

Sulforaphane significantly increases the levels of certain detoxifying enzymes in the liver. These enzymes then counteract carcinogenic toxins or chemicals from food or the environment and help the liver to eliminate them.

Some research also suggests that sulforaphane may play a role in epigenetic modulation. This means that it could help turn on and off certain genes involved in cancer inhibition or expression.

Other studies also show that the sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts may also be effective against breast, prostate, colon, liver and lung cancers.

Sources: NCBI June 2015, NCBI September 2020

Support brain health

Sulforaphane may also protect against stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and improve certain symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. In the event of a stroke, sulforaphane can reduce the death of brain cells, thereby reducing the loss of brain tissue.

In Alzheimer’s disease, sulforaphane is thought to protect brain cells from beta-amyloid protein, whose accumulation in the brain has been linked to the onset of the disease.

Other studies show that sulforaphane can protect brain cells and improve mental impairments such as memory loss.

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the impairment or death of brain cells that produce dopamine – a chemical transmitter that affects our mood, concentration and memory. Sulforaphane protects these cells from oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals.

Sources: NCBI February 2017, NCBI October 2014

Promotes intestinal health

Chronic oxidative stress often leads to constipation. Since the antibacterial and antioxidant effects of sulforaphane are thought to contribute to normal intestinal cell function, it may improve bowel movements. In addition, sulforaphane has a strong antibacterial effect against H. pylori bacterium. This bacterium can cause infections of the digestive tract, gastritis and gastric ulcers.

A 16-week study of 50 people suffering from gastritis caused by H. pylori found that eating 70 grams of broccoli sprouts per day noticeably reduced H. pylori infections and gastric inflammation.

Sources: NCBI November 2017, NCBI August 2017

Heart health promoting properties

According to a report in the journal Harvard Health, those who regularly consume broccoli sprouts can be assured of special heart benefits. A study published online July 17 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate more cruciferous vegetables had fewer calcium deposits in their aortas (the body’s largest blood vessel) than people who ate less of these vegetables. Fatty deposits in the arteries attract calcium, and these deposits are called calcification. Research shows that people with calcified aortas have a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

The sprouts can lower risk factors for heart disease, such as high triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. They are also rich in coenzyme Q10, a compound with blood pressure lowering effects.

Sources: Harvard November 2020, NCBI June 2012

Lowering the blood sugar level

Studies in test tubes and animals have shown that broccoli sprout extract can improve Insυlinhormon sensitivity, which can lower blood glucose levels. In another study, a small group of people with type 2 diabetes were observed. Half of them ate 60 grams of lentil sprouts daily along with their normal diet, while the other group simply ate their normal diet. When the study was completed after two months, those who ate the sprouts showed a 10 percent reduction in hemoglobin A1c levels, a marker of blood sugar control.

Sources: NCBI August 2018, International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences March 2015.

Better joint health

One of the main causes of chronic disease is inflammation, which is actually the body’s defense mechanism against injury when it gets out of hand. Eating sprouts has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect. Broccoli sprouts are a favorite of many people who use them to fight inflammation and sore muscles. Test tube studies have found that the sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts can actually reduce inflammatory markers associated with arthritis, a condition that can cause painful joint inflammation.

Source: NCBI December 2013

Possible health disadvantages

Broccoli and other sprouts need moisture to germinate. Unfortunately, this is also true for bacteria. Therefore, it is important to wash all types of sprouts before consumption.

Also important: Sulforaphane may interact with medications used to treat fluid retention, hypertension, or arthritis, respectively, and may limit their effectiveness.

How to incorporate broccoli sprouts into your diet

With raw or cooked broccoli sprouts we can easily add more flavor and crunch to dishes. Whether in a salad, sandwich, stir-fry or smoothie. In a smoothie, we can mix the sprouts with spinach, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, physalis or even chia seeds to create a refreshing and nutritious superfood drink.

This article is about a medical topic, a health issue or one or more medical conditions. This article is not intended for self-diagnosis and does not replace a diagnosis by a doctor.