You could be missing out on some huge health benefits from some puny plants—broccoli sprouts.
Broccoli sprouts are rich in a phytochemical called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is one of the most researched phytochemicals because of its many potential perks. Sulforaphane may help you detoxify, fight malignant cells, and protect your skin, among other benefits. (1)
Sulforaphane is in many different greens and vegetables. Foods like arugula, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and kale contain sulforaphane as well. But not in the amounts broccoli sprouts do. Broccoli sprouts can have 20-40 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli. That makes it the clear winner in getting sulforaphane into your body. (2)
Here’s 10 possible areas that broccoli sprout and sulforaphane could benefit.
Your body has intricate systems in place to help detoxify your blood from harmful chemicals and waste products from your cells. But it can only work as well as the sum of its parts. If one part of the system is lacking, the whole mechanism will jam up.
Your detox system has phase 2 enzymes. You may have heard these enzymes are primarily in the liver. But they also exist in your adrenal glands, brain, kidneys, intestines, lungs, and skin. (3, 4)
Phase 2 enzymes “repackage” dangerous chemicals so you can sweep them out of your body in your stools. A lack of phase 2 enzymes can lead to cellular damage, organ dysfunction, and possibly even cancer. (3, 4)
Turns out that increasing phase 2 enzymes may be one of many broccoli sprout benefits.
One of the first areas toxins can enter your body is through your lungs. The air you breathe can have heavy metals and particulate matter in it. A human clinical study examined how broccoli sprouts affected phase 2 enzymes in the upper airways, or sinuses.
Researchers divided 57 healthy people into groups. Some groups received different amounts of broccoli sprouts. They measured results from water samples washed through the people’s noses.
In the group taking the most broccoli sprouts, two separate phase 2 enzymes increased dramatically. One rose by 101% and the other by 199%. The group with the highest broccoli sprout intake also had higher phase 2 enzymes. The control group that ate alfalfa sprouts saw no changes. (5)
Other studies demonstrate that broccoli sprouts may help to increase phase 2 enzymes in your intestines, skin, and stomach. Broccoli sprouts could boost phase 2 enzymes in your liver as well, helping prevent toxin-induced liver damage. (6, 7)
Overall, broccoli sprouts may help “wrap up” your toxins so they can get shipped out through your colon, sweat, or urine. (8)
The final destination for most chemicals leaving your body should be your toilet. So if you aren't pooping, you aren't truly detoxifying. It’s essential to help these toxins make a fast exit.
Constipation may be a “taboo” subject, but you are far from alone if you have trouble in this area. Estimates are that up to 27% of the population have chronic constipation. (9)
Researchers suggest that oxidative stress may be one of the culprits behind chronic constipation. Oxidative stress can cause your cells to become dysfunctional. That may lead to the muscles in your colon moving more slowly.
Reduce oxidative stress, and you can help reduce constipation. The sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts may quash oxidative stress so pooping is easier. (10)
Scientists took 48 people and measured their level of constipation, including frequency and pain level. They divided the participants into two groups. For four weeks, one group received 0.70 ounces, just shy of 1.5 tablespoons of broccoli sprouts. The other group received an equal amount of alfalfa sprouts.
The group taking broccoli sprouts pooped more often and with less pain. The time it took them to finish pooping reduced as well. The group taking the alfalfa sprouts had little change in their constipation.
Since both broccoli sprouts and alfalfa sprouts contain fiber and similar nutrients, researchers suggest that the decrease in oxidative stress is the reason behind the results. (11)
Broccoli sprouts may reduce oxidative stress so you don’t have to stress about visiting the bathroom.
Your eyes drink in information from your outside world, helping you in your everyday life. But like your skin, they are also prone to damage from ultraviolet light. Finding simple ways to protect your sight is a must. And broccoli sprouts may be a way to do that.
Remember how broccoli sprouts ramp up your phase 2 detoxification? Researchers believe this process may be how broccoli sprouts could help preserve your eyes.
Your eyes are full of a type of vitamin A called retinol. This fat-soluble vitamin can turn into a toxic substance under certain conditions, including intense light exposure. And phase 2 detoxification mops up toxic substances. (12)
Lab tests on human eye cells demonstrates that pretreatment with sulforaphane increased cell survival by 27.4% when exposed to ultraviolet light. The sulforaphane helped to clean up the toxic form of vitamin A, so the cells were less likely to die. (12)
A study on mice revealed the same results. Animals pretreated with sulforaphane for three days had less damaged cells in their eyes than the control group treated with saline. Researchers came to the same conclusion. The increase in phase 2 detoxification is what “saved the day.” (13)
Broccoli sprouts may be a simple way to help preserve your eyesight.
Diseases involving the heart are still the number one cause of death worldwide. Heart disease has multiple factors, including: (14)
- Blood vessel lining (endothelial cells) becoming dysfunctional
- Fat deposits in arteries (high cholesterol)
These factors damage your heart over time and could lead to a heart attack. Could the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts help with some of these existing issues? Or could sulforaphane help prevent damage before it occurs? Researchers think that it may be able to help with both.
Scientists took a group of mice and gave them a diet where 2% of their calories came from broccoli sprouts for 10 days. The placebo group received none. Then they created the same conditions as a heart attack to see if the broccoli sprouts offered any protection.
Turns out it offered significant protection. The group that consumed broccoli sprouts had 78-86% fewer heart cells die than the other group. Researchers also note that the animals who ate broccoli sprouts had 82-116% less oxidative stress. The study concluded that broccoli sprouts strongly protect the heart. (15)
Other research finds that broccoli sprouts may reduce inflammation in blood vessels. Broccoli sprouts may also help stop the endothelial cells that line your blood vessels from becoming dysfunctional. When endothelial cells aren’t working, your blood vessels could be unable to dilate or constrict as needed. So keeping them working well is important. (16, 17)
Broccoli sprouts may be a tiny, but powerfully heart-healthy, plant.
Chronic inflammation is no joke when it comes to your health. Researchers estimate that 70% of deaths globally are linked with chronic inflammation issues, such as: (18)
Drugs fall short in eliminating these diseases and may also come with unwanted side effects. This has led some researchers to look for other solutions. Animal and lab studies show that sulforaphane has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could help. (18)
For example, high blood sugar levels in diabetes generates inflammation and oxidative stress. High blood sugar levels can also lead to complications such as neuropathy, which is a loss of feeling in your extremities. Another complication may be high cholesterol. (19)
Researchers gave people with type 2 diabetes around 3 tsp. of broccoli sprout powder for four weeks, producing some interesting results. Their blood work showed an increase in antioxidants, as well as a decrease in cholesterol and oxidative stress. (20)
The scientists concluded that sulforaphane inhibits the production of inflammatory proteins and reduces oxidative stress. From this, they propose that broccoli sprouts could help lower diabetic complications and improve your quality of life. (20, 21)
Your liver is a hard-working organ. Besides its major role of filtering toxins out of your blood to detox them, it supports digestion and tucks away certain vitamins for later use. But your liver function can start to slide over time, especially when confronted with a ton of toxins. (22)
The sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts may be a way to enhance the liver’s ability to perform its many tasks.
Researchers took a group of men diagnosed with fatty liver disease. They divided the men up; one group received broccoli sprout extract, the other a placebo. After two months, blood work in the sprout group showed that their livers were producing less markers for inflammation. The placebo group had no change. (23)
An animal study suggests broccoli sprouts may even help prevent liver failure. Researchers gave rats a dose of broccoli sprout extract one hour before they induced liver failure with toxins. The extract helped prevent the rats from dying and also stopped their livers from becoming diseased. (24)
In short, broccoli sprout benefits may include beefing up your liver function.
7. Malignant Cells
Cancer is a major cause of death worldwide. It is a complicated disease where cells mutate, grow, and replicate differently than your healthy cells. (25)
The sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts may be able to help combat the development of malignant cells by: (25, 26)
Blocking cell replication—Studies suggest that sulforaphane may inhibit a cancerous cell’s ability to multiply. The good news is this only applies to cancerous cells. Healthy cells are not blocked from replicating.
Cutting off blood supply—Malignant tumors build an abnormally large blood supply around themselves to feed their growth. Studies find that sulforaphane may help prevent malignant tumors from creating new blood vessels. But this is only in cancerous tissue, not in your healthy tissue.
Encouraging cell death—Your cells have mechanisms in place to initiate cell death if a cell mutates. But the process isn’t working in cancerous cells. Sulforaphane may help to reactivate this process, triggering cell death in cancerous cells.
- Protecting DNA—Sulforaphane helps to alter the way your body handles malignant toxins. Sulforaphane may help to block the processes that would cause your DNA to mutate.
Considering how this phytochemical protects healthy cells and resists mutation, sulforaphane may be helpful in fighting off malignant cells.
Western medicine commonly treats microbial infections with antibiotics. But antibiotics are often overused, leading to bacteria resistant to antibiotics. That leaves doctors and researchers looking for other ways to help you overcome resistant infections. (27)
One of the infections that resists antibiotic treatment is H. pylori. The H. pylori bacteria can invade the lining of your stomach. This bacteria can cause inflammation of your stomach lining, ulcers, and stomach cancer when it grows out of control. Researchers hypothesize this bacteria may affect up to 50% of the world population. (27, 28)
Broccoli sprouts might be a way to address resistant H. pylori.
In one study, researchers gave a group of people with H. pylori 1.4 teaspoons of broccoli sprout powder every day for 28 days. At the end of 28 days, their H. pylori infection reduced by 56%. (29)
A different small study demonstrates positive results as well. Nine people consumed either 14, 28, or 56 grams of fresh broccoli sprouts twice a day for seven days. There were some positive results at all three amounts of broccoli sprouts. After the week of eating sprouts, seven of the people tested negative for H.pylori in their stools. Six of those people still tested negative for H. pylori at day 35. (30)
Broccoli sprout benefits may include fighting microbes like H. pylori.
You have some vitally important little “machines” in your cells called mitochondria. They create energy for your cells, control the lifecycle of a cell, and help protect you from viruses. Healthy mitochondria are essential to avoid disease. And broccoli sprouts may help you protect your mitochondria. (31)
Researchers pretreated human cells with sulforaphane before introducing a damaged substance. After exposing cells to hydrogen peroxide, the sulforaphane prevented them from dying.
Sulforaphane also blocked the proteins and fats of cellular and mitochondrial membranes from harm. What’s even more impressive is that the mitochondria didn’t dip in their energy production. (32)
Some drugs can also cause mitochondrial dysfunction. Sulforaphane may help prevent that.
Researchers gave mice with cancer a cancer-treating drug with the known side effect of generating mitochondrial dysfunction. The animals received sulforaphane along with the drug. Ultrasounds of their heart muscle showed that their mitochondria didn't become damaged and actually increased their energy production. (33)
Broccoli sprout may be an easy way to shield your mitochondria from harm.
Your skin is your largest organ. It protects you from your environment, pathogens, and trauma. Skin helps you regulate your body temperature and sense the world around you. But outside using sunscreen in the summer, most people don’t give too much thought into how to safeguard this incredible organ. (34)
With broccoli sprouts, you may be able to help protect your skin from the inside out.
Researchers tested how broccoli sprout extract protects the skin. After exposing hairless mice to ultraviolet light, they found that broccoli sprout extract prevented the formation of skin cancer. Broccoli sprout extract also reduced inflammation and oxidative stress in the skin of the animals when they had gotten a “sunburn” from the light. (35)
If that wasn't enough, broccoli sprouts may delay aging of your skin as well. Too much ultraviolet light from the sun can cause the collagen in your skin to break down. This leads to discoloration of the skin, loss of volume, and wrinkles. But the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts may come to the rescue.
Both animal and lab studies demonstrate that broccoli sprouts prevented collagen from degrading. The animals retained the same volume of collagen they had before ultraviolet light exposure. (36)
Broccoli sprout benefits for your skin could go beyond just protection. It may help keep you looking younger as well.
Ways to Get Broccoli Sprouts and Sulforaphane
Now that you are itching to get the benefits of broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane working for you, you may be wondering how to do that. There are three main ways to incorporate broccoli sprouts into your health journey:
You can buy or grow broccoli sprouts and add them into your daily routine. Broccoli sprouts in smoothies is an easy option. Not only will adding them into a smoothie be a quick way to consume them, but the chopping motion helps activate the sulforaphane. (37)
Sulforaphane isn’t in its active form in broccoli sprouts. Broccoli sprouts have two different phytochemicals, glucoraphanin and myrosinase, in different areas of its cells. These two phytochemicals break out of their compartments and combine because of chewing or chopping. They then form a new compound—sulforaphane. (38)
Sandwiches and salads are also easy ways to get your broccoli sprout fix. You may get extra absorption of sulforaphane if you add mustard in some form. One study showed that eating broccoli with mustard powder dramatically increases people’s absorption of sulforaphane. (39)
You can also blend broccoli sprouts into hummus or your favorite vegetable dip for a nutritious snack. Throw it into salsa for a spicy sulforaphane-rich treat. Garnish baked potatoes or deviled eggs with these tiny sprouts for an extra sulforaphane boost.
As already mentioned, you can get lesser amounts of sulforaphane in other veggies, such as Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. Be careful to not microwave or boil these vegetables. Studies find that boiling and microwaving causes the highest loss in glucoraphanin. Steaming was shown to be a better option. (40)
You can buy capsules containing sulforaphane or broccoli sprout extracts. This is surely convenient, but not all supplements are created equal. Processing, especially prolonged heat, may deactivate the myrosinase. Remember, myrosinase must combine with glucoraphanin to obtain sulforaphane. (41)
Supplements that combine both broccoli sprout extracts and carbon-based binders may give you a superior product. The fulvic and humic acids will help to protect the extracts from damage as well as provide high-energy molecules to effectively disperse the extract in your body.
You may find anti-aging skin care products containing broccoli sprout extract. Check your local health food store. Ask for samples and look online for testimonials to find the best brands.
Broccoli sprouts may be emerging as a new way to combat skin cancer. Keep your eyes open for new products in the coming years to help protect your skin when you spend long periods of time in the sun.
Growing sprouts is a fairly simple task. You can use a jar or specially designed sprouting trays. There are many online how-to recommendations. Either way, be vigilant in making sure mold doesn’t grow on your sprouts. Never eat moldy sprouts.
Another issue with any sprouts is bacteria. The moist growing conditions needed for growing broccoli sprouts is unfortunately perfect for bacteria as well, which may lead to food poisoning. Thoroughly wash your hands before dealing with your broccoli sprouts to reduce your chances of contaminating them. Also, rinse them well before eating them.
Sprouts need to be somewhat moist, but not too much. Drain your sprouts well to help prevent mold growth. Once your sprouts are grown, wrap them in paper towels and refrigerate them. Enjoy them within three days.
Better Health Is Sprouting Up
Broccoli sprouts might be tiny, but they pack a powerful punch of sulforaphane. Sulforaphane may offer a variety of health benefits, including knocking out bad microbes, cancer, and inflammation. Not to mention their impact on vital areas in the body, such as the eyes, liver, mitochondria, and skin.
What broccoli sprout benefits do you need?