Disclaimer – do not take the content of this blog as medical advise. It is for information purposes only.
In this blog, I’m going to talk about the benefits of broccoli sprouts, sulforaphane, the NRF2 pathway and their association to reduced cancer risk. From all the research I’ve done over the years, it’s my opinion that broccoli sprouts are one of the most powerful, potentially the most powerful supers food on the planet. And the great news is that we can easily grow them at home, and they are very cheap to make!
Broccoli sprouts obviously grow to become the mature broccoli we buy in the supermarket, and broccoli is part of the cruciferous vegetable family which also includes spinach, kale, brussel sprouts and cauliflower among many others. The special thing about the cruciferous family is that when eaten, they all contain compounds known as isothiocyanates which are well known for their health benefits. However, the reason I’m focusing on broccoli and broccoli sprouts is because they contain an isothiocyanate called sulforaphane which is especially powerful in terms of its anticancer properties and as such a lot of scientific research has been done around it. So sulforaphane found in broccoli is the key focus of this blog and I really think of it as a miracle compound when it comes to health and longevity.
One of the reasons that sulforaphane is so special is that it’s the most potent naturally occurring dietary activator of a genetic pathway in body called NRF2. NRF2 is an amazing pathway that controls over 200 genes in the body, many of which slow cellular aging.
Here are some of the things the NRF2 pathway is believed to do –
1) Protects from cancer by reducing the DNA damage we get from carcinogens (which are known to cause cancer) both by reducing the production of of them in the body, and also increasing the excretion of them from the body.
2) It deactivates inflammatory genes. Reducing inflammation is probably the most powerful way to prevent disease across the board.
3) It activates antioxidant genes which protect DNA from damage
4) it lowers the damage that accumulates in our cells overtime which can eventually cause them to be non functional.
In short, NRF2 is a pretty bad ass pathway in the body and sulforaphane from broccoli will increase the activation of this gene. So personally, I want to hammer my NRF2 pathway!
So now I want to talk about some studies that show that cruciferous vegetables that contain isothiocyanates like sulforaphane, may actually reduce the risk of cancer.
So bladder cancer. One study showed that men who ate two or more half cup servings of broccoli a week had a 44% reduction of bladder cancer compared to men who had less than one serving per week. Another showed that men who already had bladder cancer, had a 57% reduction of mortality by eating just 4 servings of broccoli per month, compared to those who had one serving per month.
Next, breast cancer. Multiple studies have shown that women who ate at least one serving of cruciferous vegetables a day, had between a 17% to 50% reduction in breast cancer compared to those who ate it once a week
Lung cancer. A study showed that smokers, who ate at least four and half servings of raw cruciferous vegetables a month, had a 55% reduction in lung cancer risk, compared to those who ate less than two and half servings per month.
Prostate cancer. Men who ate between three to five servings of cruciferous vegetables a week, had a 41% decrease in prostate cancer risk, compared to those who ate less than one serving per week.
Another study showed that men who already had prostate cancer were given 60 mg of sulforaphane a day (140g for fresh broccoli sprouts) resulting in the slowing of the doubling rate of the biomarker for prostate cancer called prostate specific antigen (or PSA) by 86% compared to placebo or those who didn’t have any sulforaphane.
Another study showed that 35mg of sulforaphane (instead of the 60mg) was given to men with prostate cancer every day, and that slowed the doubling rate of the PSA by 57%. So there seems to be a dose dependent effect meaning the more we take the more benefit we’ll get.
So those are some pretty strong associations and make a good case for cruciferous veggies contain isothiocyanates, especially sulforaphane.
So the title of this blog benefits of broccoli sprouts, so why sprouts and not broccoli? To answer that, let’s talk about how the sulforaphane is made in broccoli. It’s actually made from a precursor molecule called glucoraphanin (found in the broccoli). Glucoraphanin is converted into sulforaphane by an enzyme also found in the broccoli called myrosinase. This process happens when the broccoli is chopped, crushed or chewed. It’s a actually a defence mechanism to ward of bugs looking to eat the broccoli or the seed. If a bug starts chewing on the broccoli, the cell in broken causing the myrosinase enzyme to react with the precursor glucoraphanin to make sulforaphane, the sulporahane has a slightly bitter taste which causing the bug to go ‘bleh’ and leave the broccoli alone.
The reason we want to eat broccoli sprouts over broccoli, is that it contains up to one hundred times more glucorhapanine (which converts to sulforaphane) than broccoli. So we get much more bang for our buck. Now, brocolli seed contains even more glucoraphanin than sprouts but it’s very, very bitter. I went about two weeks of grinding the seed and drinking down with water, but eventually I had to give up because it was just too bitter.
As I say, sulforaphane is made when you chop, chew or crush the broccoli. So the best way to prepare it is to blend it in a smoothy. You really do need to eat it raw as excessive heating can actually deactivate the enzyme that converts glucoraphanin into sulforaphane, so you won’t get the benefits if you boil it. However, light steaming has been shown to increase the sulforaphane, and also freezing it and then blending from frozen also been shown to increase the sulforaphane.
Now, you can make broccoli sprouts from home very easily. All you need is the seed, and I recommend you buy organic and you should be able to find it at your local health food store. And you need a jar to sprout it in, and something to be able to drain the water with. If you’d like to learn how to make them, I will be doing a video on how, and when it’s available I’ll put the link here!
Okay, let’s do a quick recap. So there have been a lot of studies that show eating cruciferous vertetbales (that include broccoli, kale and spinach) many reduce the risk of many forms of cancer, which are likely due to the health benefits of the isothiocyanates that they contain. However, we believe broccoli may be especially powerful because it contains the isothiocyanate sulforaphane which is the most potent activate of the NRF2 pathway that we know of from food. Remember the NRF2 pathway controls over 200 genes, some of which protect from cancer, deactivate inflammatory genes, activate antioxidant genes and help to reduce the accumulation of damage to our cells. Sulforaphane is made from glucoraphanin, and broccoli sprouts contain 100 more than mature broccoli. We want to eat it raw because cooking it will deactivate the enzyme myrosinase, which is responsible for converting the glucoraphanin into sulforaphane.