Are Broccoli Sprouts a Secret Superfood?

Are you tired of eating the same old “superfoods”? Had your fill of Kale and Quinoa? If you are experiencing superfood fatigue then let me introduce… broccoli sprouts.

If you’ve never seen or heard of broccoli sprouts, they’re basically immature broccoli plants, says Jessica Cooperstone, PhD, assistant professor of Horticulture and Crop Science and Food Science and Technology at The Ohio State University. When a broccoli plant is around three days old, it starts to grow little sprouts that resemble alfalfa or bean sprouts. In the late ’90s, researchers at Johns Hopkins University realized that, at this stage, the sprouts have higher concentrations of good-for-you chemicals than mature broccoli. So, people started eating and studying the sprouts.

Broccoli Sprouts Work Super Hard To Keep You Young

broccoli sprouts have loads of health benefits. Researchers have known for a while that cruciferous vegetables are good for you, and studies consistently confirm that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables are linked to a decreased risk for chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease and cancer. That’s most likely because cruciferous vegetables like arugula, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and wasabi all contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and possibly cancer-fighting effects.

Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts
Benefits of Alfalfa Sprouts

Broccoli Sprouts Are Super Full Of Sulforaphane

Here’s the basic scientific explanation: Cruciferous plants contain compounds called glucosinolate, which convert into isothiocyanates when eaten and chewed. All cruciferous veggies contain glucosinolates, but broccoli sprouts have an insane amount — about 10 to 100 times more than most cruciferous vegetables. There’s evidence to suggest that sulforaphane can prevent DNA damage that leads to cancer, and in studies on mice, sulforaphane seems to prevent inflammation that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease.

Raw For The Win

Broccoli sprouts are really, really good for you, and they don’t taste bad, either. They have an almost spicy kick to them, but otherwise they’re pretty bland. The texture is grass-like and stringy, sort of like microgreens, and they add a nice crunch to sandwiches and salads. Some people like to put them in smoothies, too. If you really want to reap the health benefits of broccoli sprouts, it’s best to eat them raw, because if you cook the them, you’ll deactivate the enzyme that converts glucosinolates to isothiocyanates.

What’s The Catch?

Broccoli sprouts may seem like they’re too good to be true, and there is one caveat: As innocent as these little sprouts look, and as fun as they are to grow, the seeds are extra-susceptible to growing E.Coli during the sprouting process, and growing them at home doesn’t reduce this risk. For that reason, children and people who are pregnant shouldn’t eat raw sprouts, and you have to make sure you wash them before eating.

The current research about the health benefits of broccoli sprouts is exciting and promising, but there is still a lot that has to be done before we can say that these tiny sprouts will prevent cancer or Alzheimer’s. If you’re into the taste and texture, adding broccoli sprouts here and there in your diet is a great idea. And if you decide you hate the taste, you can always keep the sprouts like a Chia Pet.

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