Tender baby broccoli plants, known as broccoli sprouts, are an increasingly popular health food.
The young plants are grown from seed and eaten when they’re just a few days old. They’re usually eaten raw in salads or sandwiches, so their delicate balance of nutrition isn’t damaged by cooking. They add a pleasant crunch to foods and make an excellent carrier for sauces and salad dressings.
Broccoli sprouts and their extracts have also shown promise at treating or preventing a number of health issues.
Most of the health benefits of broccoli sprouts come from their high level of glucoraphanin. Your body converts this compound into sulforaphane, which protects your cells against inflammation and a wide variety of diseases.
Some common health benefits of broccoli sprouts include:
Many studies over the years have confirmed that eating cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage) raw or lightly cooked can protect against a number of cancers. Sulforaphane from these foods slows tumor growth and stops benign carcinogens from converting into active ones.
In one study, researchers found that just 3 to 5 servings of cruciferous vegetables each week reduced cancer risk by up to 40%.
Stomach Ulcer Treatment
The sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts helps fight the type of bacteria that causes ulcers. One study on mice found that sulforaphane may even be more effective at treating ulcers than traditional antibiotics.
A more recent study showed that these effects might be similar in humans as well. Test subjects who ate 2.5 ounces of broccoli sprouts every day showed lower levels of ulcer-causing bacteria than those who munched on alfalfa sprouts instead. They also had less inflammation.
Some studies have shown sulforaphane to be an effective treatment for a number of mental health disorders. Researchers have found that sulforaphane may help reduce levels of a compound called glutamate, which has been linked to disorders like depression and schizophrenia.
Though the research isn’t conclusive, there is evidence that the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts may help people with mental health problems manage their symptoms and lower their doses of traditional medicines.
Broccoli sprouts load a lot of fiber and protein into just a few calories. They also contain anywhere from 10 to 100 times as much glucoraphanin — the nutrient that becomes sulforaphane — as the mature vegetable.
These sprouts are bursting with vitamins and other nutrients, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Nutrients per Serving
There are not yet any universally agreed-upon serving sizes or nutrient information for broccoli sprouts. On average though, a cup of raw broccoli sprouts contains about:
Things to Watch Out For
The temperature, moisture balance, and other growing conditions that produce sprouts also foster the growth of bacteria. When Canadian researchers tested crops of sprouts, they found salmonella, listeria, staph, and other pathogens that can cause illness or even death. Eating raw sprouts can increase your risk of exposure to these food-borne illnesses.
How to Prepare Broccoli Sprouts
You can buy broccoli sprouts at many health food stores, but you can also grow them easily at home.
Soak two tablespoons of broccoli seeds overnight and rinse them. Put the damp seeds into a mason jar and screw on the lid. Then, prop the jar in a bowl or dish with the top slanted downward — this will allow moisture to drain away from the seeds. Keep the jar in a dark cupboard.
Rinse and drain the growing sprouts twice a day. After about 4 or 5 days, they will be ready. If you put them in the window for a few hours, they will take on a vibrant green color. Dry your sprouts on paper toweling before you put them in the refrigerator. Eat within 2 to 3 days.
A few delicious ways to enjoy your sprouts include:
- Tossed into a leafy green salad.
- Sprinkled into sandwiches and wraps.
- Blended into a smoothie with fruits and vegetables.