This article covers the proven health benefits of broccoli sprouts, as well as potential risks of broccoli sprouts, a broccoli sprouts vs. broccoli comparison, and other frequently asked questions.
You probably know that broccoli is all kinds of good for you. This veggie king is loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, which can offer a ton of health benefits.
But with all due respect, the lesser-known baby form of broccoli sprouts can offer more.
Broccoli sprouts are simply young, 3-4 day old broccoli plants that have just sprouted from seed, and are eaten at that stage. If left to continue growing, broccoli sprouts would turn into the mature broccoli you’re probably more familiar with.
Eating broccoli in its sprout form actually has some pretty amazing health benefits.
Whether you love or hate broccoli, you’ll want to check out these benefits of broccoli sprouts.
6 Health Benefits of Broccoli Sprouts
1. Anti-cancer properties
Broccoli sprouts contains compounds with some pretty remarkable anti-cancer properties including reducing cancer risk, reducing tumor growth, and killing cancer cells.
Research has shown the following results, and more:
Breast cancer: In an animal study, 3-day-old broccoli sprout extracts were shown to reduce the incidence, multiplicity, and rate of development of mammary tumors in rats (1). Similarly, other animal studies showed that breast cancer cell growth was inhibited and cell-specific apoptosis (cell death) was induced in breast cancer cells (2, 3).
Bladder cancer: Broccoli sprout extract inhibited the incidence, multiplicity, size, and progression of bladder cancer, in a dose-dependent manner in rats (4).
Colon cancer: In an animal study, human colon carcinoma cells were inhibited from growing, followed by cell death (7).
2. Neuroprotective properties
Broccoli sprouts may have some very promising applications to the treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Many studies have found that the active component of broccoli sprouts is able to counter neurodegenerative processes such as oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, excitotoxicity, and neuronal damage/loss (8).
These processes are the underlying cause of the neurodegeneration that occurs with stroke, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders.
Similarly, broccoli sprouts may have beneficial effects for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder.
One randomized controlled trial found that daily treatment of sulforaphane from broccoli sprout extracts significantly improved behaviour, social interaction, and verbal communication in young men with moderate to severe autism (9).
3. Cardioprotective properties
Broccoli sprouts contain compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
4. Reduces type 2 diabetes related risks and complications
Several randomized controlled trials have shown that daily broccoli sprout powder consumption mitigates harmful conditions associated with type 2 diabetes.
- Decreased insulin resistance (12)
- Decreased oxidative stress (13)
- Decreased serum triglyceride, oxidized LDL/LDL-cholesterol ratio, and atherogenic index of plasma (14). (All of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease).
5. Reduces inflammation in obese individuals
Obesity and chronic inflammation are tightly linked (15).
Daily consumption of broccoli sprouts for 10 weeks was found to significantly decrease markers of inflammation (IL-6 and CRP) in obese adults (16).
6. Reduces H. pylori bacterial infection
Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that infects the stomach and can cause ulcers and increase the risk of gastric cancer.
How Are Broccoli Sprouts So Dang Good For You?
The secret in the sauce is a special ingredient called sulforaphane.
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and the like) contain a glucosinolate compound called glucoraphanin which is converted into an isothiocyanate compound called sulforaphane once consumed.
Broccoli sprouts in particular, contain a lot of sulforaphane (in the form of its precursor, glucoraphanin).
Like a lot, a lot.
Like 10-100x more sulforaphane than mature broccoli, a lot (19).
Making broccoli sprouts easily the best natural source of sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane can do all sorts of good things, including:
- Activate the Nrf2-dependent antioxidant pathway
- Induce phase 2 detoxification enzymes
- Stop oxidative stress
- Inactivate NF-kappaB which is a key modulator of inflammatory pathways
It is sulforaphane that is the active component in all the benefits of broccoli sprouts listed above.
Sulforaphane’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help reduce the cellular damage and deterioration that can lead to cancer, neurodegeneration, and other complications.
Are Broccoli Sprouts Healthier Than Broccoli?
So, how do broccoli sprouts stack up to mature broccoli?
Nutrition-wise, broccoli sprouts and mature broccoli have similar composition, and both pack a very healthy punch loaded with important nutrients.
The main differences between them are:
- Broccoli sprouts have far more sulforaphane, as well as calcium and iron.
- Mature broccoli contains more vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
For the health benefits provided by sulforaphane specifically, broccoli sprouts are the best choice. They are also so much smaller and more concentrated so it is easier to get in a lot of nutrients without having to chow down a whole head of broccoli.
Can I Eat Broccoli Sprouts Everyday?
With all those health benefits, it seems like a good idea to eat broccoli sprouts as much as possible. So, are there any risks associated with eating broccoli sprouts? Can you eat too much?
Currently there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that broccoli sprouts are harmful to eat, and there is no established upper limit to how much you should eat.
Daily consumption of cruciferous vegetables is generally encouraged, and this includes broccoli sprouts.
As with other raw produce, there is always the risk of contamination and food borne illness.
Also, some people may experience gas or other digestive discomfort upon consuming too many raw broccoli sprouts (or cruciferous vegetables in general).
Basically, any precautions that would be taken for other raw vegetables are applicable here with broccoli sprouts.
Where Can I Get Broccoli Sprouts?
You can find broccoli sprouts in some supermarket produce sections, health food stores, farmer’s markets, or even sold in juice or extract form.
I think the best way to start eating broccoli sprouts is to grow them at home!
Broccoli sprouts can be quite expensive to buy, so why not grow your own? They can be grown very easily and inexpensively, and you can have fresh sprouts at your convenience. Minimal supplies and virtually no skills are required!
For step-by-step instructions on how to easily grow your own sprouts at home (in a jar!), check out this guide: How to Grow Broccoli Sprouts at Home: A Step-by-Step Guide For Beginners
Broccoli sprouts offer a range of health benefits including anti-cancer properties, neuroprotective effects, cardiovascular protection, diabetes mitigation, anti-inflammatory properties, and reduced risk of bacterial stomach infections. Broccoli sprouts are generally safe to consume.
I hope you enjoyed this post on the health benefits of broccoli sprouts, and are inspired to get sprouting your own broccoli sprouts at home!
As always, feel free to leave any questions or comments below 🙂