Broccoli sprouts have become increasingly popular as an addition to a morning smoothie in the health and wellness community. The craze stems from a key molecule, glucoraphanin, the precursor to sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane has become increasingly popular for its ability to make a positively impact on certain forms of cancers, H. Pilori in the gut, Alzheimer's, Autism, and Parkinson's Disease. Although, sulforaphane itself actually is not the reason for all of these positive health effect. In short, for all you geeks out there, when sulforaphane enters the cell, it induces a hormetic response triggering the transcription of genes for protective enzymes, essentially gearing our cells up to protect us from cellular damage.
Going deeper, it’s important to mention Nrf2. A pathway which protects against oxidation caused by inflammation and a well-known mechanism that is “geared up” in the presence of Sulforaphane.
Nrf2 is activated by consuming a myriad of vegetables, primarily from the Brassicaceae family, which includes all crucifers like kale, broccoli, and cabbage. Studies show that folks who eat a higher level of cruciferous vegetables have lower levels of certain cancers, namely lung and breast cancer.
It is important to note:
- The Younger the Better - Earlier stages of broccoli are richer in sulforaphane. Seeds having the highest concentration and adult broccoli plants containing the least amount. Since the seeds can often be intensely bitter, sprouts are a great way to still get elevated levels of Sulforaphane, while not completely overpowering the flavor of your smoothie.
- Eat it Raw - Cooking broccoli, kale and even broccoli sprouts makes the sulforaphane considerably less bioavailable. Smoothies and salads are the best vehicles for consuming these plants raw.
5 Easy Steps to Grow Broccoli Sprouts
Broccoli Sprouts are incredibly easy to grow at home, super high in sulforaphane, and can be cultivated with very little time and cost. Below are the steps to grow your own broccoli sprouts:
I bought a few of these sprouting lids for mason jars on Amazon that are perfect for easily washing and straining the sprouts. I run four jars at a time, which yields a couple weeks worth of sprouts for daily smoothies for two people. I bought these cheap, organic, non-GMO seeds and a couple sprouting stands pictured below. Using a small dish or bowl in place of stands is another option to set the jars upside down, however, I prefer the stands, which make the process easier.
Add 3 Tablespoons of broccoli sprouts seeds to each jar and cover with the sprouting screens. Fill the jars with a couple inches of water and swish them around a bit. Set in a dark, cool place for 12 Hours. I put mine under the kitchen sink.
After 12 hours, dump out the water, wash the seeds, dump out the water again, and place the jar upside down in a dark cool place (this is where the sprouting stands come in handy). It is important to leave them upside down. When the seeds/sprouts sit in water, they can easily mold which can be a BIG problem. I love these stands from Amazon.
Once every morning and once every evening (I do this when I make coffee in the morning and when I do dishes at night) pull out the jars, fill them with water to rinse the seeds/sprouts and then dump out all of the water. Repeat this step for 6-10 days or until the jar is full of baby broccoli sprouts.
Once the sprouts grew enough to fill the jar pull them out of the cabinet and let them sit in the sun for a day to “color up” from their yellow color to green. There is no exact answer for when to pull them out, just look for the majority of seeds to be sprouted. The earlier you pull them, the more bitter they will be, but the more Sulforaphane they will contain! I always err on the side of early.
Remove broccoli sprouts from the jars and place in a large bag in the freezer. This way they will be preserved for a while and are easy to snag a handful and toss in a smoothie.