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How to Increase Sulforaphane in Broccoli Sprouts

sulforaphane in broccoli

Microgreens like broccoli sprouts are becoming more popular as healthy choices nowadays because they tend to be more nutritious than other types of greens. That said, broccoli sprouts can even become healthier than they are if you are able to increase the sulforaphane that they contain. After all, sulforaphane is one of the healthiest components found mainly in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli sprouts. So, how do you increase the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts?

The best way for you to increase sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts is to heat them under certain conditions or to freeze them. That’s because heating or freezing your broccoli sprouts can help decrease the chances of them producing sulforaphane nitrile instead of sulforaphane. 

There is an entire science that can be discussed when it comes to broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane. However, let us not go deep into the scientific terms that can be a bit too difficult to understand or even discuss. Instead, let us talk more about how you can maximize the health benefits of your broccoli sprouts by increasing their sulforaphane content.

broccoli sprouts

Do broccoli sprouts have sulforaphane?

Different greens or microgreens have their own health benefits, and that is exactly what makes them unique in comparison to other vegetables. However, there are some greens that have their own unique components, which is what gives them the appealing health benefit that people want from them when they make these greens a regular part of their diet. One such compound is what we call sulforaphane.

What is sulforaphane?

When it comes to different types of greens and other natural plants that can be consumed, they usually have certain compounds that are unique to them in the sense that no other greens or edible plants have them. After all, different vegetables tend to be unique in their own way. While some vegetables do have similar components in terms of their macro and micronutrients, they may differ when it comes to certain chemical compounds.

Sulforaphane is one of the most beneficial chemical compounds that you can find in different types of greens and microgreens. As the name suggests, sulforaphane is actually a sulfur-rich chemical compound that is actually the inactive form of glucoraphanin that belongs to the glucosinolate family of plant compounds.

However, what you should know is that sulforaphane isn’t actually activated in the plant as is. It will only get activated once the plant is damaged or is eaten because that is when glucoraphanin comes into contact with myrosinase, which is an enzyme that plays an active role when it comes to the defense system of plants.

In that case, for you to activate the myrosinase, the vegetable or plant must be cut or chewed. From there, it will activate the sulforaphane and release all of its health benefits into the body of someone who is eating it.

So, now that we mentioned that sulforaphane has plenty of health benefits that make it appealing for someone to eat a vegetable that contains a good helping of it, let us talk more about how healthy sulforaphane is.

healthy microgreen broccoli salad

What are the benefits of sulforaphane?

  1. May help against cancer

At this point, you are already familiar with what cancer is, which is basically one of the most fatal diseases in the world because of how your cells will grow uncontrollably if you are suffering from cancer. 

That said, it is suggested that sulforaphane can help against cancer because it has shown to have some effects against cancer when it was tested in animal studies. The studies showed that it was able to reduce the size and number of different cancer cells.

The reason why sulforaphane may be able to help fend off cancer is that it can help prevent the growth of cancer cells because of how it releases antioxidants and detoxification enzymes that can help fight off free radicals and carcinogens, which are known to cause cancer.

That said, sulforaphane is a great way for you to possibly increase your chances of fending off cancer and the growth of cancer cells. Still, the studies conducted in relation to this are inconclusive at best. But it doesn’t hurt to consume foods that are rich in this natural chemical substance.

2. Can help improve heart health

Studies have also shown that sulforaphane can help improve heart health. The reason is that this chemical compound has anti-inflammatory properties that can help keep your heart healthy. In case you didn’t know, inflammation can cause heart diseases because of how it can narrow your arteries and make it more difficult for blood to flow.

On top of that, the same properties have also shown that sulforaphane can reduce high blood pressure, which is one of the ways you can prevent heart diseases. This makes sulforaphane a good chemical substance you should keep in mind the next time you are looking for a heart-healthy diet.

broccoli sprouts
3. May be beneficial against diabetes

One of the diseases that millions of people around the world suffer from is type 2 diabetes, which can easily occur due to an increase in blood sugar levels. What happens when you have type 2 diabetes is that your body won’t be able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels because it makes it difficult for your blood to transport sugar to your cells.

However, it is suggested that sulforaphane can help people suffering from type 2 diabetes as it was able to reduce blood sugar levels by 6.5% in a controlled study among people suffering from this disease. It showed better results in people who were actually suffering from obesity and poor diabetes control.

4. Additional health benefits

  • Sulforaphane is said to help treat certain symptoms of autism as it can help improve social interaction and verbal communication among those suffering from it.
  • There are reasons to believe that sulforaphane can help protect you from the damage caused by UV rays since the rays of the sun can actually cause skin damage when you are exposed to it too much.
  • There are studies that have shown that it can help protect your brain against degenerative diseases and even brain injuries. It was even shown to help improve brain recovery from a mental decline caused by age or other diseases.
  • Aside from the fiber that a lot of vegetables with sulforaphane have, this chemical substance can also help those who are suffering from constipation.
broccoli sprouts in sandwich

Broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane

All that said, you may be wondering what kind of food has a good amount of sulforaphane. So, if you must know, cruciferous vegetables are the types of food that have the most abundant amounts of sulforaphane. And when it comes to those cruciferous vegetables, not a lot of them have the same abundance of sulforaphane that broccoli has.

In that sense, because broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, it also follows that broccoli sprouts are just as abundant when it comes to this natural chemical compound because they are merely sprouted versions of broccoli that is yet to mature.

But what are broccoli sprouts? These are actually shoots that grow out from broccoli seeds and are often similar to alfalfa sprouts and mustard sprouts in terms of appearance and taste. This means that broccoli sprouts are basically sprouted versions of broccoli seeds that are yet to grow into full-grown adult broccoli plants.

And because broccoli sprouts are basically microgreen versions of the broccoli plant, it contains rich amounts of sulforaphane and a lot of the other macro and micronutrients that can be found in broccoli. As such, it can be just as healthy and even more healthy than broccoli itself.

On top of that, sprouted vegetables also tend to have higher concentrations of sulforaphane when they are left uncooked. That said, broccoli sprouts can contain as many as 10 times the sulforaphane as the ones found in fully grown unsprouted broccoli plants.

How much sulforaphane can you find in broccoli sprouts?

As we said, there are studies that have shown that broccoli sprouts can contain as many as 10 times the sulforaphane as unsprouted broccoli. But how much sulforaphane can you actually find in broccoli sprouts?

Let us look at the comparison, shall we? 

In raw mature or unsprouted broccoli, it has about 44 to 171 milligrams of sulforaphane per 100 grams of mature broccoli. For broccoli sprouts, you will be surprised to see that they can contain as much as 1150 milligrams of sulforaphane per 100 grams of broccoli sprouts. That means that you can have as much as 2300 milligrams of sulforaphane if you eat a cup of broccoli sprouts per day.

As such, you would have to eat 10 times the weight of broccoli sprouts if you prefer to eat mature broccoli just so you can have the same concentration of sulforaphane. In comparison, by eating only a few grams of broccoli sprouts or if you prefer to eat a cup of it per day, you can take advantage of the rich concentration of sulforaphane from the number of broccoli sprouts that you are eating on a daily basis.

How to increase sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts?

Now that you know that broccoli sprouts are already rich in sulforaphane, did you know that you can still increase their sulforaphane content even though they already have more than enough of it? That’s right, there are some methods that you can use to increase the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts so that you can get more of that healthy and natural chemical compound that has been shown to have good benefits for your overall health.

That said, one of the more popular ways for you to increase sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts is to heat broccoli sprouts. Yes, we did say that uncooked broccoli sprouts tend to have higher sulforaphane contents than cooked broccoli sprouts. However, applying heat to broccoli sprouts doesn’t necessarily cook it. But before we get to that, let us first discuss what happens when you heat broccoli sprouts and how doing so can actually increase the amount of sulforaphane it has. 

As mentioned, sulforaphane is released only when the broccoli sprout or the broccoli plant is crushed or chewed, which is what happens when we are eating it. This is an action that is done by glucoraphanin.

However, the problem here is that glucoraphanin can also produce sulforaphane nitrile, which may still be beneficial but doesn’t have the anti-cancer effects that sulforaphane has. That means that sulforaphane nitrile is less ideal than sulforaphane as it is not as beneficial to the body as the latter is.

broccoli sprouts

As said, the myrosinase is the one responsible for activating the sulforaphane inside the broccoli sprouts. But the key factor as to whether or not myrosinase will produce sulforaphane nitrile is the epithiospecifier protein. This will shift the pathway towards sulforaphane nitrile, which is something that we shouldn’t want to happen if we want to maximize the sulforaphane found in our broccoli sprouts.

So, going back to our point where heat can help increase the sulforaphane found in broccoli sprouts, the good news is that heat can help disable the epithiospecifier protein to decrease the chances of the myrosinase from producing sulforaphane nitrile instead of sulforaphane. However, we did say that cooking the broccoli sprouts can lead to a lower sulforaphane content as well.

The reason why cooking the broccoli sprouts can reduce the sulforaphane content is that it will also disable the myrosinase, which is what is responsible for producing the sulforaphane in the first place.

As such, the trick here is to heat the broccoli sprouts to such a degree that we get to disable the epithiospecifier protein without disabling the myrosinase. And if you do this right, there is a chance that you can even triple the sulforaphane found in your broccoli sprouts.

So, what you need to do here is to apply just enough heat so that you can disable the epithiospecifier protein without hitting the point where the myrosinase will disable as well. You can do so by heating the broccoli sprouts at about 70 degrees Celsius for only 10 mins. Anything more than that will increase the chances of disabling the myrosinase as well, which would then lead to a lower sulforaphane level in your sprouts.

You have to be so precise when doing this so that you can truly maximize the sulforaphane in your broccoli sprouts. As such, you can do so by making use of a cooking thermometer that is attached to your tea kettle so that you can accurately measure how hot the water is. You can set the thermometer to beep once it reaches 70 degrees Celsius so that you can stop the heating process and then pour the water onto your broccoli sprouts, which will be heated for 10 minutes.

From there, you are basically done as you are now free to do whatever you want with your broccoli sprouts. You can eat them as they are, add them to salads, or eat them together with your other cooked meals

In the alternative, you can also use other methods that will heat your broccoli sprouts at 70 degrees Celsius for only about 10 minutes. If you can accurately control the temperature in your microwave or in your oven, you can also use them to heat your broccoli sprouts to increase their sulforaphane content. After that, you can either cool them down to save them later for your other meals or you can eat them right after heating them.

Does freezing broccoli sprouts increase sulforaphane?

While heating your broccoli sprouts is the more scientifically accurate way for you to increase their sulforaphane content as this has been extensively studied, there are some who also freeze their broccoli sprouts using a method called freeze-drying. But does freeze-drying your broccoli sprouts actually increase sulforaphane?

In a study, it was shown that freezing broccoli sprouts in liquid nitrogen at -20 degrees Celsius yielded about twice the sulforaphane content in the sprouts. It was also shown that the myrosinase activity was not adversely affected while the sulforaphane formation increased without yielding to an equal increase in sulforaphane nitrile formation as well.

The reason why this happens is that freeze-drying your broccoli sprouts can remove the moisture found in the sprouts. Removing the moisture in the sprouts will decrease the chances of an increase in sulforaphane nitrile formation without touching or destroying all of the delicate enzymes such as myrosinase, which is responsible for producing sulforaphane.

However, because freeze-drying isn’t exactly as easy as heating your broccoli sprouts because this is quite a delicate procedure, it may be better for you to just heat your sprouts instead. Some say that using a freezer and using a ziplock bag can be effective as well but doing so will not guarantee that you are going to decrease the moisture found in the broccoli sprouts.

As such, you probably should only freeze your broccoli sprouts for storage purposes. But, if you wanted to increase their sulforaphane levels, it might be better to use the heating method instead because it is easier as long as you can accurately measure the temperature of whatever you are going to use to heat your broccoli sprouts.

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