Research has shown repeatedly that cruciferous vegetables fight cancer. Vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower contain a cancer-protective compound called sulforaphane. This powerful compound improves the liver's ability to detoxify carcinogens and other toxins.
While broccoli is a rich source of sulphoraphane, sprouting broccoli boosts sulphoraphane content to superfood levels.
Three-day-old broccoli sprouts contain 10-100 times higher levels of sulforaphane than a mature head of broccoli. Just one ounce of broccoli sprouts contains as much sulforaphane as one-and-a-half pounds of broccoli. Broccoli sprouts been proven to be very effective in reducing breast cancer risks.
A University of Illinois study published in The British Journal of Nutrition suggests that combining broccoli with broccoli sprouts may make the vegetable's anti-cancer effect almost twice as powerful.
According to Elizabeth Jeffery, a professor of nutrition at the University, it takes only three to five servings of broccoli per week to obtain the cancer prevention benefits.
But it's important that the broccoli you eat still has a live enzyme called myrosinase. This enzyme is needed to form the sulforaphane, its active cancer fighting substance.
The problem is that many people overcook their broccoli. Cooking broccoli too long or at too high a heat will destroy the myrosinase. One study showed that two minutes in a microwave or seven minutes of steaming will destroy myrosinase.
Jeffery recommends steaming broccoli for only two to four minutes to protect both the enzyme and the vegetable's other nutrients.
Another way to make sure you're getting myrosinase is to eat raw broccoli sprouts. They have an abundant supply.
The researchers noted that some health-conscious consumers use broccoli powder supplements especially if they don't like broccoli. But taking supplements doesn't always work if the supplements don't contain the enzyme. The researchers hypothesized that myrosinase combined with broccoli powder would increase the sulforaphane content.
The study was small. Four healthy men ate broccoli sprouts alone, broccoli powder alone, or a combination of the two. Tests performed three hours after the meals showed an almost twofold increase in sulforaphane absorption when sprouts and powder were eaten together.
According to the researchers, this indicated that myrosinase from the broccoli sprouts produced sulforaphane not only from the sprouts but also from the broccoli powder.
The authors note that other sulforaphane containing foods, such as mustard, radishes, arugula, and wasabi, can be added to broccoli to boost its effects. For example, they suggest sprinkling broccoli sprouts on broccoli. Or you could make a mustard or wasabi sauce to serve with broccoli.
Broccoli sprouts are becoming very popular. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have developed a line of broccoli sprouts and sprout blends under the brand name BroccoSprouts. You can find them at health foods stores, Whole Foods Markets and many supermarkets.
Broccoli sprouts should be eaten raw. They are great on sandwiches, in wraps or as a salad topping.