We love growing our own sprouts. Whether we have arugula, radish, cress, clover, or so many more options on the go, they are such a tasty addition to any plate, as well as a low-fuss way to ramp up the nutrients. They're super quick to grow, and waaaay cheaper than they are to buy. It never gets old watching those little things sprout and shoot and, if you suffer from boredom when it comes to anything with a time delay, it all happens satisfyingly fast. Depending on the temperature you're looking at 4-5 days tops!
When it comes to high nutrients and bringing down inflammation, there's no doubting that the King of all the sprouts is Broccoli. So if you're interested in growing your own, I'm going to show you how and why you should do it.
Broccoli sprouts are basically tiny broccoli plants, but because they are so small, the nutrients are highly concentrated. This means they pack an almighty punch in the plant's natural compounds, particularly one called Sulforaphane.
What's so special about Sulforaphane?
Sulforaphane is a natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and kale. It's the inactive form of glucoraphanin, a glucosinolate that converts to sulforaphane when it comes into direct contact (such as chopping or chewing) with the enzyme myrosinase. And get this. Broccoli sprouts contain up to 100 times more glucoraphanin than mature broccoli. Pretty mind-blowing don't you agree?
Sulforaphane activates the NRF2 pathway that regulates over 200 genes, including those linked with inflammation. It crosses the blood-barrier and has profound effects on the brain.
Sulforaphane can also -
- reduce cancer risk and kill cancer cells
- increase the excretion of carcinogens, including benzene which is highly damaging to the immune system
- deactivate and excrete other harmful compounds on a daily basis
- reduce the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease
- lower inflammatory cytokines
- reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's
- improve symptoms of children on the autistic spectrum
- help to lower fasting blood sugar levels
- lower cholesterol in Type II diabetes patients
- activate both Phase I and Phase II detoxification enzymes that help to neutralize and excrete used hormones and toxins
- destroy H. pylori, a particularly destructive bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers and, in rare, cases, cancer
- control inflammation and protect the lining of the GI tract
Dr Rhonda Patrick has a lot of information on the benefits of broccoli sprouts, as well as how to keep and use them to tease out the most nutrition. She advises that freezing the sprouts results in the formation of more sulforaphane. Adding them directly to the blender for smoothies makes the most sense because, if the sprouts are thawed first, the bulk of myrosinase enzyme activity will have already occurred, and you'll waste precious levels of sulforaphane.
Broccoli sprouts are the richest dietary source of sulforaphane, but be sure to eat them raw since the compounds are easily destroyed by heat. They also need to be eaten as soon as possible after harvesting.
In case you're wondering, broccoli sprouts are not detrimental to thyroid health, as understood from Dr Sarah Ballantyne's post here.
Broccoli sprouts are easy to grow at home, you need very little equipment to get started. I love my reasonably priced seed sprouter. You can use sprouting jars if you like, but a tiered sprouter allows you to grow more at a time, while still saving space. Broccoli sprouts can work out fairly pricey if you buy regularly from your grocery store or farmer's market, whereas home grown work out to be extremely cost effective. And given you'll be wanting to put a half cup on your plate or in a smoothie, you're going to need an ongoing supply. Especially if you're catering for several people at a time, like I am.
All you need to do is give your seeds a thorough soak and divide them into the tiers of your sprouter. Morning and evening, pour a cup of filtered water into the top tier and leave it to drain through the lower tiers into the base which should be emptied regularly. Rotating the trays ensures the sprouts grow evenly.
Day 1 - by the end of the first day you'll see the seeds starting to crack open. Excitement, I told you this would be speedy
Day 2 - the seeds have cracked and cute little tails have emerged. Sprouting has begun. The sprouts are at their most nutrient dense 3-4 days from now.
Day 3 - you'll see some white fuzziness around the stems but don't worry, it isn't mold. Oh and there might be the whiff of something quite unsavoury. I may have made a few accusations at this point!
Day 4 - the sprouts have filled out nicely and are on the brink of being ready for harvest.
Day 5 - longer and darker green, the sprouts are ready for use and you can start the process over.
Home Grown Broccoli Sprouts
Makes around 3 cups
- Soak the broccoli seeds in plenty of filtered water for 8-10 hours.
- Drain well and divide between your 4-tiered sprouter. Alternatively divide between sprouting jars.
- Pour over a cup of filtered water, twice daily, and allow to drain.
- Harvest around 3-4 days after the seeds start to sprout. Transfer the sprouts to a bowl of cold water and swish around to remove as many seeds as possible.
- Dry the sprouts on absorbent paper or in a salad spinner and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
- Eat within 2-3 days, but the sooner the better for maximum nutrients.