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Broccoli Sprouts, Packed with Cancer-Protective Compounds

Broccoli Sprouts, Packed with Cancer-Protective Compounds

If you haven't yet developed a love of broccoli, a recent study suggests that topping a salad or sandwich with a serving of broccoli sprouts may provide you with many of mature broccoli's cancer-protective benefits.

A great deal of research has shown that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli contain cancer-protective compounds. One compound in particular called sulforaphane has been shown to improve the liver's ability to detoxify carcinogens and other toxic compounds. Now, researchers have discovered that 3-day-old sprouts of certain crucifers, including broccoli and cauliflower, contain 10-100 times higher levels of sulforaphane than do the corresponding mature plants. In fact, just one ounce of broccoli sprouts contain an equivalent amount of sulforaphane to one-and-a-half pounds of mature broccoli!

Practical Tips

Look for broccoli sprouts in the same area of your grocery's vegetable display where alfalfa and bean sprouts are found. Here are a few serving ideas to help you enjoy the protective benefits of broccoli sprouts:

  • Sprinkle tossed green salads with a mix of alfalfa and broccoli sprouts.
  • Instead of just lettuce, onion and tomato, add a layer of broccoli sprouts to veggie burgers and sandwiches.
  • Make a powerfully healthy burrito. Cover a whole wheat tortilla with low-fat refried beans, salsa, low-fat cheddar cheese, and a tablespoon of broccoli sprouts. Roll up, heat in the microwave for 1 minute and enjoy.

To learn more about the amazing health benefits of broccoli, truly one of the World's Healthiest Foods, click broccoli.

For some truly exceptional recipes that will help you enjoy broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale more frequently as part of your healthy way of eating, take a look at the World's Healthiest Foods' Recipes containing of these foods. Simply, click on the Recipe Assistant, select the foods for which you'd like some recipes from the Healthy Foods List, and click on the Submit button. A list containing links to all our recipes containing the foods chosen will appear immediately below.

Research Summary

A great deal of research has clearly demonstrated that cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower contain substantial quantities of cancer-protective compounds. Some of these compounds, particularly one called sulforaphane, are very potent inducers of the liver's Phase 2 detoxification enzymes. These enzymes (which include glutathione transferases, NAD(P)H: quinone reductase, and glucuronosyltransferases) are well known for their ability to clear a wide variety of toxic compounds from the body including not only many carcinogens, but also many reactive oxygen species, a particularly nasty type of free radical. By jump starting these important detoxification enzymes, compounds in crucifers provide protection against cell mutations, cancer and numerous other harmful effects that would otherwise be caused by these toxins.

Now, researchers have discovered that 3-day-old sprouts of certain crucifers, including broccoli and cauliflower, contain 10-100 times higher levels of sulforaphane than do the corresponding mature plants. When extracts of 3-day old broccoli sprouts were given to rats treated with the carcinogen DMBA (dimethylbenz(a)anthracene), the broccoli sprout extracts were found to be highly effective in reducing the incidence, multiplicity, and rate of development of mammary tumors.

From the powerful results demonstrated by broccoli sprouts in this study, researchers concluded that "Small quantities of crucifer sprouts may protect against the risk of cancer as effectively as much larger quantities of mature vegetables of the same variety."


Fahey JW, Zhang Y, Talalay P. Broccoli sprouts: an exceptionally rich source of inducers of enzymes that protect against chemical carcinogens. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1997 Sep 16;94(19):10367-72.

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