Broccoli Sprouts: Cancer-Fighting Effects and Other Benefits
By now everyone knows that broccoli is good for you, but did you know that also broccoli sprouts have some interesting health benefits? Broccoli sprouts, the edible sprouting seeds of the Brassica oleracea var. italica plant, have been shown to possess properties that may make them effective at preventing cancer, fighting insulin resistance in diabetics, reducing inflammatory aspects of asthma and COPD, and alleviating arthritis. Many of these health benefits are thought to be linked to the high levels of glucosinolates found in broccoli sprouts.
Here, we take an in-depth look at the potential health benefits of this trendy superfood, plus provide tips on where to find fresh broccoli sprouts or concentrated supplements made from dried, powdered broccoli sprouts.
5 Health Benefits of Eating Broccoli Sprouts
1. A Superfood with Significant Cancer-Fighting Potential
You may have already heard about the potential anti-cancer effects of kale sprouts, but guess what, broccoli sprouts appear to have even more anti-cancer potential! A study funded by Australia's Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) assessed the anti-cancer potential of a number of Brassica sprouts based on their glucosinolate content, and broccoli sprouts came out on top (along with radish sprouts). While glucosinolates themselves have limited biological activity, their hydrolysis products – such as sulforaphane – have been shown to possess strong anti-cancer properties.
2. Broccoli Sprout Powder Fights Insulin Resistance in Diabetics
Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are increasingly common in Western countries. In addition to having complications of their own, these metabolic disorders have been linked to numerous other health problems and diseases, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Due to the prevalence and seriousness of these conditions, scientists are constantly looking for new ways to prevent and manage these conditions.
In an Iranian study published in the November 2012 edition of the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 81 patients with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to receive either sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprouts powder or a placebo medication.
After the four-week trial period, those in the broccoli sprout powder group had significantly lower serum insulin concentrations and HOMA-IR values (homeostasis model assessment-estimated insulin resistance values), suggesting that broccoli sprouts may help fight insulin resistance in peopel with type 2 diabetes.
3. Broccoli Sprouts Are Good for Your Lungs, Study Suggests
Here's another reason to become a fan of broccoli sprouts: A team of UCLA researchers discovered that the sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts may help protect against respiratory inflammation that causes conditions like asthma, allergic rhinitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a serious condition that can cause shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing, among other symptoms. These anti-inflammatory effects were linked to the ability of sulforaphane to increase the level of antioxidant enzymes in the nasal airway cells.
Published in the March edition of the journal Clinical Immunology, this study involved 65 volunteers who were given varying oral doses of either broccoli sprout or alfalfa sprout preparations for three days. According to the researchers, consumption of broccoli sprouts caused no serious side effects or adverse reactions in the study participants, suggesting that this may be an effective, safe strategy to decrease inflammatory aspects of respiratory conditions such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, or COPD.
4. Broccoli Sprouts May Provide Benefits for Arthritis Patients, Too
In addition to providing protection against respiratory problems, the anti-inflammatory properties of broccoli sprouts may also provide benefits for arthritis sufferers. A study published in the January 2010 edition of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism reported that sulforaphane showed strong anti-arthritis and immunoregulatory effects, both in test tubes and in mice with experimentally induced arthritis. The researchers concluded that based on their observations, sulforaphane might offer a possible treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis.
5. Anti-Bacterial Effects Against Helicobacter Pylori
A study published in the April 2009 edition of the journal Cancer Prevention Research found a two-month oral treatment with sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprouts reduce bacterial colonization in mice infected with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria. The same study also investigated the anti-H. pylori effects of broccoli sprouts in humans, and the results were equally promising. To learn more about this study – and about the health effects of H. pylori infections in humans – check out HealWithFood.org's in-depth article on broccoli sprouts and H. pylori infections.
Where to Find Broccoli Sprouts
Despite the increasing knowledge about the health benefits of broccoli sprouts, it is still relatively difficult to find fresh broccoli sprouts in regular grocery stores. But the good news is, you can always grow your own sprouts (or, if you think sprouting broccoli seeds is too difficult, consider growing broccoli microgreens instead).