We all know that broccoli is healthy, but most of us don’t eat it often enough. Some don’t like the taste, some find it hard to prepare, but did you know there’s an even more nutrient-dense form of broccoli you’ve probably never heard of? I’m talking about broccoli microgreens.
The potential health benefits of broccoli microgreens are unbelievable, considering their tiny size. They may contain up to 40 times the levels of nutrients by weight compared to adult broccoli.
What are broccoli microgreens? It is a phase in a plant’s life when it is between 10 and 14 days old. During this stage, sulforaphane (pronounced 'sull-fore-uh-fane'), one of the plant’s natural compounds peaks. Sulforaphane is nature's most potent known Nrf2 activator –which means it can activate a biological process that actually creates antioxidant proteins in your body.
This compound is also present in a few other cruciferous vegetables like Bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. However, broccoli is one of the foods highest in sulforaphane, particularly at the sprout and microgreen stages.
Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits of broccoli microgreens and sulforaphane.
Note: It's always best to consult a healthcare professional before making any dietary or health decisions based on this article.
1. Sulforaphane has anti-cancer properties
Many test-tube studies and animal studies have shown anti-cancer properties of sulforaphane.
Research suggests sulforaphane facilitates the release of antioxidants and detoxifying enzymes that neutralize known cancer-causing elements such as benzene in animal cells. It binds to a protein within the cells and, in the process, catalyzes the production of enzymes that help the cells resist toxic and carcinogenic substances.
Though this is incredibly promising news, more research is needed about the effects on human health.
2. Supports cardiovascular health
One of the major causes of cardiovascular diseases and complications is inflammation. Inflammation of the arteries can cause narrowing of the vessels leading to high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries.
Results from animal and test-tube studies suggest that sulforaphane contains anti-inflammatory properties. This compound activates a protein known as Nrf2 that prevents the endothelial cells (the cells that line your arteries), from triggering inflammation.
In a 2009 study commissioned by the British Heart Foundation Cardiovascular Sciences Unit, it was found that activation of Nrf2 may prevent or reduce atherosclerosis in animal cells, though more research is needed concerning its effects on humans.
3. Broccoli sprouts could have anti-diabetic properties
Sulforaphane from broccoli sprout extracts has been found to alleviate the effects of Type 2 diabetes in liver cells from diabetic animals.
This study also examined the effect of sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts on people with Type 2 diabetes. Half of the 97 participants were each given broccoli containing 150 µmol of sulforaphane daily for twelve weeks. The study concluded that sulforaphane helped reduce blood sugar levels by as much as 6.5% and also improved blood sugar control.
4. May reduce the symptoms of autism
Broccoli, specifically sulforaphane, has recently been studied for its potential benefits to people with autism.
A study by Johns Hopkins University found that a daily dose of sulforaphane for eighteen weeks improved behavioral and communication assessments in young autistic men aged 13-27.
5. Anti-Aging Properties
Sulforaphane has been shown to support anti-aging by activating heat shock proteins in mammal cells. Commonly referred to just as HSP27, heat shock proteins slow down the cell aging process by supporting proteasomes, which rid the body of damaged or unneeded proteins.
When you age, your proteasome activity reduces, which allows damaged and unneeded proteins to build up, and could potentially contribute to conditions like cataracts, heart dysfunctions, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and Parkinson's.
6. Boosts brain function
Studies have shown sulforaphane reduces mental decline and improves recovery after a brain injury. It has been proven to reduce depression symptoms and anxiety in animal studies.
Many of these studies were focused on animals, primarily mice, and while there are human studies are underway, there is currently no conclusive evidence about how sulforaphane could help anxiety or depression symptoms in humans.
Growing broccoli microgreens at home
Ideally, you can just buy broccoli sprouts and microgreens at selected grocery stores, but they also tend to be quite costly and are not always fresh.
Dr. Rhonda Patrick is a biomedical scientist researching the health benefits of broccoli microgreens advises growing your own broccoli sprouts and microgreens at home.
You can use either hemp bags or mason jars and water them two or three times a day. She insists on maintaining cleanliness during growth to avoid bacterial contamination.
At Microtea, it is our mission to provide you with teas and boosters packed with superfoods to fill the nutritional gaps in your diet. We do this by creating our products from microgreens – the stage in a plant’s life where nutritional value and density are at their peak. Don't think you can fit more veggies into your diet? Try adding a teaspoon of Broccoli Booster to your morning smoothie...one serving has over 300 microgreens that are 3rd party lab-tested to be Nrf2 activators.