Broccoli + Broccoli Sprout Benefits…Why Chewing Is the Most Important Part

Broccoli and broccoli sprouts benefits are the newest secret in immune support and gut health…all because of a secret chemical called sulforaphane (say it with me! sul-for-uh-phane)

Image of broccoli head which contains sulforaphane, which are powerful broccoli sprouts benefits
The powerful immune supporting benefits of broccoli sprouts all start with the first bite!Credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

We know all about the healthy virtues of green veggies, but there’s a reason you should be opting specifically for broccoli and broccoli sprouts benefits: a little-known nutrient called sulforaphane.

Etymologically-minded readers might have already noticed the link between the sulfur-y smell of the crucifer and this important phytonutrient. But sulforaphane isn’t just what made that overcooked cafeteria broccoli so, uh, unappetizing (or, as our sixth-grade selves said… farty.) 

Sulforaphane: Immune Support Hero + Natural Detoxifier  

Sulforaphane promotes and induces your body’s natural detoxing capabilities, and it also supports your immune system. Plus, it’s anti-inflammatory to boot.

Can someone get broccoli a cape? Because this is a real superfood.

(Don’t have time to cook up some broccoli sprouts right now? Check out these greens powders for a quick vitamin boost, or a wheatgrass shot for a speedy detox to start your day!)

Sulforaphane may not have gotten much press to date, but this has nothing to do with its powerful health benefits.

“Sulforaphane is not as widely known, as it influences complex mechanisms at the molecular level,” explains Brian Cornblatt, PhD, Medical Director at Nutramax Laboratories and Avmacol. “The phytochemical name is also quite complicated to say; it would be far easier to describe as ‘the health benefits of broccoli.’”

Say it with us: sul-for-a-phane. Good? Now let’s get down to brass tacks.

Image of broccoli sprouts growing in a pot. Broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane which benefits immune systems and gut health
Broccoli sprouts are nourishing, delicious, and easy to grow at home!Credit: photo by Liza Golyarchuk on Upsplash

What is Sulforaphane?

Sulforaphane is not actually found in veggies, per se. Rather, as Cornblatt explains, this phytonutrient is produced in the body by its precursor, glucoraphanin, and the enzyme myrosinase.

“When we cook or chew broccoli,” explains Lisa Richards, nutritionist and founder of The Candida Diet, “there is a chemical process that occurs which results in sulforaphane.”

Sulforaphane’s Benefits 

Digested that? Good! Because once your body has done the same, this compound offers more than a handful of health benefits, including improved metabolization and removal of potentially harmful chemicals in our bodies. 

In particular, notes Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, A.P., sulforaphane can contribute to the eradication of carcinogens like benzene, which is found in solvents, pollution, and cigarette smoke. (Holy anti-cancer benefits, Batman! Er… broccoli!)

Gut Health Support

Sulforaphane can also downregulate key components involved in inflammation, thus contributing to a reduced risk of inflammatory diseases like metabolic disease, and diabetes. Much like Spirulina, this superhero is also known to reduce risk of cancer. And according to Richards, there is also some evidence that it can improve cognitive function, prevent diabetes, and protect against sun damage.

Lowered inflammation also translates to improved mood, Trattner explains, noting that one study of mice demonstrated that sulforaphane was as effective as Prozac for symptoms of depression.

(If you’re looking to support gut health in other ways, try reading about our favorite collagen supplements  and the powerful benefits of marine collagen peptides.)

Immune Support

Last but certainly not least (especially these days…)  sulforaphane also supports immune health (much like Chlorella…is anyone else noticing a trend with the color green?). 

Early research has shown that it reduced the burden from a bacterial organism that is the leading cause of peptic ulcers, and the combo of fiber and sulforaphane “positively  impacts the beneficial microorganisms that reside in our gastrointestinal tract,” according to Cornblatt. 

“By promoting healthy bacterial growth through sulforaphane,” he continues,”inflammation can be tamed and our immune systems can be directed to other activities, such as keeping us protected from seasonal bugs and beyond.”

I’m In! So…How Do I Eat Broccoli Sprouts??

Sulforaphane is produced when we consume cruciferous vegetables, primarily broccoli. Richards notes that “it is strongly suggested heat kills the necessary enzyme to produce sulforaphane, making raw broccoli and other crucifers the best method to consume them.”

Broccoli sprouts being tossed in a salad bowl
Toss some broccoli sprouts in your next salad and reap the benefits!Credit: Photo by Quin Engle on Upsplash

Broccoli Sprouts vs Broccoli Florets?

Trattner adds that broccoli sprouts are an even better source of sulforaphane than broccoli florets. She notes that the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine call for lightly steaming veggies for under four minutes for maximum nutrient absorption. This process, she explains, “keeps all the nutrients in but helps break down the cellulose and hemicellulose bands which can bloat you and give you gas.”

Broccoli + Broccoli Sprout Recipes

To best reap these benefits, then, try one (or several!) of the following recipes.

Image of fish tacos with broccoli slaw which contains sulforaphane that is activated when chewed and is a powerful immune system supporter
These delicious tacos taste great and make you feel great, thanks to the benefits of sulforaphane.Credit: Unsplash Photo via Jordan Nix

1. Fish Tacos with Broccoli Slaw

This gluten-free taco recipe pairs spice-coated tuna with a creamy, yogurt-based broccoli slaw. Heaped in corn tortillas and topped with avocado, it’s an easy weeknight meal the whole family will love.

Image of 2 broccoli rabe crostini on a white plate on a marble surface with gold utensil in the background showing broccoli sprouts nutrition
Broccoli rabe crostini that tastes as good as it looks and is loaded with gut and immune benefits.Credit: Images by Stephanie Gupana

2. Broccoli Rabe Crostini

Bitter broccoli rabe is the star of this easy-to-make appetizer spiked with a hint of chile flakes. Just barely sauté the veggies to ensure that they retain all of their wonderful health benefits.

Image of bed of shrimp surrounded by a circle of broccoli, which contains sulforaphane benefits
This shrimp and broccoli is nutrient-rich, tasty, and better than take out!Credit: Photo by Hanxiao via Unsplash

3. Takeout-Style Shrimp and Broccoli

Making your favorite Chinese takeout recipes at home ensures that you wield the control over ingredient quality and quantity. Keep the broccoli just this side of al dente, and pair it with sustainably caught shrimp in this delicious Chinese shrimp and broccoli recipe.

Image of broccoli salad topped with chilis on a plate, styled with a peach kitchen towel, a wooden spoon, and a small white bowl of toppings for this sulforaphane broccoli sprouts packed powerhouse salad.
This easy, creamy, vegan broccoli salad is delicious, gluten free, plant based, and full of nutrients and sulforaphane benefits!Credit: Image courtesy of the Minimalist Baker

4. Creamy Vegan Broccoli Salad

This broccoli salad is bursting with flavor and nutrients: salty sunflower seeds, sweet dried cranberries, and a zingy dressing made with cashew butter, maple syrup, and cider vinegar make this plant-based broccoli salad a real treat. Sprinkle on some homemade coconut bacon, and it’s ready to serve.

Image of overhead view of a broccoli Buddha bowl served in a speckled bowl, with a wood handled spoon on a marble surface with a sprinkle of broccoli sprouts nutrition
Nutritious and easy Buddha bowl for any night for a satisfying and incredibly nutrition-dense meal.Credit: Image via 101 Cookbooks

5. Double Broccoli Buddha Bowl

Broccoli is married with rich coconut oil and spicy green curry paste in this buddha bowl topped with almonds for crunch. Consider garnishing with broccoli sprouts for a pretty garnish that adds lovely texture and even more sulforaphane-producing glucoraphanin.

Related on Organic Authority

Image of wheatgrass juice with apples and spinach via Organic Authority.
Much like the power of broccoli sprouts, there are plenty of immune boosting foods right in your pantry or fridge!Credit: Image courtesy of Organic Authority

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco