Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips and cabbage are full of very powerful disease-fighting compounds, one of which is sulforaphane. This is one compound that appears to be quite a hard worker in keeping your body in top condition.
For instance, sulforaphane has been found to:
- Boost cell enzymes that protect against molecular damage from cancer-causing chemicals.
- Increase your liver’s ability to detoxify carcinogenic compounds and free radicals. This in turn protects against cell mutations, cancer and other harmful effects.
- Mobilize, or induce, your body’s natural cancer protection resources and help reduce your risk of malignancy.
- Trigger the production of phase II enzymes, which are among the most potent anti-cancer compounds known.
It also appears that sulforaphane plays a role in preventing oxidative stress. While some level of oxidative stress is a normal result of your body processes, many, many factors, from pollution to obesity to mental stress, can cause an excess of free radicals in your body and this is associated with various chronic diseases and aging.
Sulforaphane, however, seems to stimulate a variety of antioxidant defense pathways in your body that can actually fight oxidative stress and slow down the decline in your immune system that happens with age. In theory, this means that eating vegetables that contain sulforaphane could quite literally slow down the hands of time.
The amount of nutrients in any vegetable are rarely set in stone. The quality of the soil, how they’re grown (organically or conventionally), how fresh they are, and how they’re cooked all play a role. But, generally speaking, are you wondering how much broccoli you would need to eat to get some of the health benefits mentioned above?
Well, a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University attempted to calculate how much broccoli you would have to eat in order to produce a significant degree of protection against cancer. They found that you would have to eat an average of about two pounds of broccoli a week in order to reduce, say, your risk of colon cancer by about 50 percent.
Broccoli Sprouts A Better Broccoli Alternative
If you’re looking for the variety of broccoli that will pack the most nutritional punch, broccoli sprouts are as close to a “sure thing” as you will get. Because sprouts are just beginning their growth process, they are packed with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and more. The nutrition in sprouts is so concentrated that they are said to be among the healthiest ways to consume vegetables, and broccoli is no exception.
According to the researchers at Johns Hopkins, just 5 grams (0.17 ounces) of broccoli sprouts contain concentrations of the compound glucoraphanin (a precursor to sulforaphane) equal to that found in 150 grams (5.2 ounces) of mature broccoli.
So you would need to eat 30 times the amount of mature broccoli to get the same nutritional benefits as one serving of broccoli sprouts.
The Science of Farming
Before factory farming was introduced, grain was partially germinated (sprouted). This resulted from being sheaved and stacked in fields, which stood for several more weeks before threshing. During this period, the grain seeds were exposed to rain and dew which soaked into the sheaves. The grain would pick up this moisture and with heat from the sun, conditions became ideal for favoring a degree of germination and enzyme multiplication in the grain.
The process of sprouting drastically changes the composition of the grain in numerous ways that make it more beneficial as a food. For example, sprouting increases the content of such vitamins as vitamin C, B, B2, B5 and B6. Carotene, which is converted to vitamin A, increases dramatically – sometimes eight-fold.
More importantly though, when sprouting occurs phytic acid, a known mineral blocker, is broken down. Phytic acid is present in the bran of all grains, the coating of nuts and seeds and inhibits the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.
These inhibitors can neutralize our own digestive enzymes, resulting in the digestive disorders experienced by many people who eat unsprouted grains. There are many scientific indicators linking grain consumption to rheumatic and arthritic conditions as well. Complex sugars responsible for intestinal gas are broken down during sprouting and a portion of the starch in grain is transformed into sugar. Sprouting also deactivates aflatoxins, which are toxins produced by fungus and are potent carcinogens found in grains.
By purchasing your own organic whole grains and sprouting them before making your own breads and cereals, you can avoid the unwanted effects of phytic acid. Sprouted bread can also be purchased from some local supermarkets and most health food stores now a days.
Phytic Acid – The Hidden Problem
As mentioned, phytic acid is also present in the coatings of seeds and nuts. So eating nuts and seeds without soaking them for at least 8-12 hours to break down the phytic acid can produce the same enzyme blocking and mineral blocking effects eating un-sprouted grains can. Which is one of the reasons why many people find relief when they remove grains from their diet, particularly those containing gluten.
Some experts claim that cooking and processing, as in the making of bread, will break phytic acid down and nullify its effects on those consuming processed grain products. The following study illustrates how merely milling grains into flour and baking will not break down phytates.
In 1964, it was found that boys in Iran and Egypt had severely underdeveloped testicles. Tests showed they had extreme zinc deficiency, yet zinc was plentiful and widely consumed in those countries. It was discovered that zinc was bound by phytates in the bread they ate. While the bread contained a great deal of zinc, it was useless because it was locked up! This important finding will become even more important in understanding the potential downfalls that come with over-consumption of processed grains.