Broccoli sprouts and breast cancer.
Broccoli sprouts and their amazing health benefits have been widely studied in recent years. They have been shown to have a significant preventative role in some cancers, including our old friend breast cancer. As a triple negative breast cancer survivor I’m always interested in learning about real, valuable, non-faddy ways to take care of my health and keep the beast at bay. So let’s take a closer look at broccoli sprouts and how they can help.
What are broccoli sprouts?
Broccoli sprouts are simply the seedlings of the broccoli plant. The stage at which the plant is about 3-5 days old.
What are the health benefits?
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, for example cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts, have been studied extensively for their powerful anti cancer and anti inflammatory properties. One meta analysis found that regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables actually reduces the risk of breast cancer. Others have found there to be a similar relationship between cruciferous vegetables and other cancers such as lung and pancreas, and premature death from cardiovascular disease. Excuse me while I go update my shopping list.
Broccoli sprouts in particular contain the biggest concentration of these cancer fighting properties, as much as 100-400 times the amount of other cruciferous vegetables. The amazing compounds they contain can;
- Reduce invasion and metastasis of cancer.
- Slow cancer growth.
- Promote cancer cell death.
- Increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
- Reduce inflammation.
In a randomized control trial spanning 12 weeks participants were given a daily drink made with broccoli sprouts. They were found to excrete significantly higher than average amounts of the human carcinogen benzene. 60% higher to be more specific.
How do they work?
If you are interested in the complex science behind it all, take a look here.
Simplified for us laymen! Broccoli sprouts, when cut or eaten, release a compound called SULFORAPHANE (SFN). It is this powerful super nutrient that gives them their potent anti cancer properties. Sulforaphane works with your liver to suppress inflammation, activate detoxification, and promote anti oxidants to exert their effects. All cruciferous vegetables contain Sulforaphane, but as mentioned before broccoli sprouts contain a substantially higher amount.
How to grow broccoli sprouts.
Broccoli sprouts are starting to appear in health shops and even on supermarket shelves, but are still hard to find and can be expensive. The good news is that growing them yourself is easy, affordable and mess free.
You will need:
- A mason jar with a straining lid. This set of 2 mason jars with straining lids, stand and a tray is a great set up if you are just starting out sprouting and plan to do it on a weekly basis. 2 jars mean you can also do 2 batches and stagger the growing phase so you always have a fresh batch available.
- You will also of course need broccoli seeds, which you can get from garden centres, online (these ones are super cheap for 1600 seeds) and in health food shops.
Then you’re ready to go! Once you have the jar and seeds it’s a case of 4 easy steps.
- Soak your seeds.Put your seeds, 1-2 tablespoons per batch, into your jar, cover with cold water and leave them to soak overnight. They need to soak for a minimum of 8 hours at room temperature.
- After 8 hours, drain the water out via the mesh lid. Make sure there is no water at all left in the jar as you don’t want them sitting in any water from this time on. Place the jars at an angle resting over a glass bowl or container to catch any run off. If you use the kit above as I am going to, you can just rest them on the stand over the tray. Store them in a dark place such as a kitchen cupboard.
- About 24 hours later the seeds will start sprouting. You will now need to rinse them at least 2 times per day. To rinse, fill the jar with fresh water, swirl around and then drain through the mesh lid. Place them back into the cupboard lid down as before.
- By day 4 or 5 your sprouts will be pretty much filling the jar, and ready to eat. Put them in front of a window for a couple of hours and they will turn a more appetising green colour.
They are now ready to eat, and can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. You will need to dry them first by laying them out on some kitchen roll and leaving for a few hours. Then they can be put in a sealed container.
How to eat broccoli sprouts.
Broccoli sprouts are best enjoyed fresh and raw as heating in any way destroys the enzymes that produce Sulforaphane. Apparently they have an earthy taste and are pleasantly crunchy. You can have them on salads, in sandwiches and wraps, or as a garnish.
Important! Go easy, they are high in fibre so excessive consumption can cause gut problems. If you have any existing medical conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and hypotension, it’s best to talk to your doctor before adding broccoli sprouts to your diet.
I am just covering myself there though. When consumed sensibly the health benefits of broccoli sprouts far outweigh the risks.
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer the chances are you’ve heard the stories. Your friend’s Aunt’s cat’s mother cured her cancer by <insert fad diet here>. I have been bombarded by well meaning but unhelpful advice like that since my diagnosis. It can feel overwhelming and makes picking out the things that are genuinely backed by science impossible.
Most of the time I maintain a well balanced diet, everything in moderation, take vitamins and ignore the noise. But in the case of broccoli sprouts to help prevent breast cancer and its recurrence, I feel it is something that we should actually pay attention to. The numbers speak for themselves.
I have ordered my set up and seeds and will report back with how it goes!
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