By Jackie Rainford Corcoran EBS Health Columnist
According to the American Cancer Society, “In 2016, there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases diagnosed and 595,690 cancer deaths in the U.S.” Those are staggering numbers. If we were to take Hippocrates’ adage to heart, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” we would be sure to eat cruciferous vegetables daily.
Sulforaphane is one of the potent medicinal compounds found in cruciferous vegetables. Scientific research is proving it to be effective in not only preventing and treating cancer but also depression, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, premature aging and autism.
Cruciferous vegetables—named for their four-petal flowers that take the shape of a cross— are accessible, economical and delicious. They include broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, bok choy, arugula, collard greens, horseradish, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips and watercress.
It’s best to eat these hearty vegetables fresh rather than frozen, and lightly steamed or raw rather than thoroughly cooked, as excessive heat denatures the Sulforaphane. (There is debate about eating them raw for those with thyroid disorders. Consult your physician if you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease.)
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that Sulforaphane may inhibit the growth of breast cancer stem cells while helping the liver to oust harmful toxins and carcinogens from the body. Another study at Ulster University in Northern Ireland showed that eating approximately 3.5 ounces of sprouted vegetables every day protects against DNA damage, which is commonly associated with cancer risk.
The cruciferous vegetable that allows the most Sulforaphane to be absorbed by your body is broccoli sprouts. These immature seedlings of broccoli plants contain 10-100 times more Sulforaphane than full-grown broccoli. But broccoli, along with the other previously listed vegetables, is still a rich source and should be enjoyed regularly.
Broccoli sprouts are especially appealing because you can easily and affordably sprout your own throughout the year. Another added bonus is that they’re typically eaten raw so their nutritional benefits aren’t negated through cooking.
Follow these simple directions to sprout your own:
– Mason jar (wide mouth, quart sized)
– Sprouting lid (available at the Bozeman Co-Op or make you own by using the canning jar lid as a template and cutting out a circular piece of cheese cloth to replace the metal cap)
– Broccoli sprout seeds (organic seeds available at Lone Peak Caregivers in Big Sky and Planet Natural in Bozeman)
– Pour 2 tablespoons of broccoli sprout seeds into jar
– Cover seeds with 2 inches of water and place sprouting lid on jar
– Store in a warm dark place overnight (I like to leave myself a “sprouting” reminder note on the counter)
– The next morning, drain the liquid off, rinse with fresh water and fully drain again—repeat in the evening
– Continue to store sprouts in a warm dark place, and rinse and drain twice a day
After a couple of days, you will notice the seeds begin to break open and sprouts start to emerge. After about four days, the sprouts will be approximately 1-inch long with yellow leaves. Move the jar into the sunlight, continuing to rinse the sprouts twice a day for three to four more days until the leaves turn green.
Broccoli sprouts have a crispy texture and slightly spicy taste. Serve them on top of salads and soups, use as a garnish or add to smoothies. They will stay fresh for about one week in your refrigerator.
How do you know when the sprouts are no longer good to eat? “Slimy sprout, throw it out.”
Jackie Rainford Corcoran is an IIN Certified Holistic Health Coach and Consultant, a public speaker and health activist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.