by Kari Collett, RDN, LDN, CLT
A to Zinc Nutrition, LLC
It is no secret that vegetables have magical healing powers. However, it’s not always known what exactly is in them that provides these health benefits. One family of vegetables often referred to as cruciferous, has a natural plant compound in them called sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is in vegetables like broccoli, broccoli sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. These special veggies have amazing health benefits due to the presence of sulforaphane.
Raw forms of these vegetables have the highest amounts of sulforaphane. But, to retain sulforaphane levels while cooking, steaming is the best option to optimize the compound. There are also supplements of sulforaphane on the market. But since the naturally plant-derived sulforaphane is more easily absorbed by the body it’s best to eat sulforaphane foods. The health benefits of consuming sulforaphane rich foods are plentiful.
The health benefits of sulforaphane include anticancer effects like reducing the size of cancerous cells as well as releasing antioxidants and detoxification enzymes. These antioxidants and enzymes protect against free radicals and carcinogens and therefore the formation of cancer. Research results are still in the early stages, but promising. Besides this early cancer research, there is a proven fact that sulforaphane promotes and helps heart health by reducing inflammation and reducing high blood pressure.
Benefits from sulforaphane also include support for people with Type 2 Diabetes. Sulforaphane can help reduce elevated blood sugar levels as well as stabilize fasting blood sugar levels. Lastly, sulforaphane can help the digestive tract by improving symptoms of constipation and increases bowel regularity.
The recommendation for sulforaphane intake is about 14mg/day. To get 14 mg of sulforaphane from food, one would need to consume about 600 g of fruits and vegetables/day. This is equivalent to a little over a pound/day. Not impossible but it’s a lot. A full head of broccoli weighs about a half-pound. In theory, then, you would need to eat about 2 full heads of broccoli each day. Perhaps 1 full head at lunch and 1 full head at dinner?
It’s not very realistic. So, a couple of shortcuts that can help you get more sulforaphane in your diet include taking sulforaphane supplements and eating broccoli sprouts! About 1 oz of broccoli sprouts has the same nutrition as 1.5 pounds of broccoli. Now that’s doable! Sprouts can be easily thrown on a salad, sandwich, into a smoothie, or on eggs.
For more information or assistance with your specific nutrition needs, contact your health care provider or dietitian.