Which is the highest antioxidant containing vegetable?
Over 650 scientific publications suggest broccoli sprouts to have the highest antioxidant effect in human cells based on a number of protective compounds. They contain 10 to 100 times more enzymes than fruits and vegetables when eaten within the first seven days of being sprouted.
Broccoli sprouts come from sprouting broccoli seeds. They can be found ready at any health food shop or made at home.
The two compounds in broccoli and particularly broccoli sprouts that have the most protective effect against oxidative damage are glucoraphanin and sulforaphane, collectively called glucosinolates.
Sulforaphane is responsible for many of the benefits of broccoli sprouts:
- Supports cell health throughout your body.
- Supports your body’s detoxification processes.
- Helps protect cells, tissues and DNA from free radical oxidative damage.
- Supports healthy normal cholesterol levels.
- Supports gut health and a healthy gut microbial balance.
- Supports healthy joint cartilage and comfortable movement.
- Supports bladder health.
- Supports prostate health.
The role of antioxidants is to scavenge free radicals produced by our cells on a daily basis. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage the cells in your body. They often occur as the result of normal metabolic processes - when your body uses oxygen, it creates free radicals as a by-product, which may cause damage to the cells of the body. However, free radicals are also produced due to daily stressors, like physical stress/exercise, emotional/mental stress, fried foods, processed foods, sugar, alcohol, tobacco smoke, pesticides and air pollutants.
What make this two antioxidant compounds stand out is their long life-span. While most antioxidants our body have very short lifespans, these potent antioxidants have the ability to recycle and actively scavenge free radicals in your cells for up to three days.
Why broccoli sprouts and not broccoli?
First of all, you need to eat about 1kg of broccoli a week to get significant amounts of sulforaphane!
Broccoli sprouts are far more nutrient dense than whole broccoli. After three days of sprouting, broccoli sprouts contain 10 to 100 times the amount of precursor glucoraphanin.
Another potential disadvantage with regular broccoli is that typical handling and preparation can destroy many of the unstable beneficial nutrients:
- Broccoli can lose 80% of its precursor glucoraphanin just 10 days after harvest.
- Broccoli cut into florets loses its precursors twice as fast as whole head broccoli.
- Steaming broccoli longer than five minutes can destroy its myrosinase (precursor to sulforaphane).
- Boiling or microwaving broccoli longer than 30 to 60 seconds destroys most of its myrosinase.
- High-temperature blanching and subsequent freezing may destroy broccoli's myrosinase.
The role of dietary antioxidants in Broccoli sprouts as functional foods in the management of human diseases
- Sulforaphane improves the liver's ability to detoxify (phase two detoxification) carcinogens and other toxic compounds. Sulphoraphane also kills cancer stem cells which slows tumour growth.
- Sulphoraphane has anti-diabetic and anti-microbial properties.
- Support for healthy ageing, by facilitating the defence of normal cellular function against external threats to health that are encountered every day.
- Sulforaphane is the most potent activator of the cellular ‘switch’ Nrf2, described as the ‘master regulator’ of cell defences, responsible prevention and treatment of many common diseases.
- One of the most promising and remarkable studies involving sulforaphane revealed its potential in treating autism spectrum disorder (ASD); suplphorafane 'protects aerobic cells against oxidative stress, inflammation, and DNA-damage’.
- Sulforaphane has shown to reverse damage to blood vessels by addressing endothelial dysfunction which can lead to calcification of the smooth muscle lining blood vessels and formation of arterial plaque in the heart and vessels.
- Improve gut health: Sulforaphanes been shown to destroy the H. Pylori bacterium, at the same time controlling inflammation in -the stomach lining.
Here are a few serving ideas to help you enjoy the protective benefits of broccoli sprouts:
- Sprinkle tossed green salads with a mix of alfalfa and broccoli sprouts.
- Instead of just lettuce, onion and tomato, add a layer of broccoli sprouts to veggie burgers, sandwiches and burritos.
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About Olianna Gourli
Olianna Gourli is a qualified naturopath and nutritional therapist with a background in science and research (BSc hons.), BANT, CNHC). She has great expertise in gastrointestinal issues, such as IBS, hormonal imbalances and women's health, stress and anxiety. She sees clients in her clinics in Central and Northwest London and through Skype.