Sprouts are germinated seeds. They’re also known as tender or baby plants.

Just like alfalfa and bean sprouts, broccoli sprouts are nutritional powerhouses.

In fact, if you think broccoli is the definition of healthy food, wait until you read about broccoli sprout’s potential health benefits.

This article explains all you need to know about broccoli spouts’ benefits, nutrients, and how to enjoy them.

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Broccoli sprouts are 3–5-day-old broccoli plants.

Like most sprouts, they have small, green leaves and white stems that are a few inches long and still attached to the seed. For reference, they resemble alfalfa sprouts.

Most people describe their taste as earthy, similar to that of radishes. Meanwhile, others claim that they have no flavor at all.

Broccoli sprouts are typically enjoyed raw to add texture and crunch to dishes like sandwiches, salads, dressings, and wraps. You can also cook them and enjoy them in a warm meal like stir-fries or curries.

Summary

Broccoli sprouts are germinated seeds of the broccoli plant. They have an earthy taste and are used to add crunch to a variety of dishes.

As mentioned, broccoli sprouts are nutritional powerhouses.

They’re a great source of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which are bioactive plant compounds. These compounds protect plants from the sun and insects, but they have numerous health benefits for humans, too (1).

According to the International Sprout Growers Association, a 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of broccoli sprouts packs (2):

  • Calories: 35
  • Carbs: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0.5 grams
  • Vitamin C: 60% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin A: 10% of the DV
  • Calcium: 6% of the DV

Just one serving of these sprouts provides high amounts of vitamin C, which is known for its antioxidant and immune-boosting properties.

In addition, they contain a phytochemical called sulforaphane. It’s speculated that this chemical is responsible for most of the health benefits of these crunchy sprouts (1, 3).

Animal studies show that sulforaphane has 82% bioavailability, which is considered high. This means that it’s rapidly and easily absorbed, allowing your body to easily take advantage of its benefits (1, 4).

How do they compare with broccoli?

While broccoli sprouts are the first stages of the broccoli plant, they’re not nutritionally identical to the mature vegetable.

A 3-ounce (84-gram) serving of cooked, mature broccoli florets or broccoli sprouts provide virtually the same calories and macronutrients, meaning the same amount of protein, carbs, and fat (2, 5).

However, broccoli sprouts provide around 100 times more glucoraphanin. Glucoraphanin is an inactive compound that’s converted into the beneficial phytochemical sulforaphane upon cutting or chewing (1, 4).

Summary

Broccoli sprouts are a good source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They’re also rich in sulforaphane, the compound behind most of their health benefits.

Thanks to their sulforaphane content, broccoli sprouts have a plethora of health benefits.

May have anti-cancer properties

Sulforaphane is a compound with powerful anti-cancer properties. In fact, this is why broccoli sprouts have long been studied for their anti-cancer effects (6).

Studies show that sulforaphane may (6, 7, 8):

  • promote cancer cell apoptosis, or programmed cell death
  • inhibit angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood vessels, that feeds malignant cells
  • reduce inflammation
  • lower susceptibility to cancer-causing substances
  • reduce the invasion and spread of cancerous cells

Sulforaphane acts by increasing certain detoxifying enzymes in your liver. These enzymes both counteract and help your liver eliminate the potential cancer-causing effects of toxins or chemicals from food and the environment (6).

Research also suggests that this plant chemical may play a role in epigenetic modulation, meaning that it may help turn on and off certain genes involved in cancer inhibition or expression (4, 6, 8, 9).

Test-tube and animal studies similarly show that the sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts could combat breast, prostate, colon, liver, and lung cancer (6, 10).

May support mental and brain health

The sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts may also protect against certain brain conditions, including brain stroke, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease, and improve certain symptoms of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) (11).

In cases of brain stroke, sulforaphane may decrease brain cell death, thereby reducing how much brain tissue is lost (11).

In cases of Alzheimer’s disease, sulforaphane is said to protect brain cells from beta-amyloid toxicity. Beta amyloid is a protein whose accumulation in the brain is linked to the onset of the disease (11).

Furthermore, test-tube and animal studies show that sulforaphane may protect brain cells and improve mental impairments like memory loss (11, 12).

Parkinson’s disease is caused by the impairment or death of brain cells that produce dopamine — a chemical transmitter that affects your mood, focus, and memory. Sulforaphane protects these cells from oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals (11, 13).

Lastly, sulforaphane appears to improve behavioral characteristics of ASD, which may also be linked to oxidative, stress-induced damage.

For example, in an 18-week study in 29 adults with ASD, those who received a broccoli-sprouts-derived sulforaphane treatment showed significant improvements in social interactions, repetitive behaviors, and verbal communication skills compared with those in a control group (14).

May promote gut health

Because of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties, sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts may promote gut health.

Chronic oxidative stress can cause constipation. Because sulforaphane’s antioxidant effects are believed to help your intestinal cells function normally, they might help improve bowel movements (15).

Additionally, studies show that sulforaphane’s antibacterial effect may modify the friendly bacteria in your gut to promote smooth stools (15).

Also, sulforaphane has a potent antibacterial effect against H. pylori, a bacterium that can cause digestive tract infections, gastritis, and stomach ulcers.

One 16-week study in 50 people with gastritis caused by H. pylori found that eating 2.5 ounces (70 grams) of 3-day-old broccoli sprouts per day reduced H. pylori infections and gastric inflammation (16).

Further research has shown that sulforaphane may even help treat cases of antibiotic-resistant strains when combined with conventional drug therapies (17, 18).

Other potential benefits

Some of broccoli sprout’s additional health benefits include:

  • Improved heart health. The sprouts may lower risk factors for heart disease, such as high triglyceride and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. They’re also rich in coenzyme Q10, a compound with blood-pressure-lowering effects (19, 20).
  • Lower blood sugar levels. Test-tube and animal studies show that broccoli sprout extract may improve insulin sensitivity, which can reduce blood sugar levels (21, 22).
  • Better joint health. Test-tube studies have determined that sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts may reduce inflammatory markers linked to arthritis, a condition that can cause painful inflammation of the joints (23, 24).
Summary

Sulforaphane is the compound behind most of broccoli sprouts’ health benefits, including cancer prevention and improved gut, mental, heart, and joint health.

Broccoli and other sprouts need humid conditions to germinate. Unfortunately, so do bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria monocytogenes (25, 26).

This means sprouts can become contaminated, and if you eat them, you can get food poisoning with symptoms like fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. That’s why it’s important to wash any types of sprouts before eating them (25, 26).

Another thing to keep in mind is that broccoli sprouts contain isothiocyanates, the group of plant compounds to which sulforaphane belongs. They’re believed to be goitrogens, which are substances that alter your body’s iodine uptake (6).

This means that eating excessive amounts of broccoli sprouts has the potential to alter your thyroid function and increase the risk of hypothyroidism, a condition characterized by an underactive thyroid (6).

While there’s no available literature that indicates how many sprouts you’d have to eat over time to increase this risk, a study on other Brassica vegetables, such as broccoli, Chinese cabbage, and bok choy, suggests that typical serving sizes are unlikely to cause harm (27).

What’s more, the study classified excessive amounts as intakes over 35 ounces (1 kg) per day for several months (27).

Lastly, sulforaphane may interact with certain drugs and limit their effectiveness. These drugs include furosemide, verapamil, and ketoprofen, which are used to treat liquid retention, high blood pressure, and arthritis, respectively (28, 29).

Summary

Broccoli sprouts have a high risk of bacterial contamination, so it’s important to wash them before enjoying them. Avoid eating excessive amounts to prevent potential drug interactions and changes to your thyroid function.

Broccoli sprouts are great for adding texture and crunch to your dishes.

Here are some easy ways to add them to your everyday meals:

  • Add them to almost any salad, sandwich, or wrap.
  • Blend them with spinach, banana, strawberries, and pineapple for a refreshing and nourishing smoothie.
  • Sauteé them with other vegetables and chicken for a broccoli sprout stir-fry.
  • Enjoy them on their own with a bit of lime juice for a light, quick snack.
  • Combine them with noodles for a cold or hot dish.

Broccoli sprouts may not always be available in supermarkets or farmers markets, but they’re easy to grow at home.

Summary

Broccoli sprouts are a versatile ingredient that can boost almost any dish’s nutritional value.

Broccoli sprouts are the germinated seeds of the broccoli plant.

They hold tremendous nutritional value, even in small servings. As such, they confer multiple health benefits, including anti-cancer properties and improved mental and gut health.

However, like most sprouts, they’re at a high risk of bacterial contamination, so wash them thoroughly before eating them to avoid food poisoning.