By Dr. Mercola
A compound in broccoli, glucosinolate, produces a metabolite called sulforaphane that is responsible for many of broccoli’s health-promoting properties.
Sulforaphane has been shown to have anti-diabetic and antimicrobial properties, and also kills cancer stem cells, which strikes to the heart of tumor malignancy. It can also significantly improve your blood pressure and kidney function, among other benefits.
Researchers have now produced a new variety of broccoli, known as Beneforte broccoli, which has two to three times more glucoraphanin, a glucosolinate and a precursor to sulforaphane, than other varieties.1
The broccoli was produced by crossing standard broccoli with a wild relative from Sicily. Normally, broccoli uptakes sulfur from the soil, which also impacts how much sulfur-containing glucoraphanin it contains; levels typically vary widely depending on soil conditions.
The Beneforte broccoli, however, increases the amount of sulfur the broccoli takes up from the soil, leading to consistently higher levels of glucoraphanin.
This new type of broccoli has now been commercially released, and although eating any type of broccoli is a smart health move, Beneforte broccoli appears to offer even more health advantages. The researchers stated:
“Diets rich in broccoli … have been associated with maintenance of cardiovascular health and reduction in risk of cancer. These health benefits have been attributed to glucoraphanin that specifically accumulates in broccoli. The development of broccoli with enhanced concentrations of glucoraphanin may deliver greater health benefits.”
Broccoli Sprouts – Another Way to Increase Your Intake of Glucoraphanin
Tracking down Beneforte broccoli is not the only way to maximize your intake of healthful compounds like glucoraphanin. Small quantities of fresh broccoli sprouts actually contain as much cancer protection as larger amounts of the mature vegetable.
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Just 5 grams (0.17 ounces) of sprouts contain concentrations of the compound glucoraphanin equal to that found in 150 grams (5.2 ounces) of mature broccoli.
In fact, their research showed that 3-day-old sprouts of both broccoli and cauliflower may contain anywhere from 10 to 100 times higher levels of glucoraphanin than the corresponding mature plants!2
So if you’re looking for an inexpensive superfood, sprouts are it. An article published last year3 listed 10 reasons for eating sprouts, including the following:
- Sprouts can contain up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables, allowing your body to extract more vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fats from the foods you eat
- Both the quality of the protein and the fiber content of beans, nuts, seeds and grains improves when sprouted
- The content of vitamins and essential fatty acids also increase dramatically during the sprouting process. For example, depending on the sprout, the nutrient content can increase as much as 30 times the original value within just a few days of sprouting. Sunflower seed and pea sprouts tend to top the list of all the seeds that you can sprout and are typically each about 30 times more nutritious than organic vegetables you can even harvest in your backyard garden
- During sprouting, minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, bind to protein, making them more bioavailable
- Sprouts are the ultimate locally grown food, and can easily be grown in your own kitchen, so you know exactly what you’re eating. And since they’re very inexpensive, cost is no excuse for avoiding them
Peas May Fight Cancer, Inflammation, Diabetes and More
Peas, a type of legume, are also packed with some of nature’s most potent disease-fighting compounds, including a polyphenol called coumestrol. Research has shown that those with the highest intakes of coumestrol and other natural plant chemicals called polyphenols had a 50 percent lower risk of stomach cancer.4
Other phytonutrients in peas, including saponins, phenolic acids like ferulic and caffeic acid, and flavanols like catechin and epicatechin, have also been shown to offer powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and may be responsible for peas’ beneficial impact on diabetes.5 Green peas are also unique in their relatively large amounts of protein and fiber, which may help with blood sugar regulation. Interestingly, peas also impart many benefits to the environment in which they’re grown. For example:6
- Peas are a “nitrogen fixing” crop, which means they (along with bacteria in the soil) take nitrogen from the air and convert it into more usable forms, increasing nitrogen in the soil without the need for additional fertilizer
- Peas may help prevent soil erosion and add to soil replenishment when the plants are broken down after harvest
- Rotating peas with other crops may lower the risk of pest problems
Pea Sprouts Are Also a Phenomenal Superfood
As mentioned earlier regarding broccoli sprouts, pea sprouts are also an incredibly nutritious superfood that have more concentrated nutrition than most mature vegetables. While you can sprout a variety of different beans, nuts, seeds and grains, sprouts in general have the following beneficial attributes:
- Support for cell regeneration
- Powerful sources of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and enzymes that protect against free radical damage
- Alkalinizing effect on your body, which is thought to protect against disease, including cancer (as many tumors are acidic)
- Abundantly rich in oxygen, which can also help protect against abnormal cell growth, viruses and bacteria that cannot survive in an oxygen-rich environment
I started sprouting seeds in ball jars 10 to 15 years ago, but now grow pea sprouts, sunflower seed sprouts, wheat grass and other varieties in soil using plastic trays. Some of the most commonly sprouted beans, nuts, seeds and grains include:
Broccoli: known to have anti-cancer properties, courtesy of the enzyme sulforaphane Alfalfa: a significant dietary source of phytoestrogens. Also a good source of vitamins A, B, C, D, E, F, and K Wheat grass: high in vitamins B, C, E and many minerals Mung bean: good source of protein, fiber, vitamin C and A Clover: significant source of isoflavones Lentil sprouts: contain 26 percent protein, and can be eaten without cooking Sunflower: contains, minerals, healthy fats, essential fatty acids, fiber, and phytosterols. It’s also one of the highest in protein Pea shoots: good source of vitamins A, C and folic acid and one of the highest in protein
My two favorites are pea and sunflower sprouts, as they provide some of the highest quality protein you can eat. Sprouts have radically improved the nutrition of my primary meal, which is a salad at lunch, and they are also a perfect complement to fermented vegetables. It is hard to imagine a healthier combination that provides the essentials of nutrition very inexpensively. I plan on producing some videos on how to grow them later this year, but for now you can see my recent article that extols their benefits.
Which Other Vegetables Are the ‘Best’ to Eat?
There’s little doubt that one of the best ways to improve your health is to make sure you’re eating plenty of fresh, minimally processed high-quality vegetables, ideally locally-grown and organic, with a majority of them consumed raw.
My Recommended Vegetables List provides a guide to the most nutritious vegetables and those to limit due to their high carbohydrate content. Broccoli is certainly on the most nutritious list, but so are many others like celery, Bok Choy and beet greens. Remember, variety is key. So while broccoli and peas were the focus of this article, they should be part of a wide variety of vegetables and legumes in your diet.
Generally speaking, the greener the vegetable, the more nutritious it will be, although red and orange vegetables, like peppers and certain varieties of chard, are also extremely healthful.
Sprouting is undoubtedly one of the best ways to increase the nutritional content of your veggie intake even further, but there are other “tricks” you can use as well. Fermented veggies are another outstanding superfood, as is fresh vegetable juice. Both fermented vegetables and juicing organic vegetables are highly recommended to patients in our clinic who are working to restore or improve their health.