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What is Sulforaphane and What Food Naturally Contains It?

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

When it comes to healthy eating, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage are often preferred for their extensive nutrient-richness. So, if you’re looking for an excuse to add more broccoli to your diet, the reason should be… Sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane is a natural plant compound found in vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and more. This potent phytochemical has shown to have numerous health benefits, including helping prevent cancer, detoxifying the body, and anti-inflammatory properties.

In this article, we will take a deep dive into the health benefits offered by sulforaphane as well as some common foods you can include in your nutrition plan to boost your sulforaphane intake.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. You should always speak to your healthcare provider to ensure you are healthy enough to change up your nutrition plan and that it won’t have any adverse effects on any medication or drugs you may have been prescribed.

What Are the Health Benefits that Sulforaphane Offers?

Below are several health benefits associated with sulforaphane. The goal should be to consume foods with higher amounts of sulforaphane to see the greatest effect and benefits.

  • Support heart health

Do you know that 1 in 4 people in the USA dies from cardiovascular diseases?

Studies show that people who consume more cruciferous vegetables have fewer chances of suffering from heart disease.

Sulforaphane is shown to protect from cardiovascular diseases. Studies show that it boosts heart health in various ways. Primarily, it reduces inflammation that leads to the narrowing of arteries, which is the major cause of heart disease.

  • Anti-cancer effects

Cancer is a fatal disease that leads to uncontrolled cell growth.

Sulforaphane is known for its anti-cancer properties, as per studies. It can reduce both types and numbers of cancer cells. It may also prevent cell growth by releasing an antioxidant and detoxification enzyme, which can protect against carcinogens (a substance that causes cancer).

Another study shows that consumption of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli has the ability to reduce the risk of cancer.

  • Antidiabetic effect

Do you know that Type-2 diabetes affects millions of people worldwide?

People suffering from diabetes cannot transfer sugar from their blood to the cells, which makes it extremely difficult to maintain a healthy blood sugar level in the body.

A study on people with Type-2 diabetes examined that consuming broccoli sprout extract daily affects the level of sugar. Another study found that sulforaphane can reduce blood sugar levels by 6.5% and improve hemoglobin, which is necessary for blood sugar levels.

  • Anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation, when left unchecked, can increase the risk of various diseases, including chronic ones. Some examples are asthma, allergies, autoimmune disease, cancer, and more.

Sulforaphane activates the Nrf2 pathway, which helps to combat oxidative stress and inflammation. When Nrf2 gets activated, it decreases inflammation throughout the body, which can reduce the chance of disease and improves overall health.

Food Sources

Sulforaphane can be best obtained naturally from various cruciferous vegetables. Apart from sulforaphane, these vegetables can provide various antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

Here are a few vegetables that you can include in your diet to increase your intake of sulforaphane:

  • Broccoli
  • Broccoli sprouts
  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • And more

But remember to cut and chew these vegetables properly to activate the sulforaphane. If you further want to boost the intake, add mustard seeds or mustard powder to your meals. They are rich in myrosinase and can improve the availability of sulforaphane.

How to Consume — Raw or Cooked Form?

In cruciferous vegetables, sulforaphane is found in the inactive form glucoraphanin. It gets activated when glucoraphanin comes in contact with myrosinase. And this myrosinase enzyme is released and activated when the plant is damaged. So, you need to cut, chop, or chew to activate sulforaphane.

These raw veggies have the highest level of sulforaphane. As per a study, raw broccoli has 10 times more sulforaphane as compared to cooked broccoli. Steaming veggies for 1-3 minutes is the best way to optimize the level of sulforaphane.

Remember to cook veggies below 284˚F, as exceeding this temperature may result in the loss of glucosinolates. This is why it is better to avoid boiling cruciferous veggies. Instead, it is better to eat them raw or lightly steamed.

How Much Sulforaphane Should You Consume?

Sulforaphane is known for its incredible health benefits. However, there is no proven or actual recommended daily dose. That said, most available supplements suggest consuming around 400 mcg per day, which is around 1-2 capsules if you decide to go the route of supplementation over consuming food sources.

Side Effects

Sulforaphane is considered to be safe when consumed from veggies. However, mild side effects associated with sulforaphane supplements are gas, constipation, and diarrhea.

Final Words

Sulforaphane is a powerful compound with incredible health benefits. You can get sulforaphane easily by incorporating vegetables like broccoli and kale into your diet. It is the best way to boost your overall health and is super delicious too.

Now that you know the power of sulforaphane, do you plan on adding it to your nutrition or supplement plan?

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