Foods that Have Phytochemicals – Sprout Research – Disease Prevention

Each Sprout May Contain as Many Phytochemicals as an Entire Plant (and there are about 4000 baby plants in a package of sprouts)


Green vegetables, high in phytochemicals, prevent certain types of cancer.  For instance, between 1958 and 1960, Sulforaphane was isolated in species of Brassica, Eruca, and Iberis.  In 1992 Sulforaphane was identified as as a strong Phase II enzyme inducer in broccoli.


In 1994 Steve Meyerowitz, in his book  Sprout It!,  points out that sulforaphane,known to prevent cancer, is inherent in broccoli, kale, turnip, garlic, onion and Chinese cabbage.

Brassica vegetables are a principal source of antioxidant vitamins.  Sprouts have advantages over mature broccoli in that they contain higher concentrations of inducers, and the inducers mainly affect phase 2 enzyme systems. Information about the role of each nutrient and phytochemical is of critical importance.

Why do sprouts have higher concentrations of inducers?  There is an inverse relationship between the age of a plant and the amount of glucosinolates per gram that it contains. 


In 1976, in Van Etten, et al. write of Brassica Olerecea,  “Total glucosinolate content within each variety tends to be inversely proportional with head size.”  Van Etten, C.E., Daxenbichler, M.E., Kovolek, W.F., Williams, P.H. 1976.  Glucosinolates and derived products in Cruciferous vegetables.  Analysis of the edible part from 22 varieties of cabbage.  J. Agr. Food Chem 24:453.


Other information about this has been available for some time:


The maximum amounts (of glucosinolates) were found in seeds germinated for 3 days, and the amounts thereafter progressively decreased.” Kondo, H., Kawaguchi, T., Naoshima, Y., and Nozaki, H. Changes in Volatile Components of Rape Seeds (Brassica napus L.) during Germination. Agric. Biol. Chem. 1985, 49, 217-219.


In the much touted by the press broccoli research by Johns Hopkins, they tested the leaves of mature SAGA (a variety of broccoli) for sulforaphane.  They reported that the older sample had 3,030 units, while the younger sample had 16,700.  When they tested the whole plant, the older sample had 4,170 units, while the younger sample had 33,000.  See 2nd chart on page 2397. Zhang et al., “A major inducer of anticarcinorgenic protective enzymes from broccoli: Isolation and elucidation of structure”, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, vol. 89, pp. 2399-2403, Mar. 1992.

Broccoli doesn’t produce sulforaphane until the plant goes to seed.  When it goes to seed, it sends up a shoot high above the head of broccoli plant.  That shoot, called a silique, has pods coming off that look like pea pods.  The seed is within the pods. At this stage the plant is not marketable as a food product.


  Broccoli and other brassica seeds are loaded with glucosinolates, including Sulforaphane.

When one of those seeds is planted, it contains about same amount of many of the glucosinolates as was originally in the seed.  But the glucosinolates are diluted as the plant picks up water and increases in weight.  They are still there, in about the same amount, but now instead of eating a seed to get them, you have to eat the entire plant.


So why not just eat the seed?  Well you could, but sprouts are more nutritious and many seeds don’t digest well.  Besides, they taste horrible.


When you eat a sprout, you are eating the entire plant at a very young age.  That is, you eat the root, stem, and head.  Different glucosinolates are concentrated in different parts of the plant.  So when you buy broccoli in a store, you are only buying a portion of the plant.  Glucosinolates are still in the ground (in the root), others are in the leaves that are discarded, and some are removed by the grocer of consumer who cuts off the stem.


There are approximately 317,000 seeds per kilogram of seed (144,000/lb).  Figuring an 8:1 yield, there are about 40,000 sprouts in a kilogram of broccoli sprouts (about 1,125 per ounce).  In each grocery store size package of sprouts there are about 4,000 baby plants, and each one can have as much or more of certain micronutrients as an entire mature plant.


Phytochemicals and functional food components have been associated with the prevention and/or treatment of at least four of the leading causes of death in this country – cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension – and with the prevention and/or treatment of other medical ailments including neural tube defects, osteoporosis, abnormal bowel function, and arthritis (2). The National Cancer Institute estimates that one in three cancer deaths are diet related and that 8 of 10 cancers have a nutrition/diet component. These figures alone suggest that the potential impact of phytochemicals and functional foods our health is worth examining


Press hear for research articles relating to glucosinolates and their relationship to seeds, sprouts, crucifer plants, and/or cancer.  This is included on to help promote cancer research with glucosinolates, of which crucifer sprouts, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, etc, are the greatest natural source.