Study: Why You Should Add Broccoli Sprouts to Your Diet, Stat

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It turns out, your mom was right: You really should eat more broccoli. Well, the sprouts, at least. A new study, published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research found that consuming broccoli sprouts can significantly increase the body’s elimination of environmental toxins. In other words, it’s a major detox food. Interesting, no?


Here’s how the study worked: Researchers gathered 291 participants from Qidong, China, an area known for its high levels of airborne pollutants. The participants were divided into two groups: Over the course of 12 weeks, the first group consumed half a cup of a broccoli sprout-derived beverage daily, while the second group consumed a placebo drink daily. Researchers measured the participants’ levels of toxin excretion before, during and after the 12 weeks, looking specifically at the chemicals benzene, acrolein and crotonaldehyde—common air pollutants we often breathe in, especially at gas stations and around smokers.

The study’s results are pretty darn astounding: The group of folks who consumed the broccoli sprout-derived drink experienced a 61 percent increase in their excretion of benzene and a 23 percent increase in their excretion of acrolein, while those consuming the placebo experienced no changes. (Neither group saw changes in levels of crotonaldehyde.) As a researcher and author of the study, Thomas Kensler, told NPR,

We thought the pathway might respond initially and then the [compounds] would wear out their welcome and the body would tune out. But the effect was just as vigorous at the beginning as at the end, which suggests that over one’s lifetime you could enhance this preventative activity in the body with food.

The assumption is that if there’s less carcinogen in the body, there’s less risk. But at some point we need to do a definitive trial to find out if you take this approach for months or years whether rates of disease are dampened.

So while this study doesn’t definitively prove that adding broccoli sprouts to your diet will prevent cancer and other diseases, it’s safe to say it won’t hurt.

But here's the thing: I’d never even heard of broccoli sprouts before reading this study—had you? We had zero clue where to scoop up a package of these detoxifying little guys, so we decided to go on the hunt, and it turns out, broccoli sprouts—which look a lot like alfalfa sprouts—are pretty hard to track down in Philadelphia. Many local grocery stores don’t carry them, but we did find a few that do: Weaver’s Way Mt. Airy, MOM’s in Bryn Mawr, and Whole Foods Callowhill, which carries them occasionally. And if you want to top your salads and sandwiches off with broccoli sprouts, but these grocery stores are totally out of your way, you can also grow ‘em at home. (Thank you, Internet.)

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