Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Better Boost From Broccoli Sprouts?

Are broccoli sprouts dangerous to eat raw in salads even after they've been washed? They're sold in the local farmers' market, and the seller told me that they're 10 times as nutritious as mature broccoli.

Answer (Published 4/10/2012)

Broccoli sprouts are perfectly safe, even raw, and they are good for you. As a matter of fact, research published in 2011 suggests that combining broccoli and broccoli sprouts might double the anti-cancer effects each can have on its own.  Broccoli sprouts contain an abundance of myrosinase, an enzyme needed for formation of sulforaphane, which is mature broccoli's cancer-fighting, anti-inflammatory component. Mature broccoli has plenty of myrosinase, too, but it tends to be destroyed in cooking - unless you steam the vegetable for less than four minutes.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

A research team from the University of Illinois notes that broccoli powder supplements often don't contain myrosinase, but if you combine the powder with sprouts, you can prompt sulforaphane formation. They demonstrated this in a small study with four healthy men who ate meals containing broccoli sprouts, other meals containing broccoli powder and then meals with a combination of each. Three hours after the men ate the combination meals, the research team measured higher levels of metabolites in the men's blood and urine that indicated an almost two-fold greater absorption of sulforaphane.

Elsewhere, researchers have learned that eating two-and-a-half ounces of broccoli sprouts daily for two months may protect against Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), bacteria known to cause gastritis, ulcers and stomach cancer. A team at Johns Hopkins found that a daily serving of broccoli sprouts reduces a marker for the presence of H. pylori by 40 percent. That's not enough to cure digestive diseases or assure protection against stomach cancer, but it indicates that eating broccoli sprouts regularly might help reduce levels of these bacteria and risks of the diseases associated with them. This same Hopkins team discovered in 2002 that sulforaphane is a potent antibiotic against H. pylori. 

The researchers noted that eight weeks after the participants in their study stopped eating broccoli sprouts, the marker for H. pylori returned to pre-treatment levels.

The only sprouts I advise against eating raw are legume sprouts because they contain natural toxins that are only broken down through cooking in water. These include mung bean, lentil, chickpea, and alfalfa sprouts. (The toxin in alfalfa sprouts, canavanine, can harm the immune system. Since cooking turns these delicate sprouts to mush, I advise against eating them at all.) The FDA warns against eating raw sprouts because some outbreaks of E. coli or salmonella have been traced to contaminated seeds. If the bacteria are in or on the seeds, they can flourish during sprouting even under clean conditions. I think that's unlikely, but I suggest you ask for sandwiches and salads in restaurants and delis to be served without alfalfa sprouts, and if you do eat other bean sprouts, be sure to cook them.

Raw broccoli sprouts are fine.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here