Prime example? Sulforaphane (try saying that five times fast!), a powerhouse nutrient strongly recommended by board-certified gastroenterologist, gut health expert, and best-selling author, Will Bulsiewicz, MD. We asked him all about the ways that sulforaphane benefits our health, why it’s so important to prioritize in our diets, and the best ways to fit more into our meals.
The many ways that sulforaphane benefits your health
“Sulforaphane is a type of phytochemical, a nutrient found specifically in plants,” Dr. Bulsiewicz says, and in this case, it’s found specifically in cruciferous vegetables. That means you’ll find it in broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and certain dark leafy greens.
“We have long known that cruciferous vegetables have health benefits, including reducing our risk of cancer and other chronic diseases,” says Dr. Bulsiewicz. “Laboratory research suggests that sulforaphane may play an important role in the cancer-protective qualities of these foods.”
Additionally, according to Dr. Bulsiewicz, sulforaphane can do wonders for your gut health: “It can be helpful in reducing inflammation throughout the body, boost immunity, combatting hangover symptoms, and can be helpful for those who are struggling with hormonal health issues,” he says. The phytochemical is a powerful liver detoxifier, meaning it improves liver function and assists the body in detoxifying excess hormones, which can lead to clearer skin, alleviation of intense PMS symptoms, and more reliable periods.
How much sulforaphane should we be getting each day?
Unlike many vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, there isn’t a recommended daily intake (RDA) or level of adequate intake (AI) suggested by the National Institutes of Health. Instead, Dr. Bulsiewicz says it’s much easier to turn your focus on maximizing your intake of cruciferous veggies on a regular basis. Go-getter that he is, Dr. Bulsiewicz even kicks off his day with a hefty serving of sulforaphane in the form of broccoli sprouts, which he says contain a whopping 50-100 times more of the nutrient than mature broccoli on the stalk.
“I start every morning with a smoothie highlighted by a generous handful of broccoli sprouts,” Dr. Bulsiewicz says. “You’ll know when you’re pushing the sprouts hard because you will taste the bitterness. Embrace it; it’s good for you!”
Another easy way to boost your intake is to prioritize sulforaphane-rich leafy greens in your salads instead of lettuce, says Dr. Bulsiewicz. He adds kale, arugula, and/or collard greens to his daily lunch salads whenever possible. Additionally, one of his favorite kitchen secrets is a technique he calls “Chop then Stop.” Dr. Bulsiewicz explains that more sulforaphane can be created in cruciferous veggies when you chew them thoroughly or chop them at least a few minutes before cooking. Whenever he’s using these veggies in a recipe, he chops them up, walks away for 10 minutes, and allows the chemical reaction to take place before cooking to best retain their sulforaphane power.
Another easy way to boost your intake is to prioritize sulforaphane-rich leafy greens in your salads instead of lettuce, says Dr. Bulsiewicz. He adds kale, arugula, and/or collard greens to his daily lunch salads whenever possible.
“The ideal way to get sulforaphane is through your diet,” Dr. Bulsiewicz says. “The reason being is that the evidence strongly supports consumption of the whole cruciferous vegetable, which will provide the sulforaphane but also provides fiber, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and even protein and healthy fats. We can’t say with confidence that sulforaphane, when removed from all of these other nutrients, would function in the same way. With this in mind, we should strive to be consuming more of these health-promoting veggies.”
“The ideal way to get sulforaphane is through your diet,” Dr. Bulsiewicz says. “The reason being is that the evidence strongly supports consumption of the whole cruciferous vegetable, which will provide the sulforaphane but also provides fiber, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and even protein and healthy fats.
What to do if cruciferous veggies don’t agree with you
Whether you are in the process of healing your gut and are having to limit your intake of cruciferous veggies for a period of time, are concerned about sprout intake due to pregnancy, or you simply don’t enjoy the bitterness of broccoli sprouts, there are several ways to up your sulforaphane intake with ease. But first, remember to speak with your healthcare provider before starting on any new supplements. If you are already on a supplement regimen, Thorne Health, a science-based gut wellness brand, makes a Crucera-SGS supplement in capsule form that’s packed with 50mg of sulforaphane in from broccoli extract.
Additionally, those serious about stepping up their sulforaphane game can check out Broc Shot, an Australian-based company devoted to making sulforaphane consumption pain-free and sustainable through stylishly packaged “shots” to down each morning before starting your daily routine. And once you’ve finished the pack of 10 shots, you can ship them back to TerraCycle label provided, for them to recycle and repurpose into other products.
Broc Shot’s co-founder Benjamin Silver was taking some time off after working for a popular coconut water company when he came across a study from John Hopkins University that showed how a beverage made from broccoli sprouts enhanced detoxification of air pollutants in China. He was blown away by the findings, that a simple beverage, and it’s main component, sulforaphane, could help the body detoxify from benzene, a known human carcinogen, and acrolein, a lung irritant, within 24 hours.
“I went into a deep dive that night and found that there are over 1,000 peer-reviewed clinical studies and articles on sulforaphane and its countless health and even beauty benefits including anti-aging and skin health, metabolic health, sports performance and recovery, cognitive benefits, gut health, immunity, cancer prevention and treatment, Alzheimer’s, autism, ADHD, skin conditions, and more,” says Silver. “I wanted to start taking it immediately but couldn’t find any good sources. It seemed that everything on the market was calling itself ‘sulforaphane’ but wasn’t, or it was synthetic, which seemed counterintuitive for a wellness product. So, I decided I needed to make a high quality, natural source of sulforaphane from whole broccoli sprout powder.”
Silver teamed up with Gracia Walker, a veteran of the beauty industry, and she too was blown away by the research on sulforaphane and broccoli sprouts. The pair got to work right away sourcing high-quality organic, hydroponically-grown broccoli sprouts possible and learning how to best retain the nutritional impact throughout the manufacturing process to offer a convenient and consistent way for consumers to boost their intakes. Broc Shot comes in an egg carton-like pack of 10 drinkable shots that are loaded with 15mg of the phytochemical. Silver and Walker explains that the key elements this product is designed to address are: inflammation, detoxification, and gut health, but in-house clinical trials have also shown to improve users’ skin and mental health as well after finishing just one of the 10-packs and even more so after using the product consistently for 30 days.
Whether you’re looking to improve your digestion, boost your antioxidant intake, or want a high-powered way to positively impact practically every system in the body, upping your sulforaphane is a great place to start. And it’s easier than ever to do so now too, thanks to the increased popularity of broccoli sprouts, high-quality supplements, and, of course, Dr. Bulsiewicz’s “Chop then Stop” tip for turning your everyday groceries into superheroes.