Broccoli Sprouts: How This Cancer-Fighting Food Promotes Longevity

Discover how broccoli sprouts—with 100-400 times more cancer-fighting sulforaphane than mature broccoli—could be the key to unlocking longevity.

Diana Licalzi
By Diana Licalzi
Caitlin Snethlage
Edited by Caitlin Snethlage

Updated April 16, 2024.

A man is making a smoothie in the kitchen.

Broccoli sprouts have skyrocketed in popularity thanks to scientists like Rhoda Patrick and Jed Fahey. More and more research continues to shed light on the health-promoting and cancer-fighting properties of this powerful vegetable. But what exactly are they?

They're immature broccoli, rich in various nutrients, including vitamins C and A, fiber, and sulforaphane. By germinating from seeds after a few days of soaking, watering, and rinsing, they can be transferred to soil where they grow flowers.

Let's learn more about the health benefits of this nutrient-dense food and how you can include more broccoli sprouts into your diet.

What are the benefits of broccoli sprouts?

Broccoli sprouts belong to the cruciferous vegetable family, which has been studied for its potent anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. One meta-analysis found that those who ate more of these vegetables had a lower mortality risk—meaning they were less likely to die prematurely.

Numerous other studies also demonstrate a strong link between cruciferous vegetables and a lower risk of prostate, bladder, lung, and breast cancer. [1–5] They also decrease inflammation markers in humans, one of the leading causes of accelerated aging. [6]

Scientists credit sulforaphane for the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables. What is this super-nutrient, and how does it manifest its power? To understand everything, let’s look at the process step-by-step:

  1. Cruciferous vegetables contain various other nutrients, particularly glucoraphanin, in their leaves, stems, and flowers.
  2. When cruciferous vegetables are chewed or chopped—or broken down somehow—myrosinase is released and reacts with glucoraphanin.
  3. Together, myrosinase and glucoraphanin produce a new compound called sulforaphane.
  4. To summarize, sulforaphane is the end product of an enzymatic reaction when we consume cruciferous vegetables. 
The stages of broccoli growing.

How sulforaphane interacts with the body

So, why do scientists credit sulforaphane for all these health benefits? Our bodies have a stress-response pathway known as NRF2, which controls over 200 genes responsible for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant processes. [7]

Interestingly, when stimulated by sulforaphane, the NRF2 pathway activates every 80 minutes, compared with every 129 minutes under normal circumstances.[8] 

Cabbage, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are among the most widely consumed sources of sulforaphane. But, broccoli sprouts contain 100–400 times more sulforaphane than other cruciferous vegetables!

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Are broccoli sprouts good for you?

When tested in humans, sulforaphane intake, particularly via broccoli sprouts, shows a wide range of health benefits. By activating detoxification pathways, sulforaphane may help reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Participants were administered a broccoli sprout-derived beverage over 12 weeks in a randomized control trial. The experimental group excreted significantly higher amounts of the human carcinogen benzene—as much as 61%—and other harmful compounds like acrolein metabolites. [9]

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Is broccoli good for heart health?

When looking at markers of cardiovascular disease (the leading cause of mortality in the United States), the consumption of broccoli sprouts also shows promising results.

  • In one study, individuals who consumed 100mg of fresh broccoli sprouts for one week had significantly lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, elevated HDL (good) cholesterol, and decreased oxidative stress markers.
  • Similarly, patients with type 2 diabetes had reduced triglycerides and improved cardiovascular health markers after ingesting 10g/day of broccoli sprout powder for four weeks.[10] 
  • In a systematic review, the supplementation of broccoli sprouts in patients with type 2 diabetes increased antioxidants and decreased oxidative stress, triglycerides, insulin resistance, inflammatory (CRP), and other cardiovascular markers.
  • Finally, another study found that broccoli sprout powder containing 40mg of sulforaphane (equivalent to 100g sprouts) significantly reduced inflammation markers (TNF-alpha and C-Reactive Protein) in humans. [11]

How to grow broccoli sprouts

Buying broccoli sprouts from the supermarket can be expensive, but growing them yourself is a cheap and convenient alternative.

Plus, if you have children, it's a great activity to do with them. Here is how to grow broccoli sprouts:

  1. In a jar with a mesh sprouting lid, soak seeds in water for 10 hours.
  2. Rinse well with cold water and drain. 
  3. Repeat the rinsing and draining process twice daily for 3–5 days. 
  4. After 3–5 days, sprouts should be ready to harvest. 
  5. Rinse sprouts and let dry before storing. 

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Are broccoli sprouts healthier than broccoli?

While broccoli is a very nutrient-dense vegetable, sprouts contain over 100 times the amount of sulforaphane than mature broccoli. Interestingly, you can increase the availability of the compound by adding mustard seed.

Note: One study found that, when mustard powder was added to cooked broccoli, it increased the bioavailability of sulforaphane by over four times.

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Are broccoli sprouts dangerous?

Broccoli sprouts are not dangerous to eat. But, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people should not eat them raw. In its 2017 guidelines, the FDA indicated that they may potentially carry pathogens, increasing the chances of a food-borne illness outbreak.

This mainly stems from the growing conditions of sprouts—temperature, pH level, and water activity—which are all ideal for the growth of potential pathogens. 

You also shouldn't eat moldy sprouts. Various factors may account for mold growth, including old seeds, improper draining and rinsing of seeds, high humidity, and poor circulation.

A bunch of broccoli sprouts.
Don’t confuse mold with broccoli sprouts’ feather-like roots (see above)

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Recap: the benefits of broccoli sprouts

To reap the benefits, eat up to ½ cup of broccoli sprouts daily. As mentioned above, studies show that just 100mg (½ cup) can improve markers of cholesterol and oxidative stress. 

  • Broccoli sprouts are immature broccoli, rich in a range of nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, and sulforaphane.
  • Broccoli sprouts contain very high levels of sulforaphane, a nutrient that possesses anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • Broccoli sprouts contain 100-400 times the content of sulforaphane compared with other cruciferous vegetables! 
  • Broccoli sprouts are not dangerous to eat; however, avoid them if they are moldy.
  • Aim to eat up to ½ cup of broccoli sprouts daily. 
A green smoothie in a jar with a recipe.

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Maximize the benefits of broccoli sprouts

Uncertain how much broccoli to include in your diet? InsideTracker's Ultimate plan analyzes your blood and dietary habits. It identifies nutrient deficiencies, like vitamin C, that sprouts can address.

For example, if your vitamin C is low, you'll receive a personalized recommendation for a daily amount of broccoli sprouts.

InsideTracker goes beyond nutrients. It analyzes how your unique bio-data responds to foods, maximizing the benefits of broccoli sprouts, or suggesting alternatives like cauliflower or sulforaphane supplements (with guidance) if your vitamin C is sufficient.

Note: InsideTracker doesn't diagnose or treat medical conditions. Consult your physician if you have any health concerns.


[1] J. Cohen, A. R. Kristal, and J. L. Stanford, “Fruit and vegetable intakes and prostate cancer risk,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute (Print), vol. 92, no. 1, pp. 61–68, Jan. 2000, doi: 10.1093/jnci/92.1.61. Available:

[2] D. S. Michaud, D. Spiegelman, S. K. Clinton, E. B. Rimm, W. C. Willett, and E. Giovannucci, “Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of bladder cancer in a male prospective cohort,” JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, vol. 91, no. 7, pp. 605–613, Apr. 1999, doi: 10.1093/jnci/91.7.605. Available:

[3] S. A. Smith‐Warner, “Brassica Vegetables and breast Cancer Risk—Reply,” JAMA, vol. 285, no. 23, p. 2975, Jun. 2001, doi: 10.1001/jama.285.23.2975. Available:

[4] X. Liu and K. Lv, “Cruciferous vegetables intake is inversely associated with risk of breast cancer: A meta-analysis,” The Breast, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 309–313, Jun. 2013, doi: 10.1016/j.breast.2012.07.013. Available:

[5] L. Tang et al., “Cruciferous vegetable intake is inversely associated with lung cancer risk among smokers: a case-control study,” BMC Cancer, vol. 10, no. 1, Apr. 2010, doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-10-162. Available:

[6] S. L. Navarro et al., “Cruciferous vegetables have variable effects on biomarkers of systemic inflammation in a randomized controlled trial in healthy young adults,” ˜the œJournal of Nutrition (Print), vol. 144, no. 11, pp. 1850–1857, Nov. 2014, doi: 10.3945/jn.114.197434. Available:

[7] S. Giacoppo et al., “An overview on neuroprotective effects of isothiocyanates for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases,” Fitoterapia, vol. 106, pp. 12–21, Oct. 2015, doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2015.08.001. Available:

[8] M. Xue et al., “Frequency modulated translocational oscillations of NRF2 mediate the antioxidant response element cytoprotective transcriptional response,” Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, vol. 23, no. 7, pp. 613–629, Sep. 2015, doi: 10.1089/ars.2014.5962. Available: