Broccoli Sprouts | The What, Why & How
Updated: Apr 6
Ever thought about adding broccoli sprouts to the bowl? This is an easy, cheap, and beneficial add, whether kibble, cooked, or raw fed. Discover how & why to incorporate this powerhouse compound into the bowl.
Why Add Them - Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)
Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) are compounds formed via the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is a complex reaction of sugars, proteins, or fats impacted by heat (a non-enzymatic response). The effects the Maillard Reaction has on nutritional value and pet health in pet food processing have been researched for its "possible effects on animal health." AGEs are created in the late stages of the Maillard reaction “in foods and biological systems.” AGEs form in foods exposed to high temperatures, such as kibble, which is heat processed several times. The most significant contributor to AGEs tends to be diet, and with dogs mainly eating an ultra-processed diet their whole lives, it is imperative to act against AGEs proactively.
The way AGEs work can be a complicated subject at first, but here it is as simplified as possible. AGEs are released into the intestinal tract from interacting with digestive enzymes and intestinal microflora when metabolized. When absorbed, the AGEs bind with several receptors from the mucosal immune system, such as RAGE, CD36, Halectin-3, SR-A1, and mannose receptors. The most noted interaction is the innate immune cells which keep harmful substances from entering the body. The innate immune cells are activated through the NR-kB pathway and create reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cytokines. ROS are highly reactive chemicals formed from O2, while cytokines tell the immune system to do their job. The NR-kB pathway (nuclear factor kappa light chain enhancer of activated B cells) regulates many essential cell behaviors such as inflammatory responses, apoptosis (cell death), and cell growth. All of these activities result in "T-cell activation and contribute to the development of increased" negative impacts on "on health, welfare, growth, and performance of the animal in ways very similar to those known from the human field."
An accumulation of AGEs dietarily has been shown to “hinder tissue repair,” create chronic inflammation (metainflammation), cancer in both humans and dogs, affect kidneys, age-related diseases, and more. In aging dogs with canine diabetes mellitus, AGEs were significantly higher than compared with control animals. This was also noted in dogs with “cateracts, osteoarthritis, neurodegenerative canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, vascular dysfunction, and atherosclerosis.
With all these adverse effects, AGEs are not the greatest. Therefore, it makes sense when concluded that reducing AGEs was highly beneficial to the effects of aging and other “related complications.”
Along with feeding as many fresh foods as possible, whether a raw diet, cooked diet, or kibble boosters, incorporating polyphenolic compounds, specifically broccoli sprouts, can create a significant impact.
Fresh Foods & AGEs
A plethora of fresh foods contains AGE fighting substances such as thiamine (B1), taurine, carnosine, quercetin, curcumin, resveratrol, DHA & EPA, and other phytonutrients rich foods. But the crème de la crème of AGE battling foods is broccoli sprouts.
Broccoli sprouts are 3-5 day old broccoli seeds that are in the cruciferous vegetable family and are loaded with phytochemicals. Cruciferous vegetables are a "rich source of sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates (β-thioglucoside N-hydroxysulfates), " giving them their bitter and somewhat spicy flavor. According to the International Sprouts Growers Association, an 85 gram serving of broccoli sprouts based on a 2,000kcal diet provides:
∙ Calories: 35
∙ Carbs: 5g
∙ Dietary Fiber: 4g
∙ Protein: 4g
∙ Vitamin A: 10%
∙ Vitamin C: 60%
∙ Calcium: 6%
∙ Iron: 4%
While sprouts provide a source of fiber, prebiotics, and some nutrients, the real star of the show is the phytonutrient sulforaphane.
∙ Glucosinolate is a compound that reacts with myrosinase (an enzyme) to create isothiocyanates.
∙ Glucoraphanin is an antioxidant found mainly in broccoli and reacts with myrosinase to create sulforaphane.
∙ Myrosinase is an enzyme that reacts with glucoraphanin to create isothiocyanates.
∙ Isothiocyanates are sulfur-containing phytochemicals created through glucosinolates and myrosinases reacting.
∙ Sulforaphane is an isothiocyanate that has been studied for its vast array of health benefits.
The Science of Sprouts
Broccoli sprouts provide a much more concentrated dose of glucoraphanin than the mature plant - around 10 to 100 times higher levels of sulforaphane. While there are many phytochemicals in broccoli sprouts, the ones with "the greatest interest in the research community" are glucoraphanin, myrosinase, and sulforaphane as sulforaphane is one of the best dietary activators of Nrf2. Glucoraphanin is an indirect antioxidant found mainly in broccoli and acts as the plant's defense system and a precursor to sulforaphane. When chewed or blended, glucoraphanin and myrosinase combine to create sulforaphane. The chewing or blending of the sprouts is essential in creating sulforaphane as technically speaking, broccoli sprouts have zero sulforaphane before chewing or chopping. Once digested, sulforaphane then binds to Keap1 freeing Nrf2, allowing phosphorylation (p) of Nrf2 to enter the cell nucleus.
Nrf2 with smAF protein binds with the antioxidants response to influence gene expression, increasing antioxidant defense enzymes, decreasing inflammation, and increasing phase 2 enzymes. Phase 2 enzymes are major detoxification enzymes and aid in cellular defense in carcinogens, oxidants, and other toxins.
The literature on sulforaphane and broccoli sprouts seems endless, all coming to the same conclusion on the magnificent effects against AGE-related health conditions and detoxification pathways from environmental toxins.
A study from 2014 demonstrated "that sulforaphane could inhibit DNA synthesis, apoptotic cell death, and inflammatory reactions in AGE-exposed pericytes, partly by suppressing RAGE expression via its antioxidative properties."
Sulforaphane's effects were tested on "induced cell death, inflammation, oxidative stress, and polarization in murine microglia." And shown to be "a natural product with cytoprotective, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects."
Researchers in Japan found that "sulforaphane could inhibit AGE-induced pericytes injury through its antioxidative properties."
Paraquat (PQ) is an herbicide that can cause acute oxidative lung injuries. the Nrf2/antioxidant response pathway is "essential for cellular defense against oxidative stress." Sulforaphane was found to have strong antioxidative effects on mice.
Feeding broccoli sprouts to "hairless mice with prior chronic exposure to UV radiation" discouraged "the development of skin tumors during the subsequent 13 weeks."
Dietary sulforaphane was recognized as low toxicity and shown for "its capacity to reverse abnormalities that have been associated with ASD, including oxidative stress and lower antioxidant capacity, depressed glutathione synthesis, reduced mitochondrial function, oxidative phosphorylation, increased lipid peroxidation, and neuroinflammation."
Findings also concluded that sulforaphane could be "useful as a supplement to counteracting neurodegenerative diseases" such as Alzheimer's disease (AD), Parkinson's disease (PD), and multiple sclerosis (MS).
A 12-week randomized clinical trial with 291 participants was given a broccoli sprout beverage. "Exposure to air pollution has been associated with lung cancer and cardiopulmonary diseases." The broccoli sprout beverage enhanced the detoxification of airborne pollutants and " may provide a frugal means to attenuate their associated long-term health risks."
A clinical trial involving 300 Chinese residents in one of the most polluted regions in China ate a half cup of a broccoli sprout beverage and saw "rapid, significant, and sustained higher level of excretion of benzene, a known human carcinogen, and acrolein, a lung irritant."
Several studies have "documented the cancer-preventive activity." Sulforaphane has been given great attention as its "ability to simultaneously modulate multiple cellular targets involved in cancer development, including (i) DNA protection by modulating carcinogen-metabolizing enzymes and blocking the action of mutagens; (ii) inhibition of cell proliferation and induction of apoptosis, thereby retarding or eliminating clonal expansion of initiated, transformed, and/or neoplastic cells; (iii) inhibition of neoangiogenesis, progression of benign tumors to malignant tumors, and metastasis formation. SFN is, therefore, able to prevent, delay, or reverse preneoplastic lesions, as well as to act on cancer cells as a therapeutic agent. Taking into account this evidence and its favorable toxicological profile, SFN can be viewed as a conceptually promising agent in cancer prevention and/or therapy."
Broccoli Sprouts & Dogs
Broccoli sprouts have various nutritive and medicinal benefits for humans and pets. Here is how to incorporate them into the bowl.
Growing broccoli sprouts at home are the cheapest and most effective way to obtain them. While grocery stores do have them available, they are often overpriced. Purchasing seeds and growing them are much more economical—places like Amazon or vendors such as Johnny Select Seeds.
Glucoraphanin and myrosinase must be chewed (humans) or crushed together for the glucoraphanin in the sprouts to convert to sulforaphane from the myrosinase enzyme. For optimal absorption, blend or chop finely right before feeding. Heat should be avoided as it kills the enzyme myrosinase. According to Dr. Jed Fahey, a nutritional biochemist who does extensive research with sulforaphane and broccoli sprouts, the sprouts can be frozen as myrosinase will be inactive in the freezer but become active once thawed.
The Nrf2 protective pathways were activated for at least 2 days. Incorporating every 2-3 days is a reasonable estimate.
How To Sprout
Sprouting is reasonably straightforward but requires some time. Below is a step-by-step guide created by Dr. Jed Fahey.
∙ Apple Cider Vinegar
∙ Dish Soap
∙ Bleach (alternative to ACV & dish soap)
Fill the jar with 3-5 tablespoons of seeds. Inspect and remove rocks and other miscellaneous items.
Fill the jar with warm water and a killing solution. The sterilization step is vital to remove any harmful bacteria. Dr. Fahey suggests a 1:10 ratio of bleach or apple cider vinegar with a drop of dish soap. Then let sit for 10 minutes and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.
Cover seeds with fresh water and soak for 8 hours or overnight.
Drain the water and rinse once again. Pour all water out, place the drainage lid on, and put it at an angle or upside down depending on the cap.
Rinse the seeds twice a day for 3-5 days.
Once sprouted, store in the fridge to slow growth and feed within a week as sprouts spoil quickly. For Dr. Jed Fahey's full sprouting PDF, click here.
After finely chopping or blending sprouts before feeding, feed at 1 teaspoon per 20lbs or 9kg of body weight. Sprouts can also be frozen in molds.
Broccoli sprout's therapeutic uses continue to flourish in the research community. And as they are easy and cost-effective, they are a fantastic addition to your diet and your dog's. These sprouts are simply another piece of the longevity puzzle. I hope you learn something new today & Always Keep Exploring!