Sulforaphane (Cruciferous Vegetables)

Sulforaphane is a plant compound you’ll find in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower. It gets its name from the word sulfur, as that is what the compound is rich in.  Or because it comes straight from hell, you might think so if you eat too much of it raw and your belly and bowels punish you for it. It is part of a larger group of molecules found in these vegetables called isothiocyanates, big fucking word alert. The most important thing to understand about sulforaphane is that it is really fucking good for you and you should keep reading and I shall explain.

Sulforaphane has a myriad of benefits to the human body:

Anti-cancer properties

While they “meaning the lab coat wearing shitheads” haven’t pinpointed any one thing that causes cancer, They have been able to come up with substances that are sure to cause cancer. These substances are label carcinogens. Common, recognized carcinogens include tobacco, asbestos, radon, formaldehyde, etc. If it’s been labeled a carcinogen, chances are you’ve heard it in the news.

The brainy fuckers are constantly doing research to try and find more things that cause cancer, but are also trying to find things that may prevent cancer. Sulforaphane is likely to help prevent cancer because it can prevent cancer cell growth. Inhibiting cancer cell growth is a great way to prevent cancer as it stops the disease at its source. Even if sulforaphane can’t inhibit all cancer cell growth, preventing where possible is important.

Sulforaphane can also help prevent cancer by lowering DNA damage by lowering oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Cells that are unable to handle the number of free radicals in your body are stressed and can become damaged.  More on this in an upcoming article! 

Inflammation anyone?  Sulforaphane is also shown to reduce inflammation in the body, another phenomenon that can influence cancer growth. Inflammation is one of your immune system’s responses to something harmful in the body. Ever get hot from a fever when you’re sick? The fever is your body heating up to try and flush out whatever virus or bacteria is getting you sick. So that’s a good thing right?  Why would we want to stop that? Hey damnit, let’s catch it before it happens.  

Excess inflammation is like a drug deal gone wrong…. Deadly.  Chronic inflammation is a painful B-word. (see there are some things I won’t say).  It might hurt when we’re sick, but our body is working to get us feeling better quickly. However, when inflammation is present all the time, say in the form of arthritis, it can make your life miserable. Chronic inflammation has been linked to a whole lot of bad shit, but if you must know, here is some, heart disease, cancer, auto-immune diseases, and more, so better to keep your body free of inflammation unless absolutely needed (like when you get the flu). 

Promotes heart health

See there, I pull you in with the ugly and then make it pretty again

While more human studies are called for, there has been a lot of suggestion that sulforaphane plays a positive role in heart health. It may reduce blood pressure, which is itself a positive force in reducing heart disease. 

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the United States.  Mostly because of hamburger eating turd buckets, but anyway….. Heart disease is a blanket term for a lot of conditions that cause death, but they all center around issues with the heart. Common heart disease-related conditions or events include heart attacks, coronary artery disease, blood vessel diseases, heart rhythm problems, congenital heart defects (meaning something you’re born with, like mine…..sad panda), etc.

Conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, etc. are part of the heart disease umbrella because they play a factor in whether you get heart disease. They are a symptom. So where can you find help in reducing your risk of developing heart disease in any of its forms? Reduce your risks. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels, a healthy weight, etc. are all important to consider.

Studies about sulforaphane have shown it may reduce high blood pressure. High blood pressure is often caused by diets high in salt, fat, and/or cholesterol. This doesn’t mean sulforaphane is a magic pill you can pop. However, if you are making dietary changes to correct your high blood pressure, you can increase your sulforaphane consumption to maximize the benefits and help bring your blood pressure to a healthy level. 

May help with diabetes 

HA, listen up those with an asshole for a pancreas.  

How can sulforaphane help with diabetes? While type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition in which your body cannot produce enough insulin, type 2 diabetes occurs when the body’s insulin receptors become less sensitive. Sulforaphane has been shown to reduce blood glucose, aiding diabetics in keeping their blood sugar within a healthy range. 

Since cruciferous vegetables are high in sulforaphane, you can probably guess that a healthier diet will help any disease like diabetes tenfold. So if you’re going to have a little cruciferous veg with your meal, you might as well eat some other vegetables too.  

May help with autism symptoms

Keeps getting better…..

I’ve discussed that sulforaphane can help reduce oxidative stress–and increase antioxidant levels. Also increasing it in the brain seems to be a positive influence on symptoms of autism, including stress. In a study conducted on young men with moderate to severe autism sulforaphane was found to have a positive effect on the mens’ ability to socialize and communicate verbally.

 Protection against sun damage

Sun worshipers unite 

Through various actions at a cellular level, sulforaphane has been found to help prevent UV damage from the sun. I hate sunscreen, but I am not going to ask you not to use it.  Gotdamnit, why is it that everything I say causes me more research. Iif you spend a lot of time in the sun, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to ramp up your consumption of sulforaphane and cruciferous vegetables.

Protection against brain damage

After a head injury, the brain is in a delicate state of healing. Antioxidants like sulforaphane may play a role in helping the brain to recover and reduce any mental declination that may happen during the recovery period. Going back to our discussion of sulforaphane reducing inflammation, reducing the level of inflammation in the brain during this time will help it heal.

Reduce constipation

You can probably guess why sulforaphane helps reduce constipation, right? Cruciferous veggies high in sulforaphane are also very high in dietary fiber. Fiber has a way of helping things move along in your gut. The compound sulforaphane has also been found to directly influence the bacteria in your gut (known as flora), promoting a more smooth passage for food as it works its way through your digestive system.

Okay, Okay… its good for me, how the fuck do I get this goodness in my belly? 

Where to find sulforaphane 

Sulforaphane is found in most cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli & broccoli sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, kale, radish & horseradish, arugula, mustard greens, watercress, and collard greens. However, cooking the vegetables can kill or at least greatly reduce the amount of sulforaphane within the vegetable. There are a few suggested ways on how to get sulforaphane into your diet.

What are the best ways to get sulforaphane?

Sulforaphane is activated when you chew or chop the vegetable containing it– an enzyme called myrosinase mixes with glucoraphanin, which is what sulforaphane starts as. However, boiling, steaming, or microwaving the vegetables will kill these enzymes before you get the vegetable on your plate. 

The largest amount of sulforaphane you can get comes from eating chopped raw sulforaphane-containing vegetables. But eating raw broccoli or brussels sprouts is not always exactly appetizing. You can disguise them in a big salad, or if you’d like to cook them, you can chop them very small (because the more the vegetable is “damaged,” the more sulforaphane is created) and leave them for about 90 minutes before stir-frying them (a method tried in a study on sulforaphane in cooked vegetables). Leaving them alone for a while before cooking them enabled enough sulforaphane to be produced that the stir-frying method did not kill it all off.

You can also choose to eat broccoli sprouts which are easily thrown into salads and sandwiches. A large handful should be enough each day to provide a beneficial amount of sulforaphane. Just give them a good chop first and chew thoroughly!

Don’t have time to chop and wait.  Add a myrosinase enzyme and it can offer anti-cancer sulforaphane levels comparable to raw, removing the necessity to pre-chop for maximum health benefits. But how?  Mustard powder. ½ tsp will do, once you’ve cooked your shit, sprinkle the mustard powder on top or put it in a dressing and you are eating it nearly like it’s raw.  

Can I Just Take A Supplement?

This sounds like a lot of work right? It’s easy once you get used to it, but don’t take the “easy” way out and take a supplement. Isolating the sulforaphane can be problematic because it won’t contain the necessary myosin to make the sulforaphane bioavailable (meaning easily absorbed and ready for your body to use). 

Additionally, many studies have shown that eating the whole vegetable is a much more efficient way to get nutrients than to take supplements. Many nutrients like iron and vitamin C work better together, and these nutrients are often best absorbed together. Whole plant foods were designed by nature to be eaten often and in a wide variety (ever notice how there are so many colors in fruits and vegetables? Different nutrients!), therefore providing the body with the many vitamins and minerals it needs. So eat a colorful, varied, whole plant food diet, throw in some raw broccoli sprouts, shredded cabbage, or shaved brussels sprouts, and don’t worry. 

Or whatever you want, like I care.  

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