The claim: Time to get your sprouts on. Broccoli sprouts may hold the key to diminishing the effects that air pollution has on our bodies, suggests a small clinical trial published in Cancer Prevention Research.
The research: Nearly 300 Chinese men and women residing in one of China’s most polluted regions were asked to drink half a cup of a mixture of sterilized water, pineapple, and lime juice either with or without broccoli sprout powder every day for 12 weeks. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health collected urine and blood samples to measure levels of the pollutants.
Beginning on the first day and continuing through the study period, researchers noticed that participants consuming the beverage with the broccoli sprout powder experienced an uptick in pollutant excretion rates—increases of 61% and 23% of the human carcinogen benzene and of the lung irritant acrolein respectively.
What it means: When broccoli sprouts are chewed or swallowed, a compound called glucoraphanin produces sulforaphane, which enhances the body’s capacity to remove these types of pollutants. It's the protective actions of sulforaphane that activates a signaling molecule, NRF2, which increases cells’ ability to adapt to and to survive a range of environmental toxins.
The bottom line: While it's not yet known how many broccoli sprouts you need to eat to get the biggest benefit (plans for more clinical trials are underway to answer that), there's no reason why you shouldn't be eating them now. “You can add broccoli sprouts to anything that you would add leafy greens to, such as sandwiches, burgers, salads, tacos, and juices, or smoothies,” says Beth Saltz, MPH, RD, owner of nutritionskitchen.com.