Acronyms I use:
- GR / GRN = Glucoraphanin, the precursor molecule to Sulforaphane
- SFN = Sulforphane, the insanely wonderful and miraculous molecule this article is about
- MYR = Myrosinase, the enzyme that takes GR and forms Sulforaphane [SFN]
- BSP = Broccoli sprouts powder
- [R]= Reference / source cited
Best Sulforaphane and Broccoli Sprout Powder Vendors
Prostaphane is pure SFN, so it’s the most bioavailable. No GR + MYR or GR. As of June 2018, only available in France as coated tablets.
Avmacol (Check Price on Amazon)
Available as coated or uncoated tablets (60-count). Total GR+MYR per bottle: 750mg
Avmacol contains GR + MYR, so you should get up to 35% bioavailability from it. It’ll give you the most bang for your buck. This person called them and they said humans get about 8mg of SFN per dose[R]
Organic Broccoli Sprout Powder and Capsules – Health Ranger Store
Available in powder (113g / 4oz.) and capsules (60-count).
3g of the powder gives you 12mg of SFN and 30mg of GR. Total SFN per jar: 450mg
1 capsule gives you 2.24mg of SFN and 5.6mg of GR. Total SFN per bottle: 134.4mg
- USDA Organic
- Kosher Certified
- Not made in China
- Low heavy metals verified
- Lab verified levels of SFN, GR, and other glucosinolates
Every product sold in the Health Ranger Store has been tested using ICP-MS which tests substances at an atomic level for heavy metal contamination. The Broccoli Sprout Powder there has been verified as “very low to none detected” for lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury.
This is what I currently use.
Crucera-SGS by Thorne Research (Check Price on Amazon)
Available in capsules only (60-count). 50mg of glucoraphanin in one capsule. Total GR per bottle: 3,000mg (300mg if you account for poor bioavailability)
Crucera-SGS has Sulforaphane Glucosinate. That’s actually just GR (glucoraphanin) before MYR has turned it into SFN, so, you’ll only get about 10% bioavailability from it and little to no SFN, unless you use the mustard seed hack below.
- Prostaphane, Avmacol, and Crucera-SGS have all been used in clinical studies (by the Cullman Chemoprotection Center I believe) at Johns Hopkins University by Dr. Paul Talalay, Dr. Jed Fahey and his team there, so you know they’re safe and effective.
- I currently use the Health Ranger broccoli sprout powder. Once I try Avmacol I’ll update you.
- If it’s not listed here: it’s not worth your time, or rarely…I haven’t heard of it.
- IMPORTANT: Don’t forget, SFN has about a 70-74% bioavailability. So, maximum SFN per dose = [Grams of SFN in the product] * 70%
Where to Buy Broccoli Sprout (Sulforaphane) Supplements Online
Sold by Amazon
(Coated or uncoated)
|GR+MYR||$$ Check Price on Amazon||If Prime Member|
|Organic Broccoli Sprout Powder|
Sold by Health Ranger Store
|In-house testing||Capsules & Powder||SFN & GR||$ Check Price on Health Ranger Store||Over $49 (in contiguous US)
|Crucera-SGS by Thorne Research |
Sold by Amazon
|3rd-party testing||Capsules||GR only||$$$ Check Price on Amazon||If Price Member|
Sulforaphane (and Broccoli Sprout Powder) 101
SFN levels are highest in fresh, raw 2-3 day old broccoli sprouts, out of all the cruciferous vegetables. [R],[R]
3-day old Broccoli sprouts have 10-100x the GR (thus the potential for more SFN) than mature plants.[R]
Cool Fact: SFN is not actually in the plant. It forms when the plant is physically damaged (chew/crush/blend/chop etc.) and GR and MYR make contact with each other.
Broccoli sprout powder, broccoli extract, SFN, sulforaphane
SFN Benefits and Properties:
SFN is a water-soluble thiocyanate (S,N,O-containing compound) that is obtained from broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and many other cruciferous vegetables. It was discovered in 1992 at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine by Dr. Paul Talalay and his team.
- Powerfully Anticancer
- Powerful Antioxidant
“[…] It’s a very powerful anti-aging and also powerful nootropic, in a way.”
—Dr. Rhonda Patrick on SFN
No ideal or optimal dose is known. Examine.com says this dosage for humans (based off of the fact that 0.1-0.5mg/kg is bioactive for rats):
- 7-34 mg for a 150lb person
- 9-45 mg for a 200lb person
- 11-57 mg for a 250lb person
Half-life in the human body:
2.5 hours. Peak plasma concentrations is 1.5 hours (sources below for both)
It’s water-soluble and gets excreted via normal urinary excretion routes with excretion half-lives of around 2.5 hours with a peak plasma concentration of around 1.5 hours [R]. So, no buildup period required – it seems to be ready to get to work immediately after being ingested.
LD50 and Toxicity:
The LD50 hasn’t been studied well [R].
In lab mice injected in the body cavity (intraperitoneal injection) it’s been estimated at 212.67mg/kg [R]. In the aforementioned study, sedation and hypothermia happened at 150-300mg/kg and deaths at 200-300mg/kg.
Thus using this study’s LD50 conversion (and assuming my math isn’t wrong) the Human Equivalent Dose for a 60kg (132 lbs) is 17.23mg/kg. In theory, a lethal dose for a 60kg person would be 1,033.8 mg (~1.03g).
It seems crazy that one molecule can help so many diseases, disorders, and just health in general by many different mechanisms. So if you’re not a “supplement taker” start by looking into SFN, Magnesium, and Longvida Curcumin.
And continue reading to discover 40+ ways SFN benefits the human body.
Increasing Sulforaphane Bioavailability and Yield
SFN: 70%-74% [R], [R]
GR + MYR: 35% [R]
GR alone: 10% [R]
So if you take 10mg of each, at maximum, your body would absorb and be able to use this much:
GR + MYR: 3.5mg
My Verdict: Go for SFN first, and if you can’t, go for GR+MYR
1. Eating fresh, raw broccoli sprouts seem best out of every option for bioavailability AND price
Because this study noticed that 7x more SFN was absorbed from fresh broccoli sprouts than from broccoli sprout extract treated with MYR.
Cooked broccoli is less bioavailable than fresh broccoli [R]. In fact, SFN had a 37% bioavilability when people ate raw broccoli versus 3.4% for cooked [R]
2. Mustard seed powder can greatly increase SFN yield from GR
Another cool and inexpensive trick is “activating” the SFN in the presence of “dead” myrosinase. Studies have shown that mustard seed extract[R]&[R], which contains a more heat resilient isoform of myrosinase, can initiate the glucoraphanin → sulforaphane conversion.
Dr. Greger’s video explains it better than I can (especially if you just want to eat broccoli instead of everything else):
TL;DW = 0.5 TBS of ground mustard seed / mustard powder to your cooked broccoli can give you a bit of sulforaphane [R], but still not as much as just chewing raw fresh broccoli sprouts or popping some Avmacol.
3. If growing your own, Calcium Chloride can boost SFN yield
Well, technically it boosts GR (which would give you more SFN by default…if you chewed the sprouts)…AND increases the antioxidants [technically the “total antioxidant capacity”] that the sprouts produce.
The sprouts were irrigated with 20mL (with 10mmol/L of Calcium Chloride) of solution every 12 hours.
DIY Calcium Chloride solution
If my math is right, then you can dissolve 1.10984 gram of anhydrous Calcium Chloride in 1L (1000mL or 4.226 cups ) to get the same concentration. Then you can add 20mL of your solution to your sprouts every 12 hours also.
BAM! Now who’s the fancy-pants scientist? You are.
4. Freeze Your Sprouts
Dr. Rhonda Patrick says freezing broccoli sprouts can up to double the amount of SFN you get from them. [because freezing “damages” the plant tissue which allows the GR to come into contact with MYR to make SFN]
SFN Benefits and Effects
1. Potent Anticancer molecule + even Prevents Certain Cancers
A few different ways, but two are by modulating carcinogen metabolism and boosting our own body’s antioxidants. See better explanations below.
“[…] isothiocyanates which are extremely effective blockers of carcinogenesis [2–4].” [R]
SFN also shows promise for acting as an anticarcinogenic agent as well as boosting human-derived antioxidants[R]. It does this by inducing the enzymes responsible for xenobiotic metabolism and thereby accelerating the metabolic disposal of these molecules.
Many other studies also show how sulforaphane possesses the capacity to intervene in multistage carcinogenesis through the modulation and/or regulation of important cellular mechanisms – meaning the ones that induce the growth of neoplastic tissue, thus preventing certain forms of cancer[R],[R]
2. Helps with Autism
Due to its cytoprotective and neurodegenerative inhibiting capabilities, sulforaphane has been studied to see how it could help with autism sufferers. One study showed that sulforaphane was selected to attempt to treat autistic subjects because it upregulates genes that protect aerobic cells against oxidative stress, inflammation, and DNA-damage, all of which are prominent and possibly mechanistic characteristics of the autism spectrum disorder [R].
3. Powerful direct and indirect antioxidant
SFN has shown to reduce oxidative stress by increasing the activity of enzymes we produce that quench free radicals and produce inflammation[R].
Those are 3 big ones that stuck out to me, now here are…
39 more SFN benefits: rapid-fire style
Courtesy of SelfHacked.com. I put some of the below in my own words, but most titles are taken directly from SelfHacked.com (Joe let me know if you want me to remove these). I added my own thoughts to some of the following also.
1. Promotes detoxification via 1. inducing Phase 2 enzymes and 2. boosting glutathione in cells: [R]
2. Seems to prevent cancer cells from forming AND attack existing cancerous cells without affecting healthy cells: [R],[R],[R]
3. Lowers LDL Cholesterol (“Bad” kind) and increases HDL (“good”): [R],[R]
4. Prevents + fights heart disease and cardiovascular disease: [R],[R]
5. Might fight obesity by reducing leptin and insulin levels and by improving insulin resistance and glucose tolerance: [R]
6. Helps diabetes in at least 7 ways: [R], [R], [R]
SFN showed its protective actions against diabetes and cardiometabolic disorders[R], triggering certain antioxidants to be activated and other inflammatory proteins to be inhibited.
Acting on glucose directly to reduce the progression of diabetes, SFN has been shown to activate and suppress the expression of key enzymes involved in hyperglycemia[R].
7. Might boost the Immune System: [R], [R]
8. Is Antiviral (Even against HIV, Epstein-Barr and Hepatitis C): [R], [R]
But if you have an infection that takes control of the Nrf2 pathway like Dengue, Marbug virus, or the Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) for instance Might boost the Immune System: [R], [R]…use extreme caution if deciding to ingest sulforaphance. I’d recommend skipping it although unless you’ve talked with your Doctor.
9. Fights Bacterial and Fungal Infections (in this study, it prevented growth of 23 of the 28 species tested):[R]
10. SFN is Photoprotective (Helps protect the skin from: inflammation and oxidative from UVA and UVB rays, sunburn, and skin damage) [R], [R], [R]
11. Fights and may lower inflammation: [R], [R], [R]
12. May fight anxiety and depression by reducing inflammation: [R], [R]
13. Neuroprotective (brain protector) and may improve brain function after brain injuries: [R], [R]
May also help with diseases like Alzheimer’s, ALS/Lou Gehrig’s, and Parkinson’s, due to activating Nrf2 pathways: [R]
14. Might help with Parkinson’s: See Here
15. Might help with Alzheimer’s: See Here
Sulforaphane has been shown to help reduce the progression of Alzheimer’s disease by decreasing the accumulation of Amyloid-β and tau plaques through upregulation of certain heat shock proteins[R]. This just means that sulforaphane showed evidence of preventing certain clusters of bad proteins within areas of the brain that are involved in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
16. Might help with Huntington’s: [R]
17. Might prevent seizures: [R]
18. 30mg/day for 8 weeks improved learning in those with Schizophrenia: [R]
19. Might help those suffering from methamphetamine and substance abuse: [R], [R]
20. Might Improve Behavior in those with Autism: [R]
21. Might Protect against GI (gastrointestinal) Inflammation and GI Injuries like Colitis, Gastric Ulcers: [R], [R], [R], [R]
22. Fights and inhibits growth of H. Pylori infections (and protects the stomach lining) as long as you’re taking it: [R], [R], [R], [R]
23. Improves Liver Function via a few different mechanisms: [R], [R]
24. Protects against environmental pollutants via helping your body detoxify them: [R], [R], [R]
25. Might help asthma and airway inflammation: See Here
SFN has been shown to reduce the risk of asthmatic attacks by affecting the pulmonary bronchoconstrictor responses to certain stimuli[R].
26. Fights and decreases Autoimmune Inflammation: [R]
27. Can help alleviate pain + shows some analgesic effects: [R], [R]
28. Increases Bone Volume and Healthy Bone Formation: [R]
29. Might help arthritis and osteoarthritis: [R], [R]
30. Helps Prevent Muscle Damage By Acting As An Indirect Antioxidant in Muscle: [R]
31. Might Help Muscular Dystrophy via Nrf2 by Reducing Muscle Damage and Inflammation: [R], [R], [R]
32. Helps protect the kidneys from damage caused by kidney cell death, chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin, and nephropathy: [R], [R], [R]
33. Might Support Hair Growth: [R], [R]
34. Increases Alcohol Tolerance: [R], [R]
35. Might Help in Pregnancy and Pass on Benefits to Your Children: [R], [R], [R]
36. Protects Your Eyes From: excessive light exposure, cataracts, FECD, and oxidative stress: [R], [R], [R]
37. Protects against and fights Keloids by reducing collagen and inhibiting cell growth: [R]
38. Might Help Bladder Dysfunctions: [R]
39. Might help children with Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS): [R]
Want more benefits?
Sulforaphane and Its Effects on Cancer, Mortality, Aging, Brain and Behavior, Heart Disease & More by Dr. Rhonda Patrick
Questions About Broccoli Sprouts and SFN
Can’t I just eat broccoli and get sulforaphane?
My answer: Mature broccoli isn’t the best source for it. A 2006 research study concluded: “Therefore, the broccoli sprout is recommended as a source of sulforaphane-rich products. In contrast, we found that sulforaphane could not be detected in most of broccoli products, suggesting present commercial broccoli products having low quality.” [R]
Avmacol.com FAQ page’s answer: ” Sulforaphane production is not predictable when eating broccoli. The levels of glucoraphanin and the active myrosinase enzyme vary greatly in vegetables you would typically buy at the market due to seed quality, soil composition, and other factors. Additionally, the myrosinase enzyme can be destroyed during the cooking process. Therefore, simply eating cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, does not provide reliable amounts of glucoraphanin and the myrosinase enzyme and thus does not guarantee that your body will make sulforaphane.”
Plus, I mean take a look at the next question
How does mature broccoli compare to broccoli sprouts?
3-day old Broccoli sprouts have 10-100x the GR (thus more SFN) than mature plants.[R]
But Fresh broccoli has 10x more SFN (but still MUCH less than sprouts)[R]
The blanching process used during freezing destroys MYR. You’re better off buying a SFN product or growing your own sprouts.
So the order to get SFN, from best to worst:
3-day old fresh broccoli sprouts steamed for exactly 1-3 minutes >
3-day old fresh broccoli sprouts eaten raw >
4+-day old fresh broccoli sprouts eaten raw or steamed >
Low heat dried broccoli sprouts >
Fresh mature broccoli with mustard powder >
Fresh broccoli >
Fresh mature broccoli >
cooked mature broccoli
Can I store Sulforaphane once I’ve chopped / crushed / juiced it?
I’d consume it as quickly as possible once you’ve chopped/juiced/crushed it.
“Compared to its stable [glucoraphanin] precursor, [SFN] begins degrading soon after synthesis” [R]
To be fair, in the study that quote is from they uses temps of 50°C (122°F) and 100°C (212°F, boiling point)
Which means: one, consume it quickly if you’ve heated yours up beyond the above temps>
How safe is Avmacol?
Avmacol is gluten-free, vegetarian, and has no articial colors added. You can even crush up the uncoated version and mix it into smoothies, yogurt, applesauce, etc.
How much Sulforaphane do you get from 100g of dry weight Broccoli or Broccoli Sprout Powder?
Broccoli (44-171mg / 100g dry weight) [R]
Broccoli sprouts (1153mg / 100g dry weight) [R]
I mention the wet weight below since you probably aren’t dehydrating / freeze drying sprouts anytime soon.
How cost effective is growing your own?
SproutPeople.org says broccoli seeds give a yield of about 5:1. (That’s also an excellent instructional page for growing your own sprouts).
So 1oz. of seeds will yield approx. 5oz. of sprouts
Wet weight yield of SFN: Dr. Rhonda Patrick, one of the leading experts in sulforaphane, and other sources, claim that you can get 60-170mg of SFN from 100-200g of raw broccoli sprouts[R]. She consumes up to 4oz a couple times a week. Assume 8oz/week.
2oz (~57g) of seeds should give you 10oz (~284g) of sprouts for about 8 weeks
If 60mg SFN in 100g of broccoli sprouts (low end just to be safe in our estimate), then you could get up to 170mg of SFN per week or ~24mg a day.
A pound (454g) of Organic Todd’s Sprouting Seeds costs ($15.89 (8.89 +$7 to US) as the cheapest option).
Using 2oz. of seeds/week = $1.98/wk for about 170mg/wk of SFN
If you don’t want to spend the time growing and processing them yourself, pay someone you trust with your food to grow them for you.
SFN Dangers, Negatives, Side Effects, and Things to Watch Out For
Although by now we’d like to think that broccoli sprouts are all sunshine and bliss…but, there are a few items to be aware of when thinking about consuming BSP or SFN.
For one, beware of gas or bloating when consuming raw or uncooked sprouts – as there is about 2.6g of fiber in 1 cup of broccoli sprouts which may be irritating to some, even though SFN has been reported to inhibit overgrowth of bad anaerobic microflora and protects the small intestine[R].
Here’s a word of warning from a Redditor:
2. Don’t eat the seeds
Mainly because of Erucic acid content and the potential for bacteria to be inside the seeds and you can’t decontaminate seeds without destroying the SFN along with the nasty bacteria waiting to give you some explosive “GI distress”.
A commenter on Dr. Rhonda Patrick’s site says this about erucic acid:
Dr. Fahey (one of the SFN / broccoli sprout powder experts) of the ChemoProtectionCenter.org says:
Q: Can I eat whole broccoli seeds?
A: We are less prepared to answer this question because there may be complicating factors and because little research has been done to address this question. Certainly eating various types of seeds is practice that has been common to humanity since early in evolution when we were hunter-gatherers. Broccoli seeds are bitter if eaten raw, and they taste nutty and pleasant if lightly baked first. Since broccoli seeds – or sprouts for that matter – were never consumed prior to our discovery published in 1997, we do not know how much is too much. Broccoli seeds are loaded with GR (and with myrosinase, but that gets inactivated when you bake or cook the seeds). They also have other oils and indoles and compounds that could be anti-nutritional and undesirable if eaten in large quantities.
My 2 cents: Eat sprouts and supplements and avoid eating the seeds until this has been sorted out by people way smarter than me.
Also, claims of eruric acid (a monounsaturated lipid found in broccoli) having toxic effects are still in circulation today, however, these claims have not been well established in humans [R: Page 4 paragraph 1],[R: Chapter 14].
3. Avoid too much heat. But.
You need some to increase SFN bioavailability.
Excessive heat during processing inactivates the MYR enzyme needed to make SFN.
But not enough heat = not a lot of SFN.
It’s a balancing act.
MYR (myrosinase) will denature when exposed to certain temperatures. If this happens, sulforaphane can’t be made.
So for example, if you’re sprouting your own sprouts and you heated them just right, MYR will be spared but the heat will deactivate another enzyme (ESP) that turns the GR (the sulforaphane precursor) into a non-bioactive nitrile analog, which is a bad thing because it gives none of the benefits of SFN.
What are the magic temperatures for increasing SFN?
70°C (158°F) for 10 minutes [R] for broccoli sprouts or 60°C for 10 minutes for mature broccoli.
Why? At those temperatures you get maximum SFN and QR (this enzymes belongs to the pathway that helps protect the body from cancer[R]) production and minimal bad things (Nitirle/inactive form of SFN, ESP, and QR)
DO NOT microwave (beyond 30-40 seconds) or boil (at all) your sprouts to try and increase SFN content though (quote courtesy of Examine.com):
With microwaving, 3 minutes in an 800W microwave (with 150mL water) depletes sulforaphane with peak sulforaphane content at 1 minute. A 900W microwave between 0.5-0.75 minutes appears to maximize Sulforaphane while minimizing nitrile formation, with 1 minute highly depleting nitrile formation but also sulforaphane starting to be affected.
Boiling broccoli in 1.5L water appears to inactive myrosinase after 1 minute, with the authors of this study concluding that without dipping broccoli into ice water after 30s of heating (to reduce heat application after being removed from liquid) that boiling is unlikely to be an effective method of preparation.
The best method of increasing SFN yield? Steaming your sprouts for no more than 1-3 minutes exactly, because 5 minutes depletes SFN content [R].
So avoid products that have used heating above 50°C (122°F) for over an hour: watch out for manufacturers that use excessive heat to make their powders and/or to compress their tablets together. This might destroy the enzyme that makes the unwanted bi-product of sulforaphane, but at the same time knocks out the one that makes the good stuff.
4. Be careful if choosing to sprouting your own seeds
Be sure to ONLY get seeds that say they’re for sprouting + organic. You don’t want seeds treated with pesticides.
Also, be sure you properly wash and sanitize the seeds before growing them so you don’t grow bacteria that can cause food poisoning.
I had no idea that sprouts and seeds are a major source of food poisoning:
FoodPoisoningBulletin.com says “Since 1998, fresh or lightly cooked sprouts have been linked to 49 food poisoning outbreaks in the United States. Those outbreaks have been caused by Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, and Salmonella. In all of the outbreaks reported, researchers think the likely source of the pathogen was the contaminated seed. In fact, the bacteria may be inside the seed, which means there is no way to sanitize the seed before they are sprouted.” If you want to read more, see this Colorado State University page about sprouts
You’re just wanting to be healthy, and the next thing you know, you’ve skewed your gut bacteria balance towards the “bad bacteria.”
Luckily SFN has some anti-microbial qualities.
5. Broccoli (Brassica family in general) accumulates heavy metals
Something to be aware of, since most heavy metals accumulate in the roots[R]. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need any heavy metal in my diet except Iron Maiden.
Be sure the product you’re buying is organic, since products are typically concentrates (thus, heavy metals would also be concentrated in them)
6. “May Transiently Decrease Genome Stability” via LTR activation in white blood cells
7. May or may not cause liver toxicity
What that study says: someone decided to chug about 800ml/day (3.3 cups) of broccoli juice (from the mature plant) and had elevated liver enzymes that returned to normal in just over 2 weeks.
Can’t say if that was due to SFN because anything could have caused it. I mean what if the broccoli juice concentrated pesticides or something? Without further study, can’t point the finger at SFN here as the cause, but thought I should mention it.
8. See benefit #8 above if you have a serious viral condition
SFN could make it worse if you have a virus that hijacks the Nrf2 pathway.
So if you’re still reading, and want some, check out my section on best vendors here
It should be apparent now that broccoli sprouts contain an active ingredient who’s health benefits can’t be ignored. With ample amounts of evidence to support the claims of its actions, it’s no wonder that broccoli sprout is coming to take the crown of kale as the Superfood King.
From preventing certain forms of cancer to reducing the symptoms of autism, sulforaphane seems to be one of the most fascinating molecules found in nature’s pharmacy.
Mama was right…eat your broccoli (and no, I’m not sorry for the lame joke everyone saw coming from a mile away)