Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Sulforaphane, the Amazing Antioxidant You Never Heard Of

Sprouted broccoli seeds are a great source of antioxidants. Sprouts have as much as four to eight times the nutrition than the adult versions. (Oregon State University)

Larry Plesent

Breathing, moving, eating, being. The very act of living borrows electrons from otherwise stable unions creating notably unstable atoms with an extra electron whizzing around their cores. This extra electron leaves the molecule wanting to balance its energy. Balance is often sought by grabbing onto a nearby oxygen atom and sharing energy with it. While we all need oxygen, in the wrong place it causes a lot of trouble.

Think of this as rusting for biology.

This exact process is now believed to be a major cause of aging, in particular, aging before the optimal time to say our final adios. Wrinkles, lack of energy, susceptibility to diseases including cancer — all these and more have been linked to a surplus of those former extra electron molecules and their now “free radical” oxygenated by-products.

Fortunately, nature provides us with thousands of anti-oxidation molecules. Most of them come from plants. Fresh, colorful, food from healthy mineral rich soil is full of antioxidants. That’s the good stuff.

As their name suggests, antioxidants bind up and balance extra electron molecules, leaving no room at the inn for those pesky free radicals.

Right about now you may be thinking, “Hey! Tell me this isn’t another article telling us to eat more plant-based foods to live longer and healthier lives while lightening our footsteps upon the earth, is it?”

Well, the answer is yes. And if this article is the final straw that gets you and yours to eat less feedlot meat and chemically grown plant foods, then hallelujah!

Brussels sprouts are a source sulforaphane, the free radical scavenging powerhouse. (Wikipedia)

Today’s wellness article focuses on one specific antioxidant called sulforaphane. If the name reminds you of sulfur, you are correct. Sulforaphane is a special type of sulfur created exclusively by cabbage-family crops. Yes, it is found in kale. And yes, it is probably responsible for the minor gassiness sometimes associated with this group of super healthy vegetables. Cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale are the only known sources of this free radical scavenging powerhouse.

Many readers may already know that the easiest way to multiply the nutritional content of an edible plant is to properly sprout its seed and then eat the sprout. Sprouts have as much as four to eight times the nutrition than the adult versions contain. Sprouted high sulforaphane broccoli seeds increase their sulforaphane content dramatically and can be a potent force in the ongoing War Against Free Radicals.

Full disclosure. At the risk of committing TMI (too much information), cabbage crops do not actually contain sulforaphane. They contain a closely related molecule called isothiocyanate that converts to sulforaphane when you eat it. There I said it.

If eating half a cup of broccoli sprouts a day is too unwieldy (or gassy) for your lifestyle there are concentrated supplements available. The exact amount of sulforaphane (ok, isothiocyanate) you ingest is secondary to ending a diet of highly engineered fast food, junk food, desserts and snacks and replacing them with piles of veggies. That veggie pile should also include a big handful of sprouted broccoli seeds.

On a personal note, if I ever have a cancer diagnosis, and two-thirds of us are likely to, I would immediately switch to a diet of mostly organic plant-based. I would learn to pickle (ferment) my organic produce and sprout nonchemically treated seeds including broccoli.

In the meantime, I work steadily toward that goal, throwing out the bad stuff and encouraging the good. It’s not the occasional dessert that takes us down. It’s how we live each day.

Smokey the Bear told us “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

Well, this is Larry the Soapman telling you that “Only you can prevent premature aging and reduce your personal cancer risk by switching to organic and lightly processed food that are fresh, colorful, and full of desperately needed antioxidants.”

OK. That was not as catchy a phrase as the bear’s. But that does not make it any less true.

Larry Plesent is a writer, retired soap maker and grandfather of five still living and working in the Green Mountains of Vermont. He recently started the nonprofit called Soap Peace to teach the art of soapmaking (using only locally available materials) in West Africa and other developing regions.

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