Saturday, April 6, 2019

Health Upgrade Series #1: Why I've Started a Broccoli Sprout Farm in my Kitchen

*Prologue: AKA the reason for this new series in Nerdery*

This winter I found myself going down a nutrition rabbit hole. Maybe it's confronting my own mortality after running codes multiple times per week, or realizing how much residency has made me feel like sh*t. Despite the fact that I probably do a better job of taking care of myself than most of my colleagues, I'd fallen a long way from the nutrition and sleep and stress-reduction habits I had pre-residency. Someone should benefit from my borderline-existential crisis, so here's the first in a series of new practices and habits I've adopted.

Why Broccoli Sprouts?

The short answer is: sulforaphane. This is a isothiocyanate (fancy molecule) found in cruciferous vegetables - but the highest concentration by far is in broccoli sprouts. I thought maybe this little molecule was over-hyped, but a Google Scholar search will keep you occupied for a looong time (trust me). The largest amount of evidence exists for chemoprevention (aka anti-cancer - see this review) - most likely through a combination of its effects as an anti-inflammatory, pro-apoptotic (programmed cell death that naturally occurs), and histone modulation agent. You'll also find studies about the potential role of sulforaphane in combating obesity, H. pylori, diabetes, after a heart attack, and increasing endurance exercise capacity.

So, this seems like a little miracle molecule. Like anything, sulforaphane alone is probably not going to cure all your ills or allow you to outpace unhealthy lifestyle habits. But if you're going to add one thing to your diet, you can make a darn good case for this being it.

How To Start Your Very Own Broccoli Sprouts Farm (for <$35 and the time available to an ER doctor during residency training.)

Yes, you can go to your local Whole Foods and spend $6 on a tiny package of broccoli sprouts. Or, you can spend less than 40 bucks one time and create at least a year's supply. You also get the satisfaction of watching things germinate, and can text your friends an annoying number of daily sprouting progress photos. It takes my sprouts a whopping 3-5 days of growth to reach edible status. They're also freezable.

I used these broccoli seeds for sprouting from Amazon, liter-sized Mason jars from Walmart, and picked up these mesh lids and stands on Amazon (you can also use cheesecloth and just prop up your jars, but $12 seemed worth the convenience.

1. Put 1-3 tablespoons of seeds into jar. Cover with water. Let them soak for 8-ish hours.
2. Drain thoroughly. 
3. Rinse & drain every 12 hours.
4. Eat when sprouted. I've added them to salads, pasta, and sandwiches, randomly munched on them out of the jar, and tossed them into smoothies. The taste is slightly bitter but pretty mild.

That's literally it.
Enjoy your broccoli sprouts!

Day 1.5 after soaking seeds - starting to germinate.
Day 3, pre-rinsing - see the cilia standing up? Will probably let grow for another couple days!

Day 4, gonna start eating these!

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