The Most Sustainable Way to Nourish and Fuel Your Body on Campus
In modern day society, it is a constant struggle to be a sustainable consumer of food. Most food is wrapped in plastic, produced from unsustainable, monoculture-centric industrial farms, sprayed with pesticides, or shipped from across the globe. Even if a product is labeled organic, non-GMO (genetically modified organisms), sustainably harvested, fair trade, local, or in biodegradable packaging, it is not sustainable for most people’s bank accounts. We live in a market where we have to be affluent in order to consume healthy foods while being a responsible environmental consumer. In fact, just the act of consuming from a grocery store is contributing to one’s environmental footprint.
There seems to be no way out of this trap, unless we individually break the system by going back to what we have done for tens of thousands of years: growing our own food! Growing our own food is the healthiest and most environmentally sustainable way to consume. In addition, the food we can grow from our backyards has a higher micronutrient profile than store bought produce. Growing our own food fully ensures its organic integrity.
I have begun to cultivate my own food at home and have found a passion for gardening. Coming to college, my passion for growing food remains, but I am without access to soil to grow my food and winter is upon us. Luckily, I was able to find a way to grow my own sustenance in the comfort of my dorm without going outside. My secret weapon is sprouting.
Sprouting is the process of germinating seeds into sprouts. Sprouting leads to greater nutritional absorption and increased digestibility of the food. The body is better able to absorb and retain nutrients found in the seed. One can sprout any raw, uncooked whole grain, legume, nut, or seed. Some of the healthiest foods you can sprout are the sprouts of nutrient dense vegetables such as radish, broccoli, and kale.
Broccoli sprouts are actually one of the healthiest foods one can eat on the planet. They contain an extremely powerful chemical called Sulforaphane. Sulforaphane is found in other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok choy, kale, and even wasabi. Broccoli sprouts are the most potent in Sulforaphane by a long shot, containing 100 times more Sulforaphane than mature broccoli. What makes Sulforaphane so powerful is its antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help fight free radicals and lower oxidative stress, ultimately preserving and restoring our DNA: the building blocks of our cells.
There have been multiple studies conducted that show that Sulforaphane restores and enhances cognitive function. It has been shown by clinical studies to improve cognitive function in young adults with autism and schizophrenia. Broccoli sprouts have been found to be equally as effective as the antidepressant Prozac in alleviating depression. I find this statistic extremely important considering so many students experience depression or other mental health disorders at some point during college and many are suffering from depression due to social isolation. Broccoli sprouts have also been shown to help with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.
Broccoli sprouts have been shown to help detoxify our bodies from toxic compounds in the air we are exposed to on a daily basis in urban areas. This statistic is extremely important for people who smoke or people who experience second hand smoking. Sulforaphane is clinically shown to be effective at preventing and fighting against cancer. These are only a few of the shown, known benefits of Broccoli sprouts. Considering that antioxidants restore the building blocks of our bodies, there are most likely other benefits of broccoli sprouts such as healthier skin and faster muscle recovery.
If you are looking to grow your own broccoli sprouts or want to learn how to sprout other foods, all you need is these 3 things:
A glass jar. Use this as an opportunity to clean and repurpose a tomato sauce jar or pickle jar.
Non-GMO broccoli seeds for sprouting. These can be found at certain gardening stores, but your best bet is to go online.
Cheese cloth or some fabric with small holes that water can escape from but the seeds cannot.
Fill the bottom of your jar with broccoli seeds. They get about 5 times larger so it's better to put too little than too many.
Soak the seeds in fresh water for 8-10 hours (overnight).
Then drain, soak, rinse (and repeat) the seeds 1-3 times a day.
After about 3-5 days you will get sprouts! These are best consumed within the first week, the longer they stay in your fridge, the higher risk of E. coli contamination. They can also be frozen to preserve their freshness. Freezing broccoli sprouts actually doubles their Sulforaphane content. I find sprouting to be an extremely liberating and innovative way to remain healthy while reducing my carbon footprint. It's beautiful to watch these small seeds flourish and grow a little greener every time you look at them. It is even more rewarding for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health to consume these plants. There is something about eating food that you nurture which makes you far more grateful for what you are putting into your body. You nurture the food, and the food nurtures you in return. Most importantly, I believe growing your own food makes you more conscious about other food that you consume. You take more consideration into the process that food had to take in order to arrive on your plate. You don't need a green thumb or a yard in order to experience this connection to the earth or understanding about our food system; you just need a jar.