Broccoli: Sprouts vs. Supplements

Broccoli: Sprouts vs. Supplements
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Broccoli sprouts are compared to “Broccomax” supplements.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Interest continues to grow about targeting cancer stem cells with a dietary component of broccoli, and especially broccoli sprouts. Cancer stem cells are thought “responsible for initiating and maintaining cancer,” which I’ve talked about in the past.

There’s also been a number of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trials on the use of broccoli sprouts as a complementary treatment in diabetes, to reduce oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and reduce insulin resistance and fasting blood sugars. In my video, Biggest Nutrition Bang for Your Buck, I describe how to grow your own—simply and quickly, in five days. New science suggests, though, that it’s even simpler and quicker than I described.

If you look at other sprouts, their antioxidant phytonutrients appear to peak around sprouting day five—up to tenfold higher than day two. But, the sulforaphane content in broccoli sprouts appears to peak at around 48 hours. So, “2-day-old sprouts” may be even better.

“For consumers who do not enjoy eating broccoli [or broccoli sprouts] but still want the benefits” of the broccoli phytonutrients, what about all the “different broccoli supplements…on the market”? Here, they tested BroccoMax, which boasts a half a pound of broccoli’s worth in every capsule. They gave people six a day, compared to a cup of broccoli sprouts. Here’s the spike in broccoli phytonutrients in the bloodstream of those eating sprouts, which would cost about 25 cents a day—compared to six capsules of the supplement, which would cost about two dollars. They conclude that the “bioavailability [of broccoli phytonutrients] is dramatically lower when subjects consume broccoli supplements compared [to the whole food].”

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Images thanks to David Carillet and Anton Starikov via 123RF

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Interest continues to grow about targeting cancer stem cells with a dietary component of broccoli, and especially broccoli sprouts. Cancer stem cells are thought “responsible for initiating and maintaining cancer,” which I’ve talked about in the past.

There’s also been a number of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trials on the use of broccoli sprouts as a complementary treatment in diabetes, to reduce oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and reduce insulin resistance and fasting blood sugars. In my video, Biggest Nutrition Bang for Your Buck, I describe how to grow your own—simply and quickly, in five days. New science suggests, though, that it’s even simpler and quicker than I described.

If you look at other sprouts, their antioxidant phytonutrients appear to peak around sprouting day five—up to tenfold higher than day two. But, the sulforaphane content in broccoli sprouts appears to peak at around 48 hours. So, “2-day-old sprouts” may be even better.

“For consumers who do not enjoy eating broccoli [or broccoli sprouts] but still want the benefits” of the broccoli phytonutrients, what about all the “different broccoli supplements…on the market”? Here, they tested BroccoMax, which boasts a half a pound of broccoli’s worth in every capsule. They gave people six a day, compared to a cup of broccoli sprouts. Here’s the spike in broccoli phytonutrients in the bloodstream of those eating sprouts, which would cost about 25 cents a day—compared to six capsules of the supplement, which would cost about two dollars. They conclude that the “bioavailability [of broccoli phytonutrients] is dramatically lower when subjects consume broccoli supplements compared [to the whole food].”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to David Carillet and Anton Starikov via 123RF

Doctor's Note

Here are links to the videos I mentioned:

What’s so great about broccoli sprouts? See The Best Detox and Sulforaphane: From Broccoli to Breast.

They can be overdone, though; see How Much Broccoli is Too Much?

For more on cruciferous vegetables and cancer, see:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

72 responses to “Broccoli: Sprouts vs. Supplements

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  1. Cool. So these sprouts might be able to help once someone has cancer, but I am wondering if B12 supplements could harm once someone already has cancer. Or does it help? I already know it is known to possibly help in prevention. The high dose worries me that it might be feeding existing cancer. And the science says? Thanks.




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    1. Think about this B-12 is a living organism and has been stripped away from streams, soil and animal manure. ANIMAL MANURE you say? Some animals are clean enough to have b12 grown in them and come out of their poop. Poop is a fertilizer which means b12 goes into soil, water and then plants. It comes from animals poop is what I am saying. Supplements are cleanly grown in lab which is very clean. I would not worry. Just look at the science.




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      1. But the science has no long-term data, and there is science that has raised concerns about high-dose B12. By “just looking at the science” on this issue I have ended up here, trying to get clarity, because the science has in fact raised issues. And the amount that is ingested in pill form, regardless of the fact that only a small part of it is absorbed, still has to be processed out by the human body in amounts that have never had to be processed out before in human existence. These are my concerns. And this really is just “short term” data we have.




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        1. Are you suggesting b12 is too much of a good thing? I feel fine taking 80000 percent DV pills. What we need daily is around 50,000 percent. Nonetheless science does show we need b12. I feel fine. I am going to get checked for celiac disease in a few weeks. Wish me luck, in Jesus name.




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          1. Even if you do not have celiac disease, I suggest you avoid all gluten grains for at least six-months, not even in small amounts. This changes livers for the better. Read about the opiate effects in grains, as well as other negatives. So many people say there is no reason to abstain from gluten, yet so few of them have ever “walked-the-talk” to discover the positive effects of removing gluten, and, for that matter, most other grains. As a vegan, it will change your life for the better. Go for it.




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            1. There has been no scientific evidence to back your claims. You think there is but it is all lies and marketing by the so called Vegan front line companies. The following is a conversation with an employee at NutritionFacts.org –

              Me: Hi Dr. Michael Greger, my name is Luke Davis and I and my father are big fans. We have watched every presentation and hundreds of videos from the site.

              When people ask if we are vegans or vegetarians we answer . . we are sciencetarians. “We wouldn’t want science to get in the way of science . .” Yes, we use the Michael Greger science approach to diet and health.

              Anyway, I am a young actor here in Hollywood, and am wrestling with acne. I follow a strict “Greger” diet – of course no dairy or meat – take ground flax seed – b12 and vitamin d.

              I read several articles that said Gluten could agitate my acne so I went gluten free. Boy do I miss my whole grains (no oil or sugar added) breads.

              So I am asking you personally – should I continue or do you feel that avoiding gluten in nonsense.

              Thank You

              Luke R. Davis

              Jennifer: Hi Luke,
              Dr. Greger LOVED your email! Thanks so much for sharing. Sounds like you are doing ALL of the right things.

              Dr. Greger does not feel that the science supports gluten as a culprit for acne (unless of course you have been diagnosed with celiac disease–in which case gluten potentially could cause acne.) If you are having any other symptoms of celiac disease–like stomach problems, it might be worth getting the simple blood test to see if you have celiac disease (this can be done by your primary care provider). The only catch to the blood test is that you need to be eating gluten for several weeks before you have the blood test (that’s the only way to see if your body is producing the antibody against gluten). Here’s more about that: http://celiac.org/celiac-disease/diagnosing-celiac-disease/screening/

              Also, if you would like to be featured on our Facebook page, we’d love to have you! Just let me know.
              Take care

              -Jennifer

              Jennifer Drost, Physician Assistant
              NutritionFacts.org Volunteer

              ● More at: DrGreger.org
              ● Facebook: facebook.com/NutritionFacts.org
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              Nothing contained in this email is intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a face-to-face meeting with a trained health professional.

              Me: Jennifer,

              Thank you so much for the information. Whole grain bread here I come!!! I will have my parents set up an appointment for the Celiac screening after several weeks of glutenizing myself.

              As far as being featured on Facebook – I would love that. Let me know what you need.

              P.S. I may be shooting in New York in the near future, and if so I would love to get to Boston and tale Dr. Greger out to lunch.

              Thank You Again . .

              Luke R Davis

              Don’t fall into lies and deceit.




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      2. Hi Luke,

        Vitamin B12 is a chemical compound. Technically a group of similar compounds. It is not a living organism.

        Bacteria are living organisms, and are capable of producing vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is no more alive than any other products of bacterial metabolism e.g. carbon dioxide, sugars, or methane.

        Here is the structure of cyancobalamin:
        http://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C68199&Mask=80

        I have seen this idea of vitamin B12 *being* bacteria rather than being a substance produced by bacteria many times on various vegan sites and blogs.




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  2. Two day old sprouts are barely sprouted. What really are two day old sprouts? Two days after first water or from some other point in time? If anyone ever needed proof that I am not a farmer, this might be it.




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    1. When I saw this a few weeks ago (on the DVD), I had the same reaction, and emailed Dr. Greger. His reply, “48 hours post soak”.

      The 1st 12 hours, the seeds are submerged in water, i.e. they are soaking.




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    2. We are now looking at our 2-day old sprouts. Tiny little bits of green. Maybe <¼ of the volume of 5-day fully-sprouted broccoli. So does the sulforaphane diminish after day 2, or does it stay the same as the sprouts get bigger and delicious? We chew it an hour before going to the gym. (Is that enough time for the reduction of DNA damage??? We like it better than watercress and hope for same result as in your video). We put the 5-day sprouts in our white-bean hummus wraps, and in salads, yum.yum!

      Study clarification: Is it that the ammt. of sulforaphane that the broccoli sprouts will ever have is present at 2 days? Does the Peak mean the 3.3 mcg/g at day 2 only represente the first and non-diminishing highest amount? After 5 days could the amount be the same and just be a smaller % of the total sprout by weight?




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      1. The number of days that one sprouts can be confusing. Seeds sprouts according to several factors including temperature and moisture. So sprouting seeds in winter will see smaller sprouts than for the same time in summer. The sulforaphane yield will diminish as the sprouts grow but the differences between 2, 3, 4 and 5 days will be minimal. You might need to consume quite large quantities however, because fresh sprouts contain an inhibitor which can reduce the amount of active sulforaphane being released.




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  3. I’m not going to worry about timing of Broccoli sprouts… I am just gonna keep eating them…. But I do sprout my own!

    Big surprise about the broccoli supplements not being effective.




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  4. A friend of mine can’t eat Broccoli and most of dark green vegetables because she reacts to sulphides. Knowing how beneficial these vegetables are, I’m curious if she can find another way to get the same benefit without the sulphides?




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    1. I would be curious about whether sulpherophane is a sulphide…

      But it is possible she has issues with only particular ones…

      Is she “Let’s not do that again” reacting or is she “Let’s head to the hospital” reacting? If the former, It’s possible she could try other vegetables in the same family.




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  5. I brought all the sprouting paraphenelia and have tried broccoli sprouts on five different occasions. Each time the sprouts give me horrible digestive issues, even when I tried small amounts. Then it takes several weeks for me to get up the gumption to try again. Is it possible I’m allergic to something in the sprouts?




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    1. As a clinician, I would suggest that you have an imbalance in your microflora and sulforaphane is very capable of causing a die-off in such organisms. What I usually suggest is that my patients reduce the quantity to an absolute minimum where there are no symptoms and gradually creep up the dose as you are able. The other thing that can be happening is that many of the sulfur-metabolising pathways may not be functioning properly and this will give unpleasant responses. Because sulforaphane activates these very pathways, a gradual increase in dose will be required. Sulforaphane is so much more potent in its effects than many other common supplements, so it may be necessary to simply slow down the process.




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        1. As a guide to how much to take, I have my patients who report effects like yours take no more than the powder that fits on the end of a sharp knife blade. The powder is dried to a 12:1 drying ratio, so you would need to start with sprouts enough to fit 12 times on the knife-blade. A bit hard to judge but I would suggest a teaspoon of fresh sprouts is all you should start with, gradually creeping up. If this helps over a few weeks, you should probably consider adding a quality probiotic supplement and be sure your diet has plenty of soluble fibre needed to feed these organisms.

          The downside of the fresh sprouts is that they do contain an inhibitor which can significantly reduce the amount of sulforaphane you are producing. If this is occurring, you will be getting the added sulfur without the ability to correct the abnormal sulfur metabolic pathways which I am guessing might be an issue for you. If this happens, try a different brand of broccoli seed – or buy a 100% whole enzyme-active powder which has the inhibitor deactivated.




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  6. I have myelodysplasia. I’ve been a no-added-fat (McDougall) vegan for 8 years. My ANC and rbc values go up and down but the most concerning values right now for me are my platelets which have progressed steadily downward since diagnosis. Is there anything I should focus on in my diet to improve my marrow’s ability to (1) build healthy platelets (2) improve my marrow’s ability to work appropriately in general? P.S. my doctor likes my vegan diet and tells me it’s helping keep me alive!




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    1. oceanfrontcabin: I’m not a doctor and sadly don’t have any special advice for you. But I wanted to wish you well and say how lucky you are to have a doctor who “gets it” in terms of diet.

      I will think good thoughts for you. Good luck!




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    1. There is a Broccoli Sprout Extract out there that I used to great effect for my dads prostate issues. I would give you the source but that may not be allowed but starts with a v.




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      1. Kurt: If there is a rule against sharing tips like this, I am not aware. So, if you want to help someone out with a tip/link on your favorite broccoli extract, feel free. This site does not specifically endorse any particular product/supplement, but as far as I know, community participants are free to share what works best for them.




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            1. We eat home grown broccoli sprouts which improve the micro flora. Also mustard seed powder contains myrosinase, couldn’t that be added to the supplement?




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              1. If the mustard seed is an imported herb, it may have been heavily irradiated and in this case, it will have lost all its myrosinase activity. We trialled this in the lab (I am in Australia) and what appeared like fresh aromatic mustard seed powder had zero activity. If you live elsewhere, the regulations for imported culinary herbs may be different.




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  7. Hi Dr. Greger,
    Could you define what you mean by two days in your video to start eating the sprouts? Do you mean two days in the jar after the first night or two days after they begin to sprout? Thanks!




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  8. When you say we should eat the sprouts after just 2 days (for maximum
    sulforaphane content), does that include the overnight soaking of the
    seeds? This is important because if we wrongly exclude (or include) the
    soaking time, then we might very well miss the “time window” where the
    peak is. I also wonder because very little happens to the seeds in just 2
    days (especially without pre-soaking), so I feel like the seeds would
    still be almost rock-hard at that time..




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  9. Hi everyone. I’ve been sprouting broccoli with a passion since finding out, a few weeks ago, about how healthy they are. However, I’m concerned about what else is “growing” in my mason jar. Oftentimes when I smell it, it has a terrible smell, as if something is incubating in there. I use a clean jar, rinse the sprouts with filtered water a few times a day for a few days, and invert it upside down pretty much at 45 degrees so it can drain (the hole is covered by a thin cheesecloth-type cloth, so water drips out but air can circulate). After the alfalfa sprout no-no, I’m afraid that sprouting my own broccoli might not be so healthy after all. Any thoughts?




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  10. Michael, It’s worth noting that when John Clarke in the paper you show compared the Jarrow SGS product with fresh sprouts, the effect of the supplement was minimal. Clarke subsequently concludes that 1 pill (of Jarrow’s BroccoMax”) is not equivalent to eating fresh sprouts. However, the reason for this was that the Jarrow SGS product is devoid of the essential myrosinase needed to convert the precursor compound to the bioactive sulforaphane. A 100% whole broccoli sprout product retains both the precursor and the enzyme in a dormant state in the powder or capsule. Only when moisture is added does the reaction take place to release the sulforaphane. As a result, not all broccoli supplements are inert. When properly produced as a nutraceutical-grade supplement, the enzyme-active capsules are a very convenient way to ingest daily measured amounts of sulforaphane. Most of the broccoli supplements sold in the U.S. are ‘extracts’ of seed or sprout and it is the extraction process that removes the essential enzyme. However, it is possible to obtain the 100% whole sprout as a powder or capsule by searching carefully.




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  11. In the video Broccoli: Sprouts vs. Supplements you mention the use of mustard powder. During the processing of the powder do they not steam sterilize or irradiate the seeds first rendering the myrosinase-inactive? Is there a source of mustard powder that would still posses the active myrosinase?




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  12. What about broccoli slaw? I buy the Eat Smart brand and add it to my salad every day, but it’s just julienne broccoli stems, carrots, and red cabbage… mostly broccoli, though.




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  13. I recently purchased a food dehydrator to dehydrate broccoli sprouts then place in a mason jar and refrigerate. Is this a good practise? Will I be losing nutritional potency?




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  14. Why is there no discussion about heat? We won’t be getting the benefits if we eat them raw due to the ESP content, according to the latest science.




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  15. Dr. Greger says that “The sulforaphane content in broccoli sprouts appears to peak at around 48 hours.” But at 48 hours, you don’t have actual broccoli sprouts. In his video “The Best Nutrition Bang for Your Buck,” he shows what they look like after 2 days. At that point, just a few seeds are beginning to show white tails; they’re still basically seeds. As you can see in the video, they don’t develop into anything resembling sprouts until around Day 4. So is he suggesting that we eat the seeds on Day 2 for the best sulforaphane content?




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  16. I would also like some clarification on the “48 hours” comment. To me it seems as if the sprouts would not be large enough to consume. Everything that I’ve read shows people consuming at around 4-6 days.




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    1. The clarification, attributed to Dr. G, is that the 48 hours begins to run at the end of the soak period. Also the “peak” is the maximum percentage (%) of “total dry weight.” I don’t know that “total dry weight” would be changing as sprouting continues on day 3 -5. That is, the weight gain could be exclusively from water take up. As the drop in the percentage is substantial, from 3 to 1 or so, this seems to have importance. However, when I was reading the abstracts the sense of the discussions was that the researchers were using ordinary sprouted seeds, i.e. 5 day old or so. This would mean their results were produced using the sprouts with the reduced percentages.

      On top of all these considerations is the additional one of cooking time and temperature. There are reports that heating sprouts for 10 minutes at 70 C. (+/- 5 degrees) more than triples sulforaphane. But this is from youtube so normal cautions apply. See: “How To Increase Sulforaphane in Broccoli Sprouts by ~3.5-fold” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7buU-PK7_I




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  17. Q. Can you specify what is meant by broccoli sprouts peaking in nutritional content at 48 hours? Ie. Do you mean 48 hours after being harvested? Or, as it seems you mean, 48 hours into the process of planting and growing it in a sprouter?

    I ask as I am launching on growing my own broccoli sprouts and have watched videos from experts, The Sprout People. 48 hours later, Broccoli Sprouts still resemble seeds more than sprouts.




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  18. I was looking at the study that Dr. Greger references in the above video about “Physiological and biochemical metabolism of germinating broccoli seeds and sprouts,” and it led me to another study stating that “We investigated membrane lipid peroxidation, reactive oxygen species (ROS) metabolism, antioxidant component content, and antioxidant enzyme activity to understand how NaCl regulates the growth of broccoli sprouts. NaCl treatment significantly increased ROS and malondialdehyde content, and electrolyte permeability in broccoli sprouts. Ascorbic acid and anthocyanin content also increased, simultaneously and significantly. During germination, treatments with 40 mM and 80 mM NaCl significantly promoted broccoli sprouts growth, likely because of ability to enhance antioxidant activity, thus alleviating the effect of stress.” The title of this article is “NaCl treatment improves reactive oxygen metabolism and antioxidant capacity in broccoli sprouts.” So, I’m hoping not to sound ignorant on this, but does this mean that if we add salt to our DIY broccoli sprouts as we are sprouting them, this will increase the nutritional value (anthocyanin, antioxidant, sulforaphane content)?




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  19. You’re not being ignorant. Its a good question. Thing is that this laboratory study is too far removed from human physiology to determine if your theory is true. In other words, there is no way to know. Best bet is just eat the fresh fruits and veggies of a whole food plant based lifestyle and don’t worry about “turbo-charging” the nutrients. They are already turbo-charged.

    Every time we try to modify something chemically, it tends to turn out bad. Remember the big headlines about beta carotene being the “wonder-nutrient”? It is when you eat it from whole foods. Isolate it and take it in pill form and it increases the risk for cancer.

    Dr. Ben




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  20. I`ve been growing broccoli sprouts for 5 years after bladder cancer showed up. Started with a 1/4 cup but cut to a 1 TBLS + 1 Tsp, soaking the 1srt batch 12 hrs. rinsing every 12 hrs. or so. I have 5 containers and I get app, 2 cups which I eat by the spoonful thru out the day. I grow them in a light box. A 40 watt bulb to give a temp. spread of 65 to 75 ferinheight.{ forgive my spelling} The bulb has an adjustable switch. So every 5 days I harvest and eat and have been clear of my devil. Thanks to my wonderful doctor who answered what can I do to be pro-active, I feel I`m fighting the good fight! Only time will tell if this is really working, but you can be sure I`m going to keep eating my 5 day young sprouts.




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