Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels sprouts can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you will use a steaming method when cooking them. The fiber-related components in Brussels sprouts do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw Brussels sprouts still have cholesterol-lowering ability – just not as much as steamed Brussels sprouts.
- Brussels sprouts may have unique health benefits in the area of DNA protection. A recent study has shown improved stability of DNA inside of our white blood cells after daily consumption of Brussels sprouts in the amount of 1.25 cups. Interestingly, it’s the ability of certain compounds in Brussels sprouts to block the activity of sulphotransferase enzymes that researchers believe to be responsible for these DNA-protective benefits.
- In Germany, Brussels sprouts account for more glucosinolate intake than any other food except broccoli. Glucosinolates are important phytonutrients for our health because they are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances. All cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates and have great health benefits for this reason. But it’s recent research that’s made us realize how especially valuable Brussels sprouts are in this regard.
- The cancer protection we get from Brussels sprouts is largely related to four specific glucosinolates found in this cruciferous vegetable: glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, sinigrin, and gluconasturtiian. Research has shown that Brussels sprouts offer these cancer-preventive components in special combination.
- Brussels sprouts have been used to determine the potential impact of cruciferous vegetables on thyroid function. In a recent study, 5 ounces of Brussels sprouts were consumed on a daily basis for 4 consecutive weeks by a small group of healthy adults and not found to have an unwanted impact on their thyroid function. Although follow-up studies are needed, this study puts at least one large stamp of approval on Brussels sprouts as a food that can provide fantastic health benefits without putting the thyroid gland at risk.
- The body’s detox system requires ample supplies of sulfur to work effectively, and Brussels sprouts are rich in sulfur-containing nutrients. Sulfur is connected with both the smell and taste of Brussels sprouts, and too much sulfur aroma is often associated with overcooking of this vegetable. Sulfur-containing nutrients help support what is commonly referred to as Phase 2 of detoxification.
- Our body’s detox system needs strong antioxidant support – especially during what is called Phase 1 of detoxification. Brussels sprouts are able to provide that kind of support because they are an excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of beta-carotene and manganese, and a good source of vitamin E. Brussels sprouts also contain a wide variety of antioxidant phytonutrients, including many antioxidant flavonoids.
- Brussels sprouts are an important dietary source of many vitamin antioxidants, including vitamins C, E, and A (in the form of beta-carotene). The antioxidant mineral manganese is also provided by Brussels sprouts. Flavonoid antioxidants like isorhamnetin, quercitin, and kaempferol are also found in Brussels sprouts, as are the antioxidants caffeic acid and ferulic acid. In fact, one study examining total intake of antioxidant polyphenols in France found Brussels sprouts to be a more important dietary contributor to these antioxidants than any other cruciferous vegetable, including broccoli. Some of the antioxidant compounds found in Brussels sprouts may be somewhat rare in foods overall. One such compound is a sulfur-containing compound called D3T. (D3T is the abbreviated name for 3H-1,2-dithiole-3-thione.) Researchers continue to investigate ways in which D3T is able to optimize responses by our body’s antioxidant system.
- Brussels sprouts can help us avoid chronic, excessive inflammation through a variety of nutrient benefits. First is their rich glucosinolate content. In addition to the detox-supportive properties mentioned earlier, glucosinolates found in Brussels sprouts help to regulate the body’s inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system and prevent unwanted inflammation. Particularly well-studied in this context is the glucosinolate called glucobrassicin. The glucobrassicin found in Brussels sprouts can get converted into an isothiocyanate molecule called ITC, or indole-3-carbinol. I3C is an anti-inflammatory compound that can actually operate at the genetic level, and by doing so, prevent the initiation of inflammatory responses at a very early stage.
- The fiber content of Brussels sprouts;4 grams in every cup makes this cruciferous vegetable a natural choice for digestive system support. You’re going to get half of your Daily Value for fiber from only 200 calories’ worth of Brussels sprouts. Yet the fiber content of Brussels sprouts is only one of their digestive support mechanisms. Researchers have determined that the sulforaphane made from Brussels sprouts’ glucoraphanin helps protect the health of our stomach lining by preventing bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori in our stomach or too much clinging by this bacterium to our stomach wall.
The anti-inflammatory nature of glucosinolates/isothiocyanates and other nutrients found in Brussels sprouts has been the basis for new research on inflammation-related health problems and the potential role of Brussels sprouts in their prevention. Current and potentially promising research is underway to examine the benefits of Brussels sprouts in relationship to our risk of the following inflammation-related conditions: Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.
You’ll want to include Brussels sprouts as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy Brussels sprouts and other vegetables from the cruciferous vegetable group 4-5 times per week and increase your serving size to 2 cups.
It is very important not to overcook Brussels sprouts. Not only do they lose their nutritional value and taste but they will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooked cruciferous vegetables. To help Brussels sprouts cook more quickly and evenly cut each sprout into quarters. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out the health-promoting qualities and then steam them for 5 minutes.
Nutrients in Brussels Sprouts 1.00 cup, raw (88.00 grams)
vitamin K 194.7%
vitamin C 124.6%
dietary fiber 13.3%
vitamin A 13.2%
vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) 9.5%
vitamin B1 (thiamin) 8%
vitamin B2 (riboflavin) 4.7%
vitamin E 3.8%
omega 3 fatty acids 3.7%
vitamin B3 (niacin) 3.3%
Calories (37) 2%
While the origins of Brussels sprouts are unknown, the first mention of them can be traced to the late 16th century. They are thought to be native to Belgium, specifically to a region near its capital, Brussels, after which they are named. They remained a local crop in this area until their use spread across Europe during World War I. Brussels sprouts are now cultivated throughout Europe and the United States. In the U.S., almost all Brussels sprouts are grown in California.
How to Select and Store
Good quality Brussels sprouts are firm, compact, and vivid green. They should be free of yellowed or wilted leaves and should not be puffy or soft in texture. Avoid those that have perforations in their leaves as this may indicate that they have aphids residing within. If Brussels sprouts are sold individually, choose those of equal size to ensure that they will cook evenly. Brussels sprouts are available year round, but their peak growing period is from autumn until early spring.
Keep unwashed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. Stored in a plastic bag, they can be kept for 10 days. If you want to freeze Brussels sprouts, blanch them first for between three to five minutes. They will keep in the freezer for up to one year.
How to Enjoy
Before washing Brussels sprouts, remove stems and any yellow or discolored leaves. Wash them well under running water or soak them in a bowl of water to remove any insects that may reside in the inner leaves.
Brussels sprouts are usually cooked whole. To allow the heat to permeate throughout all of the leaves and better ensure an even texture, cut an “X” in the bottom of the stem before cooking.
While Brussels sprouts are usually served as a side dish, they also make a nice addition to cold salads.