Named for the city in Belgium where this vegetable was first referenced in the 1200s – Brussels – this miniature cabbage may have been cultivated in Italy during the reign of Roman emperors. They migrated with European farmers into the U.S. in the 1800s.
In a long line of crucifers with cabbage, radishes, cauliflower, and kale, Brussels sprouts are a cool weather crop with a nutty, earthy taste and the appearance of miniature cabbage heads. Unlike that larger variety, the best flavor is actually achieved when they’re placed into a very small amount of water and steamed, drained, and served immediately with a little salt. Overcooking destroys not only the nutrients, but the flavor, consistency, color and, most noticeably, the aroma.
As a variation, try serving steamed Brussels sprouts as a side dish with a honey mustard or cheese sauce, or roasted and tossed together with toasted pine nuts, freshly grated parmesan cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar.
Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts
Vitamin K is one of the biggest Brussels sprouts benefits – a 195 percent daily food value per serving, which promotes strong bones. The vitamin C content runs a close second with a 125 percent daily value. This vegetable is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and a good source of riboflavin, magnesium, and phosphorus. Brussels sprouts are also a very good source of fiber, vitamins A and B6, thiamin, folate, potassium, and manganese, as well as copper, calcium, and iron. The potassium content helps control the heart rate and blood pressure by balancing the rather high sodium.
Brussels Sprouts Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
|Calories from Fat
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Studies Done on Brussels Sprouts
Research in the Netherlands resulted in the report of Brussels sprouts’ possible ability to fight cancer1 and other diseases by helping the body detoxify. Eating them boosts the body’s natural defense systems and promotes healthy DNA, which can be damaged when natural chemicals in the cells begin replicating faster than normal. The study involved two groups of men, only half ingesting 300 grams of Brussels sprouts per day. After five weeks, results showed a 28 percent decrease in DNA damage in the group eating the sprouts. Further studies indicate cancer-fighting abilities of Brussels sprouts2 for men in particular.
The way cruciferous veggies such as Brussels sprouts are prepared matters. One study in 2011 shows that not only can Brussels sprouts produce enzymes to detoxify the body3 from cancer-inducing properties, but steaming them also brings out the best combination of benefits. A plentiful supply of glucosinolates found in Brussels sprouts plays a large part in this toxin-ridding action in the cells.
Brussel Sprouts Healthy Recipes:
Brussels Sprouts Chez Nous
|4 cups Brussels sprouts
||3 Tbsp. butter
||½ cup small white onions, sliced thin
|1/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
||2 Tbsp. fresh parsley
||2 tsp. snipped fresh chives
- Cook Brussels sprouts with a small amount of boiling in salted water, tightly covered, for 3-5 minutes. Drain and cover again.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions until barely soft. Add the stock and seasonings and simmer for five minutes, then add the Brussels sprouts, basting them constantly until slightly tender but not over soft. Serve immediately, sprinkled with parsley and chives.
(From Cooking With Vegetables by Alex D. Hawkes)
Brussels Sprouts Fun Facts
Brussels sprouts are on a fairly short list of foods that boost the libido, but the scientific evidence of this has yet to be published.
Yes, Brussels sprouts are good for you, but the main thing to remember when preparing them is not to overcook them. There are some really yummy recipes starring this little super-food, but if they’re not tasty, it doesn’t matter! No one will get the benefit. Give them a try and discover the delicious and nutritious benefits of this oft-maligned crucifer.