What are Brussels sprouts good for?

Stepping out with Brussels sprouts
Botanical name: Brassica oleracea var gemmifera

Brussels Sprouts Nutrition Facts

Named after Brussels, the city in Belgium where this vegetable was first referenced in the 1200s,1 this miniature cabbage may have been cultivated in Italy during the reign of Roman emperors.2 It only reached the U.S. shores in the 1800s.3 Thomas Jefferson was said to have grown it in Monticello during this time, using seeds brought by his European friends.4

Just like other cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, radishes, cauliflower and kale,5 Brussels sprouts are a cool weather crop6 with a nutty, earthy, mildly buttery taste7 and the appearance of miniature cabbage heads.8 Unlike their larger counterparts, the best flavor can be 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 with cabbages, Brussels sprouts can emit a sulfur-like aroma if cooked for too long.9

For a culinary change, 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 benefits to come from Brussels sprouts. With 177 micrograms per 100-gram serving,10 this vitamin promotes strong bones.11 The vitamin C content comes in at a close second, with 85 milligrams per 100-gram serving. This vegetable is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol and may offer riboflavin, magnesium and phosphorus.12

Brussels sprouts are also a good source of fiber, vitamin A, thiamin, folate, potassium and manganese, as well as copper, calcium and iron.13 The potassium content helps control the heart rate and blood pressure by balancing the rather high sodium levels.14

Brussels sprouts nutrition facts

Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw
  Amt. Per
Serving
% Daily
Value*
Calories 43  
Calories from Fat 3  
Total Fat 0 g  
Saturated Fat 0 g  
Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg  
Sodium 25 mg  
Total Carbohydrates 8.95 g  
Dietary Fiber 3.8 g  
Sugar 2.20 g  
Protein 3.38 g  
Vitamin A 38 ug Vitamin C 85 mg
Calcium 42 mg Iron 1.40 mg

Studies done on Brussels sprouts

Research in the Netherlands reported Brussels sprouts’ potential to fight cancer and other diseases by helping the body detoxify. Eating them may boost the body’s natural defense systems and promote healthy DNA, which can be damaged when natural chemicals in the cells begin replicating faster than normal.

The study, which involved two groups of men, saw half of the group ingest 300 grams of Brussels sprouts per day, while the other did not. After five weeks, results showed a 28% decrease in DNA damage in the group eating the sprouts.15 Further studies indicate that Brussels sprouts may have cancer-fighting abilities for men in particular.16

The way that cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts are prepared matters. One study in 2011 shows that not only can Brussels sprouts produce enzymes to detoxify the body 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 detoxifying action in the cells.17

Brussel sprouts healthy recipes:
Balsamic-drizzled Brussels sprouts

Brussels Sprouts Healthy Recipes

Ingredients:

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

2 tablespoons Dr. Mercola's coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Large pinch of Dr. Mercola's Himalayan salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 tablespoon/s balsamic vinegar (add more or less to taste)

Procedure:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a large rimmed baking sheet or in a large casserole dish, toss the Brussels sprouts with oil, garlic, salt and a few grinds of freshly ground pepper.
  2. Roast until tender and slightly golden, approximately 25 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and drizzle with 1 to 2 tablespoons (or more) of balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Brussels sprouts fun facts

Brussels sprouts are on a fairly short list of foods that boost libido,18 but the scientific evidence for this has yet to be published.

Summary

Brussels sprouts may be good for you, but remember not to overcook them. There are some very delicious recipes starring this little superfood, but no one will get the benefits if they’ve been cooked too long. Give them a try and discover the delicious and nutritious benefits of this oft-maligned crucifer.