Step into the world of tiny green delights – Brussels sprouts! These pint-sized members of the cabbage family may have a polarizing reputation, but their journey from humble side dish to culinary stardom is nothing short of remarkable.
Bursting with nutritional benefits and versatile enough to take on a myriad of flavors, Brussels sprouts are claiming their rightful spot on dinner plates around the world.
Keep reading to learn all you need to know about Brussels sprouts.
Did You Know?:Brussels sprouts belong to the Brassicaceae family, making them botanical relatives of cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Table of Contents
- History & Facts
- Nutrition Facts:
- Health Benefits
- Ways to Consume
- Potential Risks:
- Frequently Asked Questions
History & Facts
Brussels sprouts, also known as Brassica oleracea var. Gemmifera, are a member of the Gemmifera group of cabbages (Brassica oleracea) which are grown for their edible buds (1). These mighty vegetables are typically up to around 1.5 inches in diameter and resemble miniature cabbages.
The history of Brussels sprouts is a journey that spans centuries. Believed to have originated in ancient Rome, these miniature cruciferous vegetables made their way to Belgium in the 13th century, where they gained their name.
The city of Brussels became synonymous with the sprout, even though the vegetable itself is thought to have been cultivated in the nearby regions. Throughout the years, Brussels sprouts evolved from a niche crop to a staple in European gardens. Their journey to popularity in the United States is more recent, with a surge in interest during the 20th century. Today the largest producer of Brussels sprouts is the Netherlands followed by Mexico and the United States.
Summary:Brussels sprouts boast a history spanning centuries, originating in ancient Rome, finding their name in 13th-century Belgium gaining popularity in the United States in the 20th century, with the Netherlands, Mexico, and the United States as major producers today.
It is no wonder that Brussels sprouts are high in tons of nutrients.
In one cup (88 grams) of raw Brussels sprouts, there are the following macronutrients (2):
- Calories: 37.8 calories (kcal)
- Protein: 2.97 grams (g)
- Total fat: 0.264 grams (g)
- Carbohydrate: 7.88 grams (g)
- Fiber: 3.34 grams (g)
With minimal calories but maximum nutritional benefits, Brussels sprouts are a prime example of how a small package can carry a big punch in terms of health and well-being. High in fiber, Brussels sprouts aid in digestion and contribute to a feeling of fullness, making them an excellent choice for those watching their waistlines.
Summary:With just 37.8 calories per cup, Brussels sprouts are a nutritional powerhouse, offering protein, low fat, and high fiber, showcasing their potential for promoting digestive health and satiety.
Vitamins & Minerals:
In one cup (88 grams) of raw Brussels sprouts, there are the following vitamins and minerals (3):
- Calcium: 37 milligrams (mg)
- Iron: 1.23 milligrams (mg)
- Magnesium: 20.2 milligrams (mg)
- Phosphorus: 60.7 milligrams (mg)
- Potassium: 342 milligrams (mg)
- Selenium: 1.41 micrograms (mcg)
- Vitamin C: 74.8 milligrams (mg)
- Folate: 53.7 micrograms (mcg)
- Choline: 16.8 milligrams (mg)
- Vitamin A: 664 international units (IU)
- Lutein + zeaxanthin: 1400 micrograms (mcg)
- Vitamin K: 156 micrograms (mcg)
These cruciferous gems provide substantial vitamins and minerals. A one-cup serving of cooked Brussels sprouts delivers a hefty dose of vitamin C, promoting a robust immune system and healthy skin (4). Moreover, they are a fantastic source of vitamin K, essential for blood clotting and bone health (5).
Additionally, these miniature cabbages contain notable amounts of folate, manganese, and antioxidants, further enhancing their nutritional profile (6). So, the next time you indulge in these tiny greens, relish not only their flavor but also the nourishment they bring to your plate.
Summary:Brussels sprouts are a nutritional powerhouse, offering significant doses of vitamin C for immune support, and vitamin K for blood clotting and bone health, along with noteworthy amounts of folate, manganese, and antioxidants, making them a flavorful and nourishing addition to your plate.
Embrace the goodness of Brussels sprouts and make them a staple in your diet – your body will thank you! These petite cruciferous veggies aren’t just tiny in size, they pack a punch of health benefits.
They Support Bone Health
Brussels sprouts offer several bone health benefits, making them a valuable addition to your diet. Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin K, a crucial nutrient for bone health (7). Vitamin K plays a central role in bone mineralization, helping to bind calcium and other minerals to the bone matrix, contributing to bone strength and density.
While Brussels sprouts are not exceptionally high in calcium, they contain an optimal ratio of calcium to phosphorus. This balance is important for the efficient absorption of calcium, which is essential for bone formation and maintenance (8). In addition to calcium, Brussels sprouts provide other essential minerals like phosphorus and magnesium. These minerals are vital for bone structure, with phosphorus contributing to bone mineralization and magnesium aiding in bone density and reducing the risk of conditions like osteoporosis (9).
As mentioned above, Brussels sprouts pack a punch with their vitamin C content. Vitamin C, found in Brussels sprouts, plays a role in collagen formation. Collagen is a structural protein in bones, providing flexibility and strength. Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin C supports the synthesis of collagen, benefiting overall bone health (10).
Summary:Brussels sprouts support bone health by providing essential nutrients like vitamin K, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin C, promoting bone mineralization, strength, and collagen synthesis.
Promotes Digestive Health
Brussels sprouts offer a range of digestive health benefits, just another reason to make them a staple in your diet. Brussels sprouts are rich in dietary fiber, both soluble and insoluble (11). Fiber promotes digestive regularity, prevents constipation, and supports overall gut health by adding bulk to stool and aiding in its smooth passage through the digestive tract.
For individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the soluble fiber in Brussels sprouts may help regulate bowel movements and manage symptoms such as bloating and abdominal discomfort (12).
Brussels sprouts contain inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that serves as food for beneficial gut bacteria (13). Inulin promotes the growth of these good bacteria, contributing to a balanced and thriving gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is associated with improved digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Including Brussels sprouts in your diet, along with a variety of other fiber-rich foods, can contribute to a well-rounded approach to digestive health.
Summary:Brussels sprouts are a digestive health ally, packed with fiber that promotes regularity, aids in managing IBS symptoms, and supports a balanced gut microbiome, making them a beneficial addition to your diet.
Promotes Heart Health
Brussels sprouts contribute to heart health by helping lower cholesterol levels, supporting blood vessel health, and promoting overall cardiovascular well-being (14).
With their high amount of soluble fiber content, consuming Brussels sprouts can help lower levels of LDL cholesterol, often referred to as “bad” cholesterol (15). By promoting the excretion of cholesterol and bile acids, Brussels sprouts contribute to maintaining a healthy cholesterol profile.
Brussels sprouts are a good source of potassium, a mineral that plays a key role in regulating blood pressure (16). Adequate potassium intake helps relax blood vessels, promoting healthy blood flow and reducing the risk of hypertension.
Brussels sprouts are rich in antioxidants, including quercetin and kaempferol (17). These antioxidants help combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the cardiovascular system, reducing the risk of heart disease (18).
Incorporating Brussels sprouts into a heart-healthy diet, alongside other nutrient-rich foods and a balanced lifestyle, can contribute to the overall well-being of the cardiovascular system.
Summary:Brussels sprouts support heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol, regulating blood pressure through potassium content, and providing antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol, contributing to a well-rounded heart-healthy diet and lifestyle.
Ways to Consume
Brussels sprouts are often considered one of the more unpopular vegetables, but they shouldn’t be! When prepared properly, they are a delectable treat that can be enjoyed by many. Here are some ways to consume Brussels sprouts:
- Roast them
- Sautée them
- Shred raw Brussels sprouts into your favorite salad dish
- Grill them to add some smoky flavor
- Steam them until tender and lightly season
- Stir fry them with other vegetables, protein, and your favorite sauce
- Make a casserole
- Pan sear for a crisp exterior and tender inside
- Pickle them for a zesty kick
With these diverse and delectable ways to enjoy Brussels sprouts, there’s no excuse not to embrace the versatility and nutritional benefits of this humble yet versatile vegetable.
Did You Know?:Brussels sprouts thrive in cooler temperatures and are typically harvested after the first frost, which enhances their flavor.
While Brussels sprouts are undeniably nutritious and offer a host of health benefits, it’s crucial to acknowledge that, for some individuals, consuming these cruciferous vegetables may pose certain risks.
- They contain goitrogens: Brussels sprouts contain compounds known as goitrogens, which can interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland (19). For individuals with thyroid issues or iodine deficiency, excessive consumption of goitrogenic foods could potentially exacerbate thyroid-related concerns. It’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional to incorporate Brussels sprouts for these individuals.
- They can cause digestive discomfort: Some people may experience digestive discomfort such as bloating or gas when consuming Brussels sprouts (20). This is due to their high fiber content. Cooking methods and portion control can help mitigate these digestive issues.
Fun Fact:January 31st is officially recognized as National Brussels Sprouts Day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do Brussels sprouts smell when cooking?
Some individuals notice a distinctive odor when cooking Brussels sprouts, often wondering about the cause of this smell. The characteristic smell of Brussels sprouts when cooking is primarily due to sulfur-containing compounds. This is present in cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts. These sulfur compounds, called glucosinolates, are released when the cells of the vegetables are damaged, as occurs during chopping, slicing, or cooking. Glucosinolates break down into distinctive odors that some people find strong or unpleasant.
How do I know which Brussels sprouts to pick?
Look for Brussels sprouts that are compact and firm and have a vibrant green color. They should feel dense when you pick them up. Smaller sprouts are often sweeter and more tender than larger ones. Check the outer leaves of the sprouts. They should be tightly wrapped and free from yellowing or wilting. Fresh, green leaves indicate a recently harvested and well-preserved sprout. Brussels sprouts are typically in season during the fall and winter months. Choosing them during their peak season often results in better flavor and quality.
Fun Fact:In 2019, a farmer in the UK grew the world’s heaviest Brussels sprout, weighing in at an impressive 8.3 kilograms (18.3 pounds).
It is no wonder that these little green wonders have captured the attention of both food enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals.
Brimming with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, Brussels sprouts offer a spectrum of health benefits, from promoting heart health and bone strength to aiding digestion.
As we rediscover the charm of Brussels sprouts through innovative recipes and a deeper understanding of their nutritional value, it’s clear that these miniature cabbages are not just a side dish. They are a star ingredient that adds vibrancy and vitality to our culinary adventures. Don’t forget to include this green marvel with your next dish.