Brussels sprouts are part of a large family of foods known as cruciferous vegetables. Named for their characteristic cross-shaped blossoms, cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, collards, kale, turnips, and rutabagas, in addition to the much maligned Brussels sprout.
Just hearing the words “Brussels sprouts” makes loads of people- grown up people-cringe! This is one super food that suffers from some pretty bad PR, not to mention lack of great recipes and cooking techniques. When properly prepared, Brussels sprouts lose their bitter quality and can be downright sweet, not to mention loaded with vitamins and nutrients.
So what’s the nutritional 411 on these little gems? The nutrients in Brussels sprouts help the body to:
Boost the immune system
Lower the incidence of cataracts
Support cardiovascular health
Fight birth defects
The nutrient breakdown that supports these processes is equally impressive:
Folate, a BVitamin that:
-Protects against birth defects, such as spina bifida
-Helps remove homocysteine from the circulatory system.
High levels of homocysteine have been associated
with cardiovascular disease
-Plays a role in cancer protection
Sulfur compounds, glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, which
-Help to increase the liver’s ability to neutralize toxins
-Facilitate enzymes that rid the body of carcinogens
-Kill abnormal cells
-Help limit oxidation at the cellular level
-Kills helicobacter pylori, the bacterium implicated in
cause gastric ulcers and cancers
Indoles, phytochemicals that block estrogen receptors and are
especially important in estrogen-sensitive cancers
Lutein and xeaxanthin, powerful antioxidants that protect the eyes
from free radical damage caused by ultraviolet light.
Vitamins K, C, calcium, essential in bone health and blood clotting
Vitamins C, A, E for powerful triple-threat antioxidant/anti-
Vitamin B1 (thiamin), B6 (pyridoxine)
Facts about Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of folate (folic acid). Folic acid deficiency may be the most common nutrient deficiency in the world. Birth defects resulting from folic acid deficiency are considered among the most preventable of all birth defects.
As with many foods, cooking enhances the bioavailability of some of the nutrients in Brussels sprouts (carotenoids), while rendering other nutrients inactive (VitaminC). Include both cooked and raw Brussels sprouts as part of your healthy eating plan.
As little as 1/8 cup of Brussels sprouts daily provides significant cancer protection, especially against cancers or the lungs, stomach, colon, and rectum.
Brussels sprouts are a concentrated source of goitrogens, naturally occurring substances that can interfere with thyroid function by making it more difficult for the thyroid to produce its hormones. Cooking helps to inactivate goitrogens. However, many nutritionists recommend limiting intake to 2 cups cooked Brussels sprouts per day.
Sulfur compounds, which are a major source of the chemoprotective properties of Brussels sprouts, are also responsible for the odor released as the vegetable is cooked.
The strong bitter taste and smell of Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables protects them from insects and animals.
Frost helps develop a sweeter flavor in Brussels sprouts, which is why they are best in cold months.
Brussels sprouts, which were originally grown in Northern Europe, are named for the capital of Belgium.