EN on Foods

September 2016 Issue

Notable Nutrients: Brussels Sprouts

1/2 c (78 g), cooked, boiled, drained, without salt
Calories: 28
Vitamin A: 604 IU (12% DV)
Vitamin C: 48 mg (81% DV)
Vitamin K: 109 mcg (137% DV)
Folate: 47 mcg (12% DV)

Note: c=cup, g=gram, mg=milligram, mcg=microgram, IU=International Unit, DV=Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/day

Brussels Sprouts Recipe

Shout Out to Brussels Sprouts

The Folklore

Preceded by a less than delicious reputation, Brussels sprouts have been famously refused by children and labeled as smelling of sulphur. Even ancient folklore says the very first sprouts grew from bitter tears. Brussels sprouts were first cultivated near Brussels, Belgium in the thirteenth century. Belgian folklore has it that eating them at the beginning of a meal will ward off drunkenness. Despite their storied past, Brussels sprouts are unsung heroes among vegetables. Properly prepared, these tiny green globes pack as much sweet (yes, sweet!), intense flavor as they do health benefits.

The Facts

Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera) are clearly related to cabbage, but they’re also kin to other cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. They grow in groups of 20-40 along a stalk that stretches about three feet tall. Each sprout is a one- to two-inch diameter replica of a green cabbage. There are many hybrid varieties, such as Jade Cross, Confidant, and Ruby Crunch, which is purple. Brussels sprouts are packed with powerful antioxidants. A half-cup serving delivers 12% Daily Value (DV) of vitamin A and 81% DV of vitamin C. Combined with 137% DV of vitamin K and a plentiful dose of glucosinolates—important, health-promoting plant chemicals—Brussels sprouts are known for potential cancer prevention properties.

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The Findings

Brussels sprouts are rich in glucosinolates, which have been shown to attack cancer cells. Individuals who consume a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, have lower risk of developing cancer, according to a 2015 review of studies published in Current Pharmacology Reports. Brussels sprouts also may play a promising role in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, according to emerging evidence in a 2015 BioMed Research International. Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane, a compound derived from glucosinolates, which may work in combination with other plant chemicals, including anthocyanins and carotenoids, to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and other heart risk factors.

The Finer Points

Late September through February is the season for Brussels sprouts. Picked after the first frost, they will be at peak flavor. Smaller sprouts are sweeter than larger (which may taste more like cabbage). Purchase them on or off the stalk, but select tight, firm sprouts with healthy green (not yellowed) leaves. Refrigerate them unwashed and uncut in a sealed plastic bag up to two weeks. Trim the stems, remove loose outer leaves, and leave them whole, cut in half, or shredded. Enjoy shredded in a salad, or give sprouts a quick steam, boil, or roast with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil.