Brussels Sprouts' Health Benefits

Posted: Feb 08, 2016 10:00 AM
Unless you’re living in the south, these are the hardest days. Deep in winter, months from the first thaw, this part of the year presents the greatest dearth of healthy, fresh veggies. This time of year, we’re even starting to run short on some
squashes. Not to mention, there are only so many squash dishes you can eat before you need a change of pace. Enter the small, yet mighty, Brussels sprout. Brussels sprouts are one of the healthiest cool-weather vegetables around. In fact, forget about cool weather. Brussels sprouts are one of the healthiest veggies, period. They haven’t been around that long. Developed from the same ancestor plant as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, early Brussels sprouts can be traced back to Roman times. However, their current iteration didn’t come about until the 1200s in Belgium, and didn’t find widespread adoption until the late 16th century. They finally made it over to the US in the 1800s. Compared with a lot of our other veggies, Brussels sprouts are still babies. That’s part of the reason why they’re changing so rapidly. Until the 1960s, almost every variety of Brussels sprout was bitter. There was a good reason that Brussels sprouts got a bad rap. Today’s Brussels sprout isn’t the same at all. In fact, some varieties are downright sweet. So if you grew up hating Brussels sprouts, you might want to give them another shot. Not just because they taste better now. But also because Brussels sprouts are one of the healthiest foods in the universe.

The amazing Brussels sprout

100 grams of Brussels sprouts (6 to 10 sprouts, depending on their size)—the serving size I’ll use throughout this article—contain about 85 mg of vitamin C. That’s 142% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA), and approaching twice as much vitamin C as you’ll find in an orange. Vitamin C, as you know, is a phenomenal benefit to your health. It does everything from improving your immune system, to slowing the aging of your skin, to reducing your risk of stroke. But vitamin C is just one of the nutrients Brussels sprouts can deliver in spades. Brussels sprouts also give you 25% of your RDA of vitamin A (bone growth and health, vision, cell growth), good doses of minerals like iron (17.5%) and manganese (15%), and 147% of your RDA of vitamin K (heart health, bone health, and cancer-fighting properties).

Your secret weapon in the fight against cancer

Vitamin K is only one nutrient that Brussels sprouts offer to fight cancer. In addition, these little powerhouses also contain a whole host of anti-oxidants, which help to prevent free radicals from damaging your genes. Specifically, Brussels sprouts are rich in glucosinolates and isothiocyanates—two types of antioxidants that have proven especially effective against colon, prostate, and endometrial cancers. Not to mention, like all leafy greens, Brussels sprouts are rich in folic acid—the version of vitamin B that’s both helpful in maintaining the integrity of your DNA, and in maintaining your heart health. These are just the highlights. Frankly, Brussels sprouts contain so many essential vitamins and nutrients, simply listing them all would fill too many pages. And yet, despite all these health effects, Brussels sprouts are very low-calorie (only 43 calories per 100 grams!), contain no cholesterol, yet deliver a surprisingly potent punch of protein. So as this winter drags on, remember the lowly Brussels sprout. If you’ve been avoiding them for years, you may be pleasantly surprised how good they taste now. Steam them to avoid losing any nutrients—although, even sautéed or fried, they’ll probably be the healthiest thing on our plate. As a potent delivery system to promote heart health, fight cancer, and give your immune system a boost, it’s hard to find anything that matches up against the Brussels sprout.