Brussels sprouts have a bad reputation and seem to come out only at Christmas and Thanksgiving. However, eating more of these low-calorie, nutritionally dense vegetables could add great benefits to your diet.
They are one of the better green vegetable sources of protein, and just one serving meets the daily vitamin C and vitamin K requirements.
Brussels sprouts are a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, all of which supply a rich variety of nutrients with few calories. Cruciferous vegetables should be at the very top of most people’s grocery lists when looking to enrich your diet.
This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It examines the nutritional breakdown of Brussels sprouts, their possible health benefits, how to incorporate more into the diet, and any potential health risks of consuming Brussels sprouts.Fast facts on Brussels sprouts:
Here are some key points about Brussels sprouts. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Brussels sprouts are particularly high in protein when compared to other green vegetables.
- There is a range of potential health benefits associated with Brussels sprouts, possibly including eye and bone protection.
- Brussels sprouts should not be overcooked as this reduces nutrient levels.
Just one serving of Brussels sprouts meets the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and vitamin K.
Brussels sprouts offer a range of health benefits.
Consuming fruits and vegetables is known to reduce the risk of many health conditions.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of Brussels sprouts and similar cruciferous vegetables can decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality.
They can also promote a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
Consuming high amounts of cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts is associated with a lower risk of cancer.
More recently, researchers have been able to pinpoint that the sulfur-containing compounds in Brussels sprouts provide both their bitter taste and their properties that combat cancer.
Brussels sprouts have shown promising results with esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic cancer, as well as melanoma.
Brussels sprouts also contain a high amount of chlorophyll, the green pigment in found in plants. This can block the cancerous effects of heterocyclic amines generated when charring meats. People who like charred food should pair them with green vegetables to decrease the cancer risk.
Improving bone health
Low intakes of vitamin K have been associated with a higher risk of bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K consumption improves bone health by improving calcium absorption and reducing the removal of calcium in the urine.
Three-fourths of a cup of Brussels sprouts meets the daily vitamin K requirement. They are also a great source of calcium. Calcium is essential to bone strength and growth.
Please note that individuals taking blood-thinners, such as Coumadin or warfarin, should not suddenly change their vitamin K intake due to its important role in blood clotting.
Brussels sprouts contain an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid that has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes. Alpha-lipoic acid is present in many green vegetables.
Studies on alpha-lipoic acid have also demonstrated decreases in peripheral neuropathy and autonomic neuropathy in diabetics.
However, most studies have used intravenous (IV) alpha-lipoic acid, and it is unclear whether consuming the substance as part of the diet would provide the same benefits.
Vitamin C has been shown to help keep eyes healthy.
The powerful nutrient, abundant in Brussels sprouts, can protect against the development of cataracts.
Skin health and appearance
The antioxidant vitamin C can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution when eaten as part of the diet or applied to the skin. Vitamin C can also combat toxic free radicals and help form collagen to support the skin.
This can reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.
Brussels sprouts provide 75 milligrams (mg) per cup, more than meeting the daily requirement. They also provide vitamin A. This is also crucial for healthy looking skin.
Brussels sprouts are particularly rich in vitamins and minerals while being low in fat and calories.
Brussels sprouts are among the top 20 most nutritious foods in regards to its Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) score. This score measures vitamin, mineral, and plant nutrient content in relation to a food’s calorie content.
A good ANDI ranking means the type of food provides a large amount of nutrients and few calories.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, one cup of raw Brussels sprouts provides:
- 38 calories
- 0 grams (g) of fat
- 8 g of carbohydrate
- 3 grams of protein
One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts provides:
- 56 calories
- 4 g of protein
- 11 g carbohydrate
Regarding the recommended daily allowance of certain vegetables, consuming one cup of Brussels sprouts will provide:
- 195 percent of vitamin K
- 125 percent of vitamin C
- 10 percent or more of vitamin A, vitamin B-6, folate, potassium, and manganese
Brussel sprouts certainly pack a nutritional punch.
Roast Brussels sprouts and add grapes, nuts, and balsamic vinegar.
It has become something of a Christmas tradition to complain about Brussels sprouts.
However, oven-roasting Brussels sprouts highlights their sweet, almost nutty flavor and keeps them crisp. It also reduces the harsh, sulfurous odor and taste that many find unpleasant.
Try to find sprouts still on the stalk for superior freshness, and look for sprouts that are smaller in size. These tend to be sweeter and more tender than larger sprouts.
Make sure the leaves are tight and firm. Loose leaves indicate older sprouts. Store the sprouts in a bag in the refrigerator. The fresher the sprouts, the better they will taste. Be careful not to overcook sprouts as this tends to give them a bitter flavor and diminish their nutritional value.
Quick tips to enjoy Brussels sprouts:
- Drizzle the roasted sprouts with olive oil, cracked black pepper, and minced garlic.
- Slice them thin and mix in raw with salad greens.
- Add candied walnuts and dried cranberries to roasted sprouts for a festive side dish.
- Panfry sliced Brussels sprouts to get a crunchier texture.
Try these healthy and simple recipes:
- Roasted Brussels sprouts with toasted pecans and avocado
- Maple balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts
- Curried Brussels sprout salad
- Roasted rainbow potatoes
An individual’s overall eating pattern is more important in preventing disease and achieving good health than concentrating on individual foods. Eating with variety is the key to a healthful life.
As long as they are cooked in the right way, there is every reason for Brussels sprouts to make an appearance in your next meal.