Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that remind us of our parents’ “forced feeding” during our childhood. The reason why they are not amongst the most popular vegetables is their sulfurous taste and odor which many do not find pleasant. But when cooked properly, they can be quite delicious even for the pickiest palate.
Botanically, Brussels sprouts belong to the cruciferous family group, along with kale, broccoli, collard greens, cabbage and other leafy greens. They resemble cabbage the most, but they are much smaller. They are round-shaped, green color, and are typically 1 – 1.5 inches in diameter. Brussels sprouts have long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and they may have obtained their name from there, as their origin is still not exactly established.
Regardless of their unknown origin and their bad reputation, Brussels sprouts have made to the top of the healthy-foods list due to their numerous health benefits.
Brussels sprouts are high in crucial vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and phytonutrients. For food to be highly valued, it must contain high amount of nutrients, but small amount of calories.
Brussels sprouts contain a lot of vitamin C, which is essential for normal growth and development. It helps to keep the immune system strong and to maintain the health of your skin, teeth and gums. Vitamin C is also known to protect your cells from oxidative damage.
Brussels sprouts also provide large quantities of fiber, vitamin K, vitamin A, folic acid, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, carotene-α, carotene-ß, crypto-xanthin-ß, lutein-zeaxanthin and so on. Furthermore, they are also rich in protein, which is highly unexpected for a green vegetable.
Succinctly put, only one serving of Brussels sprouts (half a cup or 88 milligrams approximately) provides us with 20 different vitamins, including meeting our daily needs of vitamin C and K. Also, due to their low calorie content (about 38 calories per serving) and richness in fiber, they instantly diminish the feeling of hunger and make you feel full.
Health benefits and disease fighting
Excellent cancer-fighting properties – Brussels sprouts have great antioxidant properties as they are rich in glucosinolates, according to Linus Pauling Institute. These compounds belong to a group of phytochemicals called isothiocyanates, which are proven to stimulate a programmed cell death in cancerous cells and also help eliminate potential carcinogens from the body.
Researchers also recommend steaming or stir-frying Brussels sprouts so that they retain their cancer-fighting properties, as boiling sprouts, and other vegetables that belong to the cruciferous group, for only 9 – 15 minutes decreases their glucosinolate content by 18 – 59 %.
Good for weight loss – Sprouts are widely used in weight reduction programs, since 100 grams of this vegetable contain 3.38 g protein, 3.80 g dietary fiber, zero cholesterol and only 45 calories.
Good for the eye-sight – Sprouts contain an important carotenoid called zea – xanthin which is selectively absorbed into the eye retina, where it is believed to provide antioxidant and protective functions, light-filtering the UV rays. It also helps prevent age-related retina damage.
Good for the skin – In addition, Brussels sprouts are good for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, thanks to vitamin A. This vitamin has also proved essential in protection against lung and oral cavity cancers.
Bone health – This benefit is due to the large quantities of vitamin K contained in this vegetable. Vitamin K promotes osteotrophic activity (bone formation and strengthening). This vitamin is also essential for prevention or delay of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Brussels sprouts help in other conditions as well, such as vitamin A deficiency, iron-deficiency, anemia, diabetes type 2, cardiovascular diseases, colon and prostate cancers and so on.
How to grow them
The seeds are planted directly into soil in autumn. Be sure to plant them deep, so the stems do not become overburdened and scraggly. Their growing period before harvesting is from 75 – 90 days, and they grow from the bottom up, so pick the sprouts nearer to the soil first.
How to cook them
First wash them thoroughly to remove any dirt or insect eggs. Sprouts should generally be blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes, cooled and then added to the dish. You can try stir-frying them or baking them, then adding some lemon, olive oil, or some other of your favorite ingredients, thus making a delicious salad. Or just sauté them with some onions and use them as topping for grilled steak or pork chops.
I hope your mouth has started watering by now, so that in your next meal you will include these delicious nutritious veggies. Give them a try; your body will be grateful.
Oregon State University-http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/isothio/