Brussels sprouts, which look like mini cabbages, are one the one healthiest vegetables you can eat. These bite-size, leafy, green vegetables are a great for meals for numerous reasons. For starters, they are low in fat and calories, but high in nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Another nutritional benefit of eating Brussels sprouts is they are high in protein, while many other green vegetables are not. There are a few different varieties of Brussels sprouts and they all basically carry the same potential health benefits, which are listed below.
Brussels sprouts may provide some protection against cancer, especially against bladder, colon, lung and prostate cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, Brussels sprouts are considered to be a cruciferous vegetable, which means they may provide protection against certain types of cancer. Glucosinolates, which is a chemical in Brussels sprouts, breaks down into a compound that may protect the body against cancer.
Additional research is needed, but some studies indicate cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, inactivate carcinogens. Additionally, they may help protect against DNA cell damage and inhibit tumor blood cell formation, which would also protect against the development of cancer.
Eating foods that contain antioxidants is also believed to play a role in cancer prevention. Brussels sprouts contain vitamins A, C and E, which are all considered vitamin antioxidants. Sprouts are also high in a few different flavonoid antioxidants, which help the body decrease free radicals and possibly reduce the risk of cancer.
Although recommendations for how often to eat cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, has not been established, according to Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute, aim for about five servings a week.
Although most vegetables are considered heart healthy, Brussels sprouts are one of the best choices. Brussels sprouts provide cardiovascular benefits in a few different ways. For example, glucoraphanin, which is one of the glucosinolates in Brussels sprouts, helps the body reduce inflammation in the cardiovascular system. This reduction in inflammation is believed to decrease or prevent blood vessel damage.
Another way eating Brussels sprouts helps keep your cardiovascular system healthy is by lowing levels of cholesterol, according to Clemson University. Brussels sprouts contain fiber, which binds to bile acids in the intestines and is eliminated through bowel movements. As a result of the binding process, the body needs to use cholesterol in the body in order to produce more bile acid. This process reduces overall cholesterol and lowers the risk of heart disease.
Chronic inflammation in the body can be a risk factor for several different types of diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Eating foods which have anti-inflammatory benefits, such as Brussels sprouts, helps reduces your chances of these diseases.
[Related: The Best Foods That Fight Inflammation]
In addition to protecting against cancer, glucosinolates in Brussels sprouts also protect the body against inflammation. One of the nutrients in Brussels sprouts that have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body is vitamin K. A one cup serving of Brussels sprouts contains about 190 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin K. Research had indicated vitamin K reduces inflammatory markers in the body. Brussels sprouts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, which also protects the body from inflammation.
Brussels sprouts are usually readily available all year, although the growing season peaks from September to about February or March. Select Brussels sprouts that are firm and have mostly green leafs. Don’t choose sprouts that have yellowing or black spots. Before cooking sprouts, rinse them with cold water and cut off the end of the stalks.
As with most types of vegetables, the cooking method you choose plays a part in retaining the most nutrients and health benefits. The healthiest ways to cook Brussels sprouts is by grilling, roasting or steaming. Cooking time will vary depending on the method used and whether you cook whole sprouts or cut them in to halves or quarters.
[Also see: 10 Healthy Cooking Methods For Better Nutrition]
Whichever preparation method you are using, cooking the sprouts for too long will cause them to lose some of their nutritional value. If you cook Brussels sprouts until they lose their bright green color, it is an indication you have cooked them too long.
In order to keep calories and fat content low, drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper instead of lots of butter when serving. Keep in mind, Brussels spouts can be added to soups, salads and sides, such as rice, to increase their nutritional value.
Whether you already love Brussels sprouts or have yet to acquire the taste, there is no denying they are packed full of nutrients and provide several health benefits. In addition to the health benefits listed above, Brussels sprouts are also a good source of folate, potassium and vitamin C. Consider trying different recipes and cooking methods in order to find what suits your taste.