Bringing Home Brussels Sprouts

The precursors to Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in Italy in Roman times. They arrived in Belgium as early as the 13th century AD. The modern Brussels sprout was first cultivated in large quantities in Belgium, specifically in a region near its capital, Brussels, after which they are named, as early as 1587. They were introduced into the U.S. in the 19th century, and were grown in California in the early 1900s. They remained a mostly local crop in Belgium until their use spread across Europe during World War I. The frozen food industry developed in the 1940s, and Brussels sprouts production in California increased over the ensuing two decades. Fewer than 3,000 acres of Brussels sprouts currently grown in the central coast region of California supplies the majority of the U.S. production from June through January. Brussels sprouts are also exported to Canada, as they are more popular there than in the U.S.

Although they appear very different, collardskalecabbagekohlrabi, cauliflowerbroccoli, and Brussels sprouts are all varieties of the same species, Brassica oleracea. The only difference between these plants are the differences that humans introduced over thousands of years of selective cultivation. All of these Brassica oleracea vegetables are in the Brassicaceae family, along with along with bok choyrapininapa cabbageturnipsmustardwatercressarugularadisheshorseradish, daikon, land cress, rutabaga, and shepherd’s purse.

Brussels sprouts resemble miniature cabbages, with diameters of about 1 inch, and are typically sage green in color. They grow in bunches of 20 to 40 on the stem of a plant that grows as high as three feet tall. They are often sold separately but you can sometimes find them still attached to the stem. Brussels sprouts are available year round; however, they are at their best from autumn through early spring when they are at the peak of their growing season.

Brussels sprouts are rich in many valuable nutrients. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K. They are a very good source of folate, carotenoids, manganese, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamine and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, phosphorus, protein, molybdenum, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin E, calcium, and niacin. In addition to these nutrients, Brussels sprouts contain numerous disease-fighting phytochemicals including sulforaphane, indoles, glucosinolates, isothiocynates, coumarins, dithiolthiones, and phenols. Compounds in Brussels sprouts block the activity of sulphotransferase enzymes that can attack the DNA within white blood cells.

Antioxidants in Brussels sprouts include Vitamins C, E, and A, as well as manganese. Flavonoid antioxidants like isorhamnetin, quercitin, and kaempferol also protect against oxidative stress on cells. Glucosinolates in Brussels sprouts form detox-activating isothiocyanates, which fight against cancer, including bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate, and ovarian cancer. The cancer protection we get from Brussels sprouts is largely related to four specific glucosinolates found in this cruciferous vegetable: glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, sinigrin, and gluconasturtiian. Research has shown that Brussels sprouts offer these cancer-preventive components in special combination. 

Glucobrassicin, a glucosinolate abundant in Brussels sprouts, is converted to indole-3-carbinol (ITC), and fights inflammation on a genetic level. One and a half cups of Brussels sprouts contain about 430 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids (about ⅓ of the daily recommended amount) that are an essential part of anti-inflammatory messaging molecules.  The isothiocyanate sulforaphane not only triggers anti-inflammatory activity in the cardiovascular system, but may also prevent and even possibly help reverse blood vessel damage. By regulating inflammation within the body, Brussels sprouts can fight against the onset of heart attacks, ischemic heart disease, and arteriosclerosis. Brussels sprouts can help decrease the risk of many inflammation-mediated diseases such as arthritis, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. By decreasing chronic inflammation, Brussels sprouts maintain the flexibility of the blood vessels and the blood flow to essential organs of the body. The sulforaphane also protects your stomach lining by obstructing the overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can lead to gastric ulcers and cancer. 

Brussels sprouts are especially high in vitamin K, which promotes healthy bones, prevents osteoporosis, prevents calcification of the body’s tissues, serves as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent, and is essential for proper brain and nerve function. The vitamin C in Brussels sprouts ensures a healthy immune system, lowers blood pressure, fights lead toxicity, combats cataracts, enhances the absorption of iron from the intestine, and serves as a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals and protects against the common cold, anemia, atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.  Brussels sprouts also contain carotenoids, which boost immunity, maintain healthy bones and teeth, prevent urinary stones, and are essential to reproductive organs. The carotenoids in Brussels sprouts form retinal, the light-absorbing molecule that is essential for both low-light and color vision, and protects eyes against cataracts and macular degeneration. One cup of Brussels sprouts contains a almost 25% of the your daily folate and the health benefits associated with it. 

Nutrients in 1 cup raw Brussels Sprouts

Nutrient

Amount

DV

vitamin K

155.76 mcg

194.7%

vitamin C

74.80 mg

124.7%

manganese

0.30 mg

15.0%

folate

53.68 mcg

13.4%

fiber

3.34 g

13.4%

vitamin A

663.52 IU

13.3%

potassium

342.32 mg

9.8%

vitamin B6

0.19 mg

9.5%

tryptophan

0.03 g

9.4%

vitamin B1

0.12 mg

8.0%

iron

1.23 mg

6.8%

phosphorus

60.72 mg

6.1%

protein

2.97 g

5.9%

molybdenum

4.40 mcg

5.9%

magnesium

20.24 mg

5.1%

vitamin B2

0.08 mg

4.7%

choline

16.81 mg

4.0%

vitamin E

0.77 mg

3.9%

omega-3 fats

0.09 g

3.8%

calcium

36.96 mg

3.7%

vitamin B3

0.66 mg

3.3%

Calories

37.84

1.9%

Good quality Brussels sprouts are firm, compact, and vivid green. They should be free of yellowed or wilted leaves and should not be puffy or soft in texture. Avoid those that have perforations in their leaves as this may indicate that they have aphids inside. If Brussels sprouts are sold individually, choose those of equal size to ensure that they will cook evenly.

Keep unwashed Brussels sprouts in a bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator for up to a week. Before washing Brussels sprouts, remove stems and any yellow or discolored leaves.  Brussels sprouts can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you use a steaming method when cooking them. The fiber-related components in Brussels sprouts do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw Brussels sprouts still have cholesterol-lowering ability — just not as much as steamed Brussels sprouts.

To prepare, rinse with cold water and drain. Trim stem ends without cutting the base of leaves or the Brussels sprouts will come apart during cooking. Cut a shallow “x” in the base of large sprouts, so the stems will cook faster. To help Brussels sprouts cook more quickly and evenly, you can cut large sprouts in half lengthwise or into quarters. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out the health-promoting qualities. It is very important not to overcook Brussels sprouts. Not only do they lose their nutritional value and taste but they will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooked cruciferous vegetables. Steaming is the best way to cook Brussels sprouts, because it preserves flavor and nutrition, keeps the sprouts intact, and reduces the potential for strong flavors. Bring 1 to 2 inches of water to a boil in a pot. Arrange the sprouts in a steamer basket, making sure the water does not seep into the bottom of the basket. Cover and steam. Between 5 to 20 minutes should be just about right, depending on your steaming setup and size and quantity of sprouts. Test for tenderness by inserting the tip of a knife into the stem end, which should be barely tender. Perfectly cooked Brussels sprouts have a crisp, dense texture and a slightly sweet, bright, and “green” taste.


This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

34 thoughts on “Bringing Home Brussels Sprouts

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