They Might Be Small, But Brussels Sprouts Are Incredible Powerhouses of Nutrition

Here are five reasons why you should eat more of them.

Brussels Sprout falling out of a paper bag

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Brussels sprouts deserve to be featured on dinner plates more often than they usually are. The unfortunate fate of many Brussels sprouts is overcooking, which is why so many people have unpleasant childhood memories of an unpleasant, sulfurous odor emanating from the stove. That smell is an organic compound containing sulfur that is released when Brussels sprouts become too soft. (You’ve got to respect a vegetable that has built-in protection against overcooking.)

From a helpful advice column in Fine Cooking magazine: "These plants contain sulfur compounds called isothiocyanates in their cells. During cooking, these compounds break down, forming other compounds, some of them terribly stinky; hydrogen sulfide, for example, smells like rotten eggs. The longer these sulfur compounds cook, the more they break down and the stinkier they get, so to minimize offensive odors, you have to minimize cooking."

Once you figure out a tastier way of cooking them—such as roasting with olive oil, or catching them in the steamer before they turn to mush—Brussels sprouts are a wonderful vegetable to add to your diet. Here are some interesting facts to inspire you to add them to your shopping cart immediately.

Brussels Sprouts Are Good for North American Locavores

These are hardy plants, able to survive frost and continue growing until a hard freeze hits. Some northern farmers bury their stalks of Brussels sprouts under hay and pick off the sprouts as needed throughout the winter. Where I live, Brussels sprouts are one of the few Ontario-grown vegetables available at supermarkets during the cold months, so they're well-suited to anyone in colder parts of North America or Europe that wants fresh local food year-round.

Brussels Sprouts Are Part of the Brassica Family

They're known as cruciferous vegetables, which includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, and watercress, among others. Cruciferous vegetables contain cancer-fighting glucosinolates, and Brussels sprouts are a particularly rich source.

Brussels Sprouts Are a Good Source of Protein

When combined with whole grains, they’re a great option for vegetarian meals—they are a great source of protein. Like all fresh vegetables, they’re naturally low in sodium and fat, but they have a ton of vitamins A, K, C (more than an orange), B6, folate, potassium, fibre, iron, selenium, and calcium, plus all those antioxidant, cancer-fighting compounds mentioned above.

Brussels Sprouts are Versatile and Delicious

You may want to pass on over-boiled and mushy, but Brussels sprouts are delicious when prepared well. They can be sliced into coins and sauteed on high heat, cut in halves and lightly steamed, or glazed and roasted whole in the oven, to name just a few options. They can also be shredded raw for a perky slaw or their leaves added to salad.

Brussels Sprouts Have Mysterious Origins

Some sources say Brussels sprouts were bred originally from wild cabbages found in Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, though their name suggests otherwise. Brussels sprouts were cultivated in Belgium from the 16th century onwards, though other earlier versions were reported in ancient Rome. Another source says they’re native to Belgium, and were cultivated exclusively in a region near Brussels until World War I, when consumption spread across Europe.

View Article Sources
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  2. Ciska, Ewa, et al. "Boiled Brussels sprouts: A rich source of glucosinolates and the corresponding nitriles." Journal of Functional Foods, vol. 19, pt A., pp. 91-99, 2015. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2015.09.008

  3. Lisiewska, Zofia, et al. "Content of amino acids and the quality of protein in Brussels sprouts, both raw and prepared for consumption." International Journal of Refrigeration, vol. 32, no. 2, 2009, pp. 272-278. doi:10.1016/j.ijrefrig.2008.05.011