Brussels sprouts are not only a versatile food in many cultural cuisines, but they also pack a number of health benefits, including the ability to lower cholesterol, balance hormone levels, improve digestion, reduce oxidative stress, protect the heart, aid the immune system and increase circulation, among others.
What are Brussels Sprouts?
When you think of cabbage, one usually imagines something about the size of a softball or larger, but brussels sprouts are also a type of cabbage, and bear the scientific name Brassica oleracea. The sprouts are grown on long stalks that can be harvested multiple times each year, and they are small, green bulbs that look like miniature cabbages. The taste of brussels sprouts is also quite similar to cabbage, notably quite bitter, but can be improved significantly when they are broiled or cooked. Brussels sprouts, as the name implies, were grown in and around the region of Brussels, Belgium for centuries. This cabbage varietal is native to the Mediterranean and European region, and is now primarily grown in the Netherlands and Germany.
Brussels sprouts are easy to overlook in the international produce market, but when it comes to healthy cruciferous vegetables, these sprouts should not be ignored. Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin A, as well as dietary fiber, vitamin K, manganese, copper, potassium and many other essential vitamins and nutrients, including flavonoids and polyphenolic compounds. Brussels sprouts are prepared in many different ways around the world, ranging from roasting, broiling and frying to steaming and adding them to a stir fry. Brussels sprouts should never be overcooked, as the flavor can become quite sour or unpleasant. However, when cooked properly, brussels sprouts can be complementary to many meat dishes, and can be topped with dozens of sauces and spices. Aside from their delicious flavor, many people add brussels sprouts to their diet in order to enjoy the many health benefits of this miniature cabbage.
Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts
Health benefits of brussels include the following:
Boosts Immune System
One of the most impressive characteristics of brussels sprouts is their high vitamin C content. A single cup of brussels sprouts contains more than 120% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C. This is critical for the health of your immune system, as vitamin C stimulates the production of white blood cells and acts as an antioxidant in the body, reducing oxidative stress and lowering your chances of chronic disease.
Like most cruciferous vegetables and types of cabbage, brussels sprouts contain a high level of dietary fiber. Fiber can help to bulk up stool and promote healthy digestion by reducing constipation and stimulating peristaltic motion, which helps food move through the digestive tracts more smoothly.
Helps in Preganancy
The high level of folic acid found within brussels sprouts makes them very important for expectant mothers. Folic acid is crucial in preventing neural tube defects, which affect thousands of infants every year. B-family vitamins are very important for developmental processes when you are with child.
Research is ongoing into the potential benefits of brussels sprouts for cancer prevention, but many studies have found that the antioxidant content of these cruciferous vegetables is able to reduce oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals are associated with mutating healthy cells and increasing your cancer risk.
Helps in Blood Clotting
Vitamin K is one of the most commonly overlooked vitamins, but this is necessary for blood clotting throughout the body. A single cup of brussels sprouts contains more than 240% of your daily recommended vitamin K, ensuring that your blood clots properly, while also protecting heart health and boosting bone strength.
Balances Hormone Levels
Studies have found that the active ingredients and volatile compounds found in brussels sprouts affect the thyroid gland and its many functions within the body. This can help to regulate hormone levels in the body, which affect everything from metabolic function to digestive efficiency and energy levels.
Vitamin C does more than simply boost the immune system; it is also an important component in collagen, which is required for the production of skin, muscle and tissue cells. Without proper vitamin C levels, which brussels sprouts provide, the body is unable to rapidly recover from illness and injury.
Improves Bone Strength
There is a broad range of minerals found in brussels sprouts, including manganese, copper, phosphorous and iron, all of which are needed to build strong bones and prevent the onset of osteoporosis. By preventing bone mineral density loss, a diet rich in brussels sprouts can keep you feeling healthy and active as you age.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Potassium is an extremely important mineral in the body, because it acts as a vasodilator, meaning that it can reduce the tension and pressure of the blood vessels and arteries, thereby relieving strain on the cardiovascular system. This can lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.
Brussels sprouts contain substances called glucosinolates, which are able to regulate the body’s inflammatory response. For those suffering from arthritis, gout, oxidative stress and other inflammatory conditions, regular consumption of brussels sprouts can help get the body back on track and reduce pain.
Increases your Metabolism
The high level of B-family vitamins found in these vegetables, including riboflavin, folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin B2 and others, makes this vegetable a key part of a healthy metabolism. This can help the body digest food more effectively, use the nutrients more efficiently, and burn calories faster.
Aids in Weight-loss Efforts
Brussels sprouts contain significant levels of dietary fiber, which is known to help with weight-loss efforts. Fiber can stimulate the release of the “full” hormone in the body, leptin, meaning that you won’t have cravings to eat any more. This can eliminate snacking between meals, cleanse your colon and bowels, and eliminate bloating and cramping that often accompanies aggressive weight-loss strategies.
A Final Word of Warning
For people who are on blood-clotting medicine, such as warfarin, brussels sprouts can be dangerous, given the excessive amount of vitamin K, which improves the body’s ability to clot the blood. Doubling up, in this way, can be dangerous and actually lead to cardiovascular complications. Before adding any new vegetables or healthy options to your diet, speak to your doctor to prevent any overlaps or negative interactions with your prescribed medications.