Compared to some other vegetables, Brussels sprouts are known to have a somewhat controversial reputation. In fact, a study in 2011 found that these little, green, cabbage-shaped buds contain a certain chemical that tastes bitter to about 50% of the population. So if you’ve ever turned your nose up at a pile of steaming sprouts, your genes might be to blame. But whether the idea of eating them is appealing or revolting to you, what can’t be denied is that Brussels sprouts are loaded with valuable nutrients.
Facts About Brussels Sprouts
Although Brussels sprouts have been native to the Mediterranean region for centuries, they eventually became heavily cultivated in northern Europe. Unsurprisingly, they take their name from Brussels, the capital of Belgium and a major exporter of the eponymous sprouts. These cruciferous vegetables are a cultivar of Brassica oleracea, a group of plants that also includes cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale. The buds can grow anywhere from the size of a marble to larger than a golf ball.
Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts
Like other veggie cultivars of the Brassica oleracea species, Brussels sprouts are rich in many nutrients that are beneficial for overall health. An important component of Brussels sprouts is a phytochemical called glucosinolate, a natural plant chemical that is responsible for the unique scent and flavor (and the reason why they taste bitter to some people). Enzymes in the digestive tract are able to break down this natural plant chemical into sulforaphane; though more research is needed to establish this, sulforaphane is thought to have cancer-prevention properties.
Raw Brussels sprouts contain a number of valuable nutrients, though there can be some loss when boiled. One cup of Brussels sprouts contains 8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of protein, and a negligible amount of fat. Each serving of Brussels sprouts also has a significant amount of several different vitamins and minerals:
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A is a group of compounds that includes carotenoids like beta-carotene; it is important in embryo development, immune function, and eye health.
- Vitamin C: Usually associated with citrus fruits, vitamin C is also plentiful in Brussels sprouts. Vitamin C helps our bodies repair tissue and boost the immune system as well as being an antioxidant.
- Vitamin K: The body uses vitamin K in blood coagulation and improves bone health by causing calcium to bind to bones.
- Folate: The human body cannot make folate, so we need to get it from dietary sources like Brussels sprouts. In addition to its role in cell division, folate is required to make DNA and RNA.
- Calcium: Though calcium is well known for strengthening bones and teeth, it is also involved in the contraction of muscle, blood clotting, and regulating the rhythm of the heart.
- Iron: This mineral plays an important role in maintaining the health of our red blood cells. It is especially important in facilitating the transport of oxygen via red blood cells throughout the body.
- Potassium: Potassium is an important part of maintaining the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance. Having a deficiency of potassium can also cause an increase in blood pressure.
It is important to note that, while Brussels sprouts are definitely a boon to health, they can be a concern for certain people with certain conditions. People on blood thinners, for example, should check with their doctors; the vitamin K content of Brussels sprouts could work against the medication. The carbohydrate content of Brussels sprouts is also potentially problematic for people with digestive health issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
As noted above, there is some research that shows Brussels sprouts may have benefits far beyond being a good source of nutrients. Brussels sprouts and other similar green vegetables may, for example, protect against some types of cancer by preventing oxidative stress associated with free radicals. There have also been studies that link Brussels sprouts to improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels as well as chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.
Preparing and Cooking Brussels Sprouts
When buying fresh Brussels sprouts, look for buds that still have some stalk; the extra stalk will help the sprouts stay fresher for longer. In general, the fresher they are, the less likely they are to have a bitter taste. Look for leaves that are tight and firm; older Brussels sprouts will have loose leaves. Also, depending on your preferences, you may want to select smaller sprouts since they tend to be sweeter and more tender.
There are numerous ways to prepare Brussels sprouts, and they can be a part of many different types of cuisine. Most Brussels sprouts recipes imagine them as a side dish rather than a main course. They can be boiled, steamed, sauteed, fried, or grilled, but one of the easiest and most popular ways to cook them is in the oven. To make roasted Brussels sprouts, simply coat them in olive oil and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425° for 20 to 30 minutes; when done, they should be tender with crispy edges and a nutty, sweet flavor.
Though fresh, raw Brussels sprouts are versatile to cook with and full of nutrients, it isn’t the only way they can be used. Dried Brussels sprouts are now widely used for a variety of commercial and industrial applications. At Silva International, our dried Brussels sprouts are sourced from only the highest quality growers and then go through a thorough sorting, washing, and drying process. It can then be used as an ingredient in seasoning blends, salad dressings, sauces, snacks, and a wide variety of other food products.
Learn More About Silva International
Whether it’s Brussels sprouts or some other fruit or vegetable ingredient, Silva is passionate about meeting any need. With an advanced processing facility and the highest quality control standards, you can trust that you’ll be getting the best product. You’ll also get Silva’s commitment to partnering with you; we pride ourselves on having the flexibility to provide whatever you need to deliver an excellent end product that will exceed customer expectations. To learn more about Silva and our products, please contact us or request samples.