Last night, I heard a humorous speech which concluded that vegetables are an alien life form and inherently unsuitable for human consumption.
Although I happen to disagree completely with the speaker’s distaste for eating fresh or cooked veggies, I do resonate with the vegetable-as-alien part of the message.
Take, for example, the Brussels sprout. What an odd-looking green ball of a vegetable this is!
Brussels sprouts are native to Europe, the Mediterranean and the temperate zones of Asia, but they are cultivated all over the globe today. The name comes from market records in this Belgium town where documents show they were bought and sold.
A member of the Brassicaceae plant family, this cruciferous vegetable – the name means “cross-bearing” – counts cauliflower, kale, and mustard greens among its closest relatives.
It turns out that Brussels sprouts are incredibly health-giving plants. Here are some of the benefits of eating this unassuming vegetable:
• Low in calories
• Full of nutrients – one serving meets the daily vitamin C and vitamin K requirements
• Fight cancer with bitter-tasting sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates
• Improve heart health
• Regulate blood sugar (help diabetes)
• Protect eyes and bones
• Help blood clotting
• Promote weight loss
• Reduce inflammation
• Promote Estrogen Balance
• Give a healthy complexion
• Increase energy levels
Of all the cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts have more glucosinolate than “mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli,” according to The World’s Healthiest Foods. “Glucosinolates are important phytonutrients for our health because they are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances.”
Medical News Today points out that Brussels sprouts are high in protein compared to other vegetables.
Vitamin K improves calcium absorption and reduces its elimination in the urine. Higher levels of calcium are linked to bone strength and prevention of osteosclerosis. A single 3/4 cup serving of Brussels sprouts provides both the daily requirement of vitamin K and also calcium so eating it packs a double punch to help promote healthy bones.
This delightful little vegetable, like many green vegetables, contains alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant that “lowers glucose levels, increases insulin sensitivity, and prevents oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.”
As mentioned before, Brussels sprouts are very nutritious. Healthline lists the main nutrients in a half cup of cooked vegetable:
• Calories: 28
• Protein: 2 grams
• Carbs: 6 grams
• Fiber: 2 grams
• Vitamin K: 137% of the RDI
• Vitamin C: 81% of the RDI
• Vitamin A: 12% of the RDI
• Folate: 12% of the RDI
• Manganese: 9% of the RDI
When steamed, the fibers in Brussels sprouts can bind together with bile acids present in the digestive tract, making it easier for the body to excrete acids. This actually lowers cholesterol levels. The effect is reduced if you eat them raw.
A high-fiber diet reduces constipation by softening stool for passage through the bowels and increasing stool frequency. The 2 grams of fiber from that half cup of cooked Brussels sprouts deliver 8 percent of your daily fiber requirement so go ahead and have another serving.
Speaking of serving, there are hundreds – perhaps thousands – of mouth-wateringly delicious recipes for preparing Brussels sprouts. One of my favorites is quite simple: after rinsing the Brussels sprouts in plain water and cutting off the hardened ends, in a pan over high heat, sautee fresh, sliced Brussels sprouts in butter or oil until they soften and turn golden-brown. Add sliced almonds or bacon bits (or anything else you have on hand that strikes your fancy) toward the end of cooking to brown them and finish the vegetables. Season with salt, pepper – or anything else you have on hand that strikes your fancy.
The Food Network would love for everyone to eat lots of tasty Brussels sprouts. You can page through 25 recipes and watch how-to videos.
No matter how you slice them, eat Brussels sprouts on a regular basis to enjoy better health. For, in the words of the immortal Eastern sage:
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”