Happy New Year everyone! Brussels sprouts, these tiny vegetables, many of you do not think well of, it is a truly miraculous food. Today we will analyze their beneficial properties and in the next post I’ll have a recipe for such a delicious and easy dish that will change your opinion about them.
Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family. Presumably they were first cultivated in ancient Rome, although the first references made in the 16th century. Later transferred to Belgium and cultivated near the capital, Brussels, where they got their name. In the rest of Europe, they spread during the First World War. Nowadays, they are grown throughout Europe (mostly in the Netherlands) and the USA (mostly in California).
They are grown in the winter and thrive in cold weather. A well-developed plant reaches about 90 cm in height. The sprouts are grown throughout the length of the stem starting from the bottom and moving upwards. To evenly grow sprouts, the tip of the stem is cut just when sprouts start to grow at the bottom.
I searched and found a photo of the plant so you can see how it grown. Isn’t impressive?
Nutrients and health benefits:
Brussels sprouts are among the top 20 most nutritious foods in regards to ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which measures vitamin, mineral and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content.
They are very nutritious, and contain enough fiber, vitamins (A, C, K, B6, folic acid, riboflavin, thiamine, pantothenic acid), antioxidants and metals (manganese, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, copper, iron) very useful and beneficial for the human body. They contain no fat and cholesterol and their sodium percentage is extremely low. Finally, they are a good source of protein.
According to the USDA database (United States Department of Agriculture), a cup of raw Brussels sprouts (about 88 grams) contains only 38 calories, 0 grams fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates (including 3 grams of sugar and 2 grams of fiber) and 3 grams of protein. The consumption of a cup of sprouts offer 195% of vitamin C, 125% of vitamin C, and 10% or more of vitamin A, vitamin B-6, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium and manganese your body needs daily.
Their high content in soluble fiber lowers blood cholesterol levels by binding bile acids (the acids secreted by the bile in the digestive process). This action is mainly due to the increased secretion of bile salts and pectin contained in them. On the other hand, Brussels sprouts have a high content of insoluble fiber, which helps in better functioning of the intestinal tract, and, according to recent studies, contribute significantly to the prevention of colon cancer, while reducing constipation.
High is their content of flavonoids, as well, with powerful antioxidant properties, which help to suppress oxidative stress. It is a process which, if left unchecked, can pave the way for cancer and other dangerous diseases. In fact, Brussels sprouts are repository flavonoid antioxidants, such as thiocyanates, indoles, lutein, zeaxanthin, and sulforaphane. Together, these phytochemicals offer protection against prostate, colon and endometrium cancers. The substance sulforaphane, as well as indole-3-carbinol which interacts with vitamin C and inhibits certain enzymes that cause mutation, also protect against breast cancer.
Sulforaphane has more significant beneficial effects, as it is probable that protects the cells of the eye against ultraviolet radiation. With the more sulforaphane the cells of the retina are “armed” before the exposure to the sun, the greater the defense against his harmful effects. Also, recent research come to add that vegetables belonging to the crucifers family, such as Brussels sprouts, because of their large amounts of vitamin A, additionally benefit eye health, and enhance the quality of vision at night. Additional protective role play the carotenes contained in them.
Brussels sprouts contribute significantly to combating chronic and intense inflammation, with the help of a range of nutrients they contain. The substance glucosinolate, is the prime regulator of occurrence of inflammation in the body. In its anti-inflammatory activity omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K contained in sprouts, contribute as well.
Some enzymes and chemicals (glucosinolate and isothiocyanates) contained in Brussels sprouts, other than the anti-inflammatory activity, is supportive to a possible damage to the blood vessels. Regulating the frequency and intensity of appearance of inflammation can prevent possible heart attacks, ischemic heart disease and atherosclerosis. Furthermore, the low level of cholesterol, removes the possibility of clogged arteries.
Moreover, vitamin C and potassium contained in large amounts, confer additional benefits to protect against the silent disease, osteoporosis, and provide protection against coronary heart disease; they are also beneficial for the balance of body fluids and blood pressure.
The antioxidant activity of vitamin C, when consumed in natural form (in fresh produce as opposed to supplements) or applied topically, may help fight skin damage caused by sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles and in improving overall skin texture. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the main support system of the skin. Maybe the citrus fruit are the first that come to mind when you think of vitamin C, but Brussels sprouts provide an impressive rate: 75 milligrams per cup (over 100% of your daily needs). Vitamin A is also essential for healthy skin and is present, as well, in Brussels sprouts.
As I said before, Brussels sprouts are very rich in vitamin K. Vitamin K plays an important role in bone health by enhancing their formation. Adequate levels of vitamin K in the body limit neuronal damage in the brain and therefore prevent or at least delay the onset of the Alzheimer disease.
Selection and storage:
The good quality Brussels sprouts are compact and have a bright green color. They should be free of yellowed or wilted leaves and should not be puffy or soft in texture. Avoid those that have holes in their leaves, as this may indicate that aphids are living through. If Brussels sprouts sold individually, select the same size to ensure even cooking.
Keep unwashed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. Stored in a plastic bag, they can be kept for 10 days. If you want to freeze Brussels sprouts, steam them first for between three to five minutes. They will keep in the freezer for up to one year.
Are you including Brussels sprouts in your diet, and if yes, how do you cook them usually?
Note: The ideas and information presented in this blog are for informational purposes only and in no case can replace the advice of a specialist in nutrition and health. Before starting any diet or exercise or before adding a special food in your daily intake, you should contact a specialist doctor or dietitian; especially if you suffer from a serious illness.