Are Brussels Sprouts Healthy? The Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts Explained
Poor Brussels sprouts. In every story where an “enemy food” is needed (okay, usually kids’ stories, but still), Brussels sprouts are attacked. It’s the stereotypical, ugly green food. But is it really?
We need to change this image of Brussels sprouts from a torture food not to be eaten, to an incredibly healthy and necessary part of our diets. Okay, so you knew that Brussels sprouts were healthy. But I still think it deserves more recognition, so I’m here to offer it exactly that.
What Are Brussels Sprouts? Where Do They Come From?
Brussels sprouts are so called because of their early cultivation in the city of Brussels, in Germany, although it appears in records earlier than this. It’s a winter veggie, generally grown from September to March. (Brussels sprouts soup, anyone?)
If you’ve ever eaten Brussels sprouts, you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s a part of the cabbage family. I’m a sucker for all things mini, and these are like tiny, miniature cabbages. The reason for its unpopularity is usually because most people don’t know how to cook it and it, therefore, ends up getting over- or under-cooked. But when cooked correctly, it can be delicious and crisp, and full of hearty flavour.
Brussels Sprouts For Detoxification Explained
One of the amazing things about your body is its detoxification process. When you eat or inhale substances that are harmful, your body naturally works to remove these toxins, so that you don’t have to suffer.
However, sometimes there are too many toxins entering the body (through your diet or environment) for your body to handle on its own. That’s why we need to help our bodies with the process, by choosing healthy eating and living habits.
One of the amazing foods for detoxification is Brussels sprouts. The smell that many people associate with (overcooked!) Brussels sprouts is the sulfur in it – but while your nose might not like it, your body sure does! Brussels sprouts support both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of your body’s detoxification process.
Phase 1 involves tuning toxins into less harmful substances and breaking them down, and Vitamin C (yes, which is found in Brussels sprouts) helps to protect your body from the free radicals that are released from this process.
Phase 2 of detoxification involves expelling the broken-down toxins from your body, and sulfur helps your liver with this phase, which is why Brussels sprouts is one of the recommended foods for people with a poor Phase 2 function.
Brussels Sprouts For Antioxidants Explained
And of course, there’s also all the antioxidants contained in this small vegetable, which aside from helping with detoxification, also offer a wide range of other health benefits, like anti-cancer, bone health, and skincare benefits. Antioxidants are the stuff that protects our bodies against free radical damage and Brussels sprouts are positively loaded with them. You’ll find:
Vitamin C – which is essential for growth and repair of tissues, and boosts collagen production (read: better skin, hair and nails)
Folate – which has anti-cancerous and anti-depression properties, and is essential for moms-to-be, in order to prevent birth defects
Vitamin A – needed for your vision; and immune and reproductive systems. It’s important to eat foods that offer your body enough Vitamin A because your body does not produce it
Manganese – which you need for bone structure and formation, as well as your metabolism, and to regulate your blood sugar levels
Brussels sprouts also have other essential nutrients like calcium (vital for strong bones, teeth and muscles).
Vitamin K – (which helps your blood to clot, so that your body can heal injured tissue, and also reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis) and fiber (which fights against heart disease and diabetes). It also contains minerals like iron, zinc and copper.
Phew! That’s a lot going on for such an unassuming vegetable.
Brussels Sprouts For Digestion Explained
You may know that fiber is one of the main nutrients that keep your digestive system going. It adds weight to your stools, so they move through your intestines more easily and you don’t end up battling constipation. If you’ve ever been constipated before, this should be more than enough motivation for you to try and get enough fiber in your diet.
Being that there are around four grams of fiber in a cup of Brussels sprouts, they are an excellent choice of food for increasing your fiber intake; plus, they keep you full and are low in calories (approximately 38 calories per cup).
Sounds awesome right? I’m gonna go eat a whole lot of Brussels sprouts right now! Actually, that might not be the best idea. Raffinose, a complex sugar in Brussels sprouts, can’t be broken down in your small intestine, which means it gets passed along as is to your large intestine to get broken down. If your body isn’t used to getting so much fiber , this can cause bloating and gas.
So what do you do? Introduce Brussels sprouts into your diet in small doses and gradually build up, so that your body becomes accustomed to digesting Raffinose. This way, you’re getting the fiber, and you’re not getting the uncomfortable side effects.
And, as an aside, sulforaphane, an antibacterial compound in the sprouts, also fights against extra bacteria growth, which in turn protects your stomach’s lining.
Brussels Sprouts For Anti-Inflammatory Support Explained
The main anti-inflammatory agents in Brussels sprouts are omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin K and glucosinolate.
While some inflammation is healthy and even necessary (your body responds with inflammation to protect you from perceived harm), chronic inflammation can lead to dangerous diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. Luckily, there are lots of foods that are known to be anti-inflammatory, which can reduce symptoms and even prevent diseases in the first place.
Glucosinolate targets your body’s inflammatory response early on, which means that it doesn’t allow inflammation to get out of hand since it stops your body from overreacting before it’s too late. In essence, glucosinolate is what prevents the above (and other) diseases from occurring at all. It’s found in cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts.
Vitamin K is another anti-inflammatory that Brussels sprouts are rich in. A half-cup of Brussels sprouts will give you almost your entire recommended intake of Vitamin K for the day.
While omega-3 might make you think of fish oil capsules, in reality, there are quite a few foods that contain this essential nutrient – Brussels sprouts, for one. Omega-3 is a known anti-inflammatory and is not produced in your body, so it must be a part of your diet.
Brussels Sprouts For Diabetes Explained
Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, Brussels sprouts are an ideal food for people with or at risk or of developing diabetes. Inflammation is known to cause insulin resistance, which means that when carbohydrates or sugars are ingested, the body is unable to regulate the blood glucose levels, causing spikes in blood sugar.
Reducing inflammation, therefore, is important for those at risk of developing diabetes, as it can fight against insulin resistance. Brussels sprouts are also ideal for people who already have diabetes since not only does it not cause a spike in blood sugar (as other snacks might), it actually helps to lower blood glucose levels, because of its high fiber content. Fiber slows down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, which keeps the blood glucose levels regular.
It’s not just for holidays! Brussels sprouts can be enjoyed at other times too! Especially when prepared well – like roasted with butter and garlic and topped with parmesan cheese, for example.
The health benefits of these cabbage cousins are way too important to pass up! Go ahead and serve a delicious and easy-to-prepare side dish of Brussels sprouts with your dinner tomorrow night. If you’ve had less-than-positive associations with it until now, you may just change your mind.