Nutrient Fact Sheet
Although readily available almost year-round, the peak season for Brussels Sprouts is from September to March. Hence why many people associate with Christmas dinner as they’re always on the menu! They’re members of the cabbage family (brassica or cruciferous)―and they look like it, too. It is not certain where they came from or where they were first grown, but the first official description of them did appear in Belgium in the late 16th century, hence the name. They made their way to England in the mid-19th century and there gained great popularity. Today, the British (and Irish!) remain the world’s top consumers of Brussels sprouts.
They’re the sort of vegetable that divide opinion and people either love or hate them. The vegetable has a reputation for bitterness, but when properly cooked, sprouts offers complex flavour with a subtle crunch and almost nutty sweetness. When overcooked they lose flavour, texture and give off a strong odor, which probably puts people off. This smell is associated with glucosinolate sinigrin, an organic compound that contains sulphur: hence the smell. It also happens to be responsible for the cancer-fighting characteristics of Brussels sprouts.
I for one love them and my 4 year old daughter has recently declared them ‘her favorites at dinner, as we have had them quite a lot recently with them in plentiful supply in the supermarkets.
Brassica or cruciferous vegetables are highly regarded for their nutritional value. Vegetables included are cabbage, broccoli, cabbage, kale and turnips. Their properties have been widely researched and their role in oestrogen dominant cancer prevention and digestive and immune healing and strengthening is well known and they are enjoying renewed interest and of course recipes.
- Vitamins A (cartenoids) and C, which may help against heart disease, cancer, and cataracts (1/2 cup of sprouts provides more than 80% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C – way more than an orange for example)
- Potassium, which may help to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.
- Folate, which is necessary for normal tissue growth and may protect against cancer, heart disease, and birth defects
- Iron, necessary for maintaining red blood cell count
- Fiber, which aids in digestion and helps lower cholesterol (in Chinese medicine they are prescribed to improved digestive health). Can also support blood sugar levels
- Selenium: associated with reduced risks of certain cancers, as well as increased male virility
- All brassica family contain Indole-3-Carbinol which helps to break down oestrogen into its healing form (there are different forms of oestrogen one is cancer forming and the other cancer healing) and may also help repair DNA (read more about that here).
- 3,3′-diindolylmethane (also know as DIM) is found in all Brassica vegetables. Which may contain potent antiviral, antibacterial and anticancer actions which can affect/boost the immune system.
- Sulforaphane is a chemical compound found in the Sprouts (especially in broccoli sprouts but also in Brussel Sprouts) “induces the production of certain enzymes that can deactivate free radicals and carcinogens.” (source)
To simply cook them, trim any loose, yellow or damaged leaves, wash and then trim the base. Some people cut a cross in the base to make sure they cook evenly, but with smaller ones, it’s not necessary, as it can cause them to go mushy. Larger ones can be cut in half. Steam them for 10-15 minutes. Be sure to check them regularly so they don’t overcook as cooking times will vary, depending on size.
These vegetables also contain goitrogens, which may suppress thyroid function. This can interfere with those on hypothyroid medication. Like anything can be absolutely fine in moderation and cooking them can also reverse some of these goitrogenic actions (the 3,3′-diindolylmethane may be an anti-androgen which affects the hormones). In any doubt, please consult your practitioner trained in nutrition for further advice on your personal case.
Here is my favourite way of making them;
Here are some other recipes;