One vegetable, many benefits.
Brussels sprouts have long been subject to unfair portrayal. Thanks to older varieties that used to be grown and harvested, Brussels sprouts once were an item that many feared would show up on the dinner table. Varieties have changed and so has the flavor.
The varieties have improved over the past few year and Brussels sprouts are finally getting the time in the spotlight they deserve. Foodies everywhere are becoming aware of the beneficial properties as well as this cruciferous veggie’s ability to compliment many favorite dishes.
We boiled down some of the Brussels sprout’s most notable health benefits – although it is important to note there are many more benefits that aren’t listed below. When you look a bit closer, it’s easy to see why this vegetable deserves its spot as a nutrient super star.
One Veggie, Many Health Benefits
Shoppers should know that the strong flavors they are tasting are the disease-fighting phytonutrients in the plants. These phenols, flavonoids and glucosinolates appear to lower the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. These plant ‘toxins’ help protect the plant from disease and thus are some of the most potent compounds to help protect people from diseases, especially cancer.
Preserving the brain and eating foods that contribute to mental acuity has gained attention as more and more funding has been funneled into neurological research. Several nutrients that are native to the Brussels Sprout contribute to maintaining optimal brain health.
- Brussels sprouts deliver folate, which works with vitamin B12―found in fish, poultry, meat and dairy―to help prevent cognitive impairment.
- In research from Tufts University, older adults with healthy levels of folate and B12 performed better on a test of response speed and mental flexibility.
- Brussels Sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin-K, 100g provides 147% of the RDA. Vitamin-K helps limit neuronal damage in the brain and has been known to at least play a part in preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s disease.
If your vision is not as good as it used to be, or if maintaining your visual prowess is of importance to you, then adding Brussels sprouts to your diet may be right for you.
- The phytonutrients lutein and zeaxanthin are found in Brussels sprouts. These may help protect from cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Brussels sprouts also contain vitamin-A, which has long been considered essential to maintaining eye health. Vitamin-A contributes to visual acuity, particularly in low light.
Bone health is something we oftentimes take for granted until it is too late. It is never too early to contribute to positive bone health and density by adding foods to your plate that contain macronutrients that contribute to your bone’s well being.
- Potassium, magnesium and vitamin-K are essential to bone health and are all found in Brussels sprouts.
- A 1-cup serving contains more than 130% of the daily value of vitamin K, 342 mg potassium and 20 mg magnesium. Sprouts even contain 37 mg of calcium.
- Vitamin-K is involved in bone mineralization and has been proven by studies to contribute to healthy levels of bone density.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Now, more than ever, it is critical to do everything we can to contribute to our heart’s well being by eating healthful foods that promote heart maintenance. The Brussels sprout contains several notable nutrients that can aid in the fight against heart disease.
- Sulforaphane, a phytochemical present in Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables, has received wide attention for its potential to improve vascular function. Researchers have found that it can inhibit adhesion of substances responsible for blocking blood flow in atherosclerosis.
- Quercetin, another well-studied type of flavonol in Brussels sprouts may also help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Research reviews have examined a variety of mechanisms by which several polyphenols in Brussels sprouts – such as hydroxycinnamic acids – may contribute to endothelial protection and decrease oxidative stress in the cardiovascular system
Cancer, behind heart disease, is the second leading cause of death in the United States. A reason for this is because of how egregiously carcinogenic many modern processed foods are. Brussels Sprouts contain nutrients that can contribute to cancer prevention and are invaluable to preventing carcinogens from becoming active.
- The amount of research on the cancer-preventive components found in Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables is astounding. The phytonutrient class isothiocyanates (of which sulforaphane is one) appears to inhibit carcinogens in three ways: 1) Prevent carcinogens from becoming active; 2) Counter the poisonous effects of carcinogens that have been activated; and 3) speed up their removal from the body.
- Researchers have found in the lab that isothiocyanates are so powerful they can even block late stages of the cancer process much like certain drugs do. Beyond the lab, an inverse association between dietary intake of cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk has been observed in population-based case-control studies; scientists have partly attributed this to the phytochemical isothiocyanates. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the incorporation of a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts may in fact be key to chemoprevention.