Brussels sprouts are one of those vegetables that people either love or hate. Brussels sprouts are synonyms of comfort food, roast dinners, winter and Christmas. Brussels sprouts are native to the region of Brussels in Belgium and they can resemble little cabbages.
I didn’t grow up eating brussels sprouts. It is not a vegetable that you regularly see in a Portuguese or more Mediterranean type of plate. I have become fond of brussels sprouts when I moved to London in 2010 and fully immersed myself into the British gastronomie and culture.
What I love about brussels sprouts is their unique taste – its bitterness that can challenge someone’s taste buds at first, a contrast to the sweetness of vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots and peppers. The bitter taste of brussels sprouts can be attributed to the sulphur-containing plant compound called glucosinolate, a compound present in all cruciferous vegetables (Miekus et al. 2020).
Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetables family, the same group of vegetables as broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower (Abellan et al. 2019).
Cruciferous vegetables have been associated with a variety of health-promoting effects: boosting detoxification and immunity, aiding weight loss, lowering inflammation, LDL cholesterol, and reducing the risk of cardio-vascular diseases and several types of cancer, including lung and colon-rectal cancer (Raiola et al. 2017; Miekus et al. 2020). These effects have been linked to carotenoids, phenolics and glucosinolates, plant compounds well-known for their antioxidant capacity (Raiola et al. 2017).
Brussels sprouts are good sources of:
(USDA National Nutrient Database, 2021)
B vitamins (particularly B1, B5 and B5)
Minerals: copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus
However, their bitter taste can be improved slightly after cooking, heat and methods such as microwaving or boiling can decrease the release of glucosinolates, in particular one of their derived compounds called isothiocyanates (Shahrajabian et al. 2019). Isothiocyanates are formed after chewing cruciferous vegetables by an enzyme called myrosinase which increases release and absorption of isothiocyanates. Additionally, thoroughly chewing cruciferous vegetables can also double the concentration of isothiocyanates (Thirumdas, 2017).
If you are planning to cook or buy brussels sprouts and still want to ensure their best nutritional value choose the following: steaming, high pressure or frozen (Thirumdas, 2017), and remember the slower you eat (chew each mouthful 30 times), the more you are optimising your digestion, stress response and mind-body awareness (Cherpak, 2019).
Thus, all the vitamins, minerals and plant compounds present in Brussels sprouts make this vegetable a key food to be included in the daily recommended vegetable intake (7 portions of vegetables and fruit a day (5 vegetables vs. 2 fruit) (BANT, 2017). With the surge of COVID-19, boosting our immunity through a diverse and increased intake of vegetables and fruit – EAT THE COLOURS OF THE RAINBOW – has become even more important for overall good health a and protection from not only COVID-19 but other diseases (Baidya & Sethy, 2020).
Abellán, A, Domínguez-Perles, R. et al. (2019). ‘Sorting out the value of cruciferous sprouts as sources of bioactive compounds for nutrition and health, Nutrients, 11(429), p.2-22.
Baidya, B.K. & Sethy, P. (2020). ‘Importance of fruits and vegetables in boosting our immune system amid the COVID19’, Food and Scientific Reports, 1(70), p.50-55.
British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (2017). BANT comments on a study which states ‘You should be eating 10 pieces of fruit or veg every day’. [Online]. Available at: https://bant.org.uk/2017/02/23/bant-comments-on-a-study-which-states-you-should-be-eating-10-pieces-of-fruit-or-veg-every-day/#:~:text=On%20a%20daily%20target%20of%20seven%20vegetables%20and,is%20recommended%20over%20frozen%20and%20canned%20fruit%20consumption (Accessed: 25 January 2021).
Cherpak, C.E. (2019). ‘Mindful Eating: a review of how the stress-digestionMindfulness triad may modulate And improve gastrointestinal and digestive function’, Integrative Medicine, 18(4), pp.44-53.
Miekus, N, Marszalek, K. et al. (2020).‘Health benefits of plant-derived sulfur compounds, glucosinolates, and organosulfur compounds’, Molecules, p.2-22.
Raiola, A. Errico, A. et al. (2017). ‘Bioactive compounds in brassicaceae vegetables with a role in the prevention of chronic diseases’, Nutrients, 23(15), p.1-10.
Shahrajabian, M.H. Sun, W. et al. (2019). ‘The most Important pharmaceutical benefits of sulforaphane, a sulfur-rich compound in cruciferous’, Research on Crop Ecophysiology, 14(2), pp. 66 – 75.
Thirumdas, R. & Kothakotab, A. (2017). ‘Health benefits of dietary glucosinolates and its derived isothiocyanates’, Indian Food Industry, 37(2), p.31-37.
USDA National Nutrient Database (2021). Brussels Sprouts. [Online]. Available at: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1121763/nutrients (Accessed: 25 January 2021).
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