Brussels sprouts are winter crops flourishing well under the cool weather and light frosting conditions. The well-grown plant reaches about 90 cm in height. The sprouts develop all along the stalk, starting from the base and moving upward. Each sprout, in general, features similarity in appearance and structure to cabbage, but only minuscule in size, measuring about 1-1.5 inches in diameter.
Structurally, each sprout head consists of clusters of thick leaves superimposed in dense layers, giving it a round or globular shape as in cabbages.
Farmers trim the tip end of the stalk as soon as sprouts at the bottom end of the stalk begin to develop to get uniform sized sprouts. The developing buds are protected from direct sunlight since exposure to hot weather would lead to loose, less-compact buds. Brussel Sprouts are one of the most popular vegetables in the United States and Mediterranean Europe.
Health benefits of Brussel sprouts
Brussel sprouts are one of the low-glycemic nutritious vegetables that should be considered in weight reduction programs. 100 grams of sprouts provide just 45 calories. Nonetheless, they carry 3.38 g of protein, 3.80 g of dietary fiber (10% of RDA) and zero cholesterol.
In fact, brussels sprouts are a storehouse of several flavonoid anti-oxidants such as thiocyanates, indoles, lutein, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane, and isothiocyanates. Together, these phytochemicals offer protection from prostate, colon, and endometrial cancers.
Di-indolyl-methane (DIM), a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol, is found to be an effective immune modulator, antibacterial and anti-viral agent through its action of potentiating “Interferon-gamma” receptors.
Additionally, Brussel sprouts contain a glucoside, sinigrin. Early laboratory studies suggest that sinigrin fights against colon cancers by destroying pre-cancerous cells.
Brussel sprouts are excellent sources of vitamin-C; 100 g sprouts provide about 85 mg or 142% of the RDA. Together with other antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A and-E, it helps protect the human body from the viral illness by trapping harmful free radicals.
Zea-xanthin, an important dietary carotenoid found in sprouts, is selectively absorbed into the retinal macula-lutea in the human eyes where it thought to provide antioxidant and protective UV light-filtering functions. Thus, it helps prevent retinal damage, “age-related macular degeneration related macular degeneration disease” (ARMD), in the older adults.
Brussel sprouts are a wonderful source of another antioxidant vitamin, vitamin-A; providing about 754 IU per 100 g (25% of RDA). Vitamin-A is required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin and is essential for eye health. Foods rich in this vitamin have been found to offer protection against lung and oral cavity cancers.
It is one of the excellent vegetable sources for vitamin-K; 100 g provides about 177 µg or about 147% of RDA. Vitamin K has potential role bone health by promoting osteoblastic (bone formation and strengthening) activity. Adequate vitamin-K levels in the diet help limit the extent of neuronal damage in the brain and thereby, preventing or at least delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Further, the sprouts are notably useful in many B-complex groups of vitamins such as niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid that are essential for substrate metabolism in the human body.
They are also rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus. 100 g fresh sprouts provide 25 mg (1.5% of RDA) sodium and 389 mg (8% of RDA) potassium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure by countering effects of sodium. Manganese used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for cellular oxidation and red blood cell formation.
Brussels sprouts are incredibly nutritious vegetables that offer protection from vitamin-A deficiency, bone loss, iron-deficiency anemia, and believed to protect from cardiovascular diseases and colon and prostate cancers.
Selection and storage
Brussel sprouts are cool season vegetables. In general, sprouts harvested when their lower buds reach maturity and achieve about an inch in diameter. Fresh sprouts should feature firm, compact, and dark green heads. Avoid sprouts that featuring loose leaf, yellowish and light in hand.
Fresh sprouts keep well inside the refrigerator for up to a day or two. Remove any damaged or discolored outer leaves and store fresh unwashed sprouts in plastic bags/zip pouches in the vegetable container inside the refrigerator.
Preparation and serving methods
Before cooking, remove discolored and loose outer leaves and trim the stem end. Wash in clean water, and then, soak for a few minutes in salt water to remove any dirt particles and insect’s eggs.
Fresh sprouts exhibit delicate flavor, however, overcooking results in the release of allyl isothiocyanates imparting sulfurous odor (pungent smell) to cooked recipes. Therefore, blanch sprouts in boiling water for just about 5 minutes, cool and then add to the recipes.
Here are some serving tips:
Sprouts can be cooked boiling, microwaving or steaming.
Roasted and salted sprouts are one of the favorite snacks across Europe.
Blanched sprouts are braised/ mixed with other vegetables like carrot, green beans, or mushrooms.
The sprouts used as a favorite add-on in chicken casseroles.