Brussels Sprouts: A Superfood with Impressive Health Benefits
The health benefits of Brussels sprouts are so impressive that you'd think this hearty cruciferous vegetable shows up near the top of every 'superfood list'. Research shows that Brussels sprouts contain more glucosinolates than any other common crucifer, more vitamin C than oranges, and almost twice as much vitamin K as red cabbage! However, for some reason, this unsung superfood has not managed to get the attention it deserves from health food enthusiasts.
In this in-depth article, we take a look at the various nutrients and phytochemicals that make Brussels sprouts so good for you.
Brussels Sprouts Contain More Glucosinolates Than Any Other Common Crucifer
A number of epidemiological studies (studies that compare groups of people) have found a link between a high consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, and a reduced risk of several types of cancer. Evidence suggests that the strong anti-cancer effects of crucifers are likely linked to the glucosinolates they contain.
When glucosinolates are brought into contact with the enzyme myrosinase by pests, food processing, or chewing, the food begins to produce highly reactive mustard oils called isothiocyanates. While these oils can cause severe gastric irritation in dogs, they are considered extremely beneficial to human health. In laboratory studies, these mustard oils have been shown to induce Phase II enzymes, beneficial enzymes that convert cancer-causing agents into harmless substances. In addition, isothiocyanates have been shown to stimulate apoptosis (self-destruction) in human tumor cells, both in vitro and in vivo.
But there's a catch: not all cruciferous vegetables contain equally large amounts of glucosinolates. A study analyzing the glucosinolate content of 11 Brassica oleracea crops (consisting of 42 cultivars) reported that the total glucosinolate content varied from 14 to 625 μmol/100 g (fresh weight, or FW) among the tested crucifers. The lowest levels were generally found in the mildest tasting Brassicas, such as cauliflower, kohlrabi, and romanesco, while the highest levels were reported for – yes, you guessed right – Brussels sprouts! This study appeared in the journal Acta Horticulturae in 2010.
Brussels Sprouts Contain Even More Vitamin C Than Oranges!
Ask someone to mention a food that is particularly rich in vitamin C, and the chances are he or she will name a common citrus fruit such as the navel orange. Inarguably, oranges can provide your body with a healthy dose of vitamin C, but guess what – Brussels sprouts deliver even more vitamin C than oranges! One ounce of cooked Brussels sprouts provide a whopping 29% of the Daily Value for vitamin C (and raw Brussels sprouts provide even more). An ounce of navel oranges, by contrast, provides 25% of the Daily Value for vitamin C.
But why are vitamin C rich foods, such as Brussels sprouts, so good for you? For one thing, vitamin C helps keep your skin and veins strong and healthy by promoting collagen synthesis and by acting as an antioxidant. Vitamin C also helps prevent iron deficiency by improving the body's capability to absorb dietary iron from foods. Iron deficiency, which is ranked as the most widespread nutritional disorder in the world by the World Health Organization, is a common cause of anemia.
Weight Loss Benefits of Brussels Sprouts
Did you know that eating Brussels sprouts on a regular basis as part of a balanced diet may also help you lose weight? Brussels sprouts are very low in calories (one ounce of cooked and drained Brussels sprouts weigh in at about 10 calories), and they contain only trace amounts of fat.
In addition, the large amounts of vitamin C Brussels sprouts may improve your body's ability to burn fat during moderate physical exercise. A study conducted by a team of scientists from Arizona State University reported that the study participants who had low blood concentrations of vitamin C burned 25% less fat during a 60-minute walk on a treadmill, compared with those who showed adequate blood levels of vitamin C.
The potential weight loss benefits of vitamin C may be linked to its ability to facilitate the synthesis of carnitine, a compound that has been shown to boost cells' fat burning capabilities.
Brussels Sprouts Are Packed with Vitamin K
If you're still not impressed by the nutritional value and health benefits of Brussels sprouts, consider this: Brussels sprouts are also supercharged vitamin K. According to USDA's Nutrition Facts data, just one ounce of cooked Brussels sprouts can supply your body with half of the Daily Value for vitamin K (that's nearly twice as much vitamin K as in red cabbage)! Vitamin K is well known for its role in blood coagulation, but new research suggests that this often underappreciated nutrient might also be one of the most important vitamins for cardiovascular health.
Brussels sprouts also show up on HealWithFood.org's list of the best food remedies for cellulite. Brussels sprouts contain a natural compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which is a pre-cursor to diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM helps certain liver enzymes to block the production of 16-OH estrogens, harmful substances that can cause cellulite by breaking down collagen which is supposed to keep your skin strong.
Brussels sprouts are also loaded with vitamin C, a real anti-cellulite nutrient which fights those unsightly bumps and lumps by promoting collagen synthesis and by scavenging free radicals.