Brussels sprouts have been given a bad rap. This misunderstood member of the cabbage family suffers from a bad reputation due to being over cooked and then forced upon children, who found them repulsive. With memories of mushy, smelly, strong tasting little baby cabbages those children avoided them as adults. Brussels sprouts are an acquired taste, perhaps even more so then cabbage, and have a flavor that is best when cooked promptly and not overcooked.
The fact that brussels sprouts look like little cabbages is no coincidence; brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower are all members of the Brassica family of vegetables. The bitter taste and sulfurous smell of overcooked brussels sprouts is due to glucosinolates which are found in almost all of the Brassicales but are two to three times more prevalent in brussels sprouts. As we age our taste buds grow less sensitive to the bitterness of these vegetables and that combined with proper preparation makes them a delicious treat for many, with Europeans appreciating them more then people in the U.S.
The same thing that turns some people (particularly children) against brussels sprouts makes them so very good for us. The glucosinolates in brussels sprouts strengths the body’s detoxification enzymes which may help the body to clean out potential carcinogens more quickly. Researchers in the Netherlands discovered the a diet of 10 oz. of brussels sprouts per day lead to a decrease in DNA damage which could translate to reducing their over all cancer risks. Various researchers have concluded that as little as 3 to 5 servings of vegetables from the Brassica family will lower risks from the following cancers: prostate, lung, bladder and colorectal, better then consuming similar amounts of other vegetables.
A serving of brussels sprouts is 1 cup and for that cup of goodness you receive not only the previously mentioned cancer fighting qualities but also an incredible amount of various vitamins and nutrients which your body needs for optimum health. Brussels sprouts are considered an excellent source of vitamins K and C, containing more than 100% of their daily suggested value. Additionally those little baby cabbages are a very good source of Vitamins A, B6, B1 and folate, manganese, potassium, tryptophan and dietary fiber. Vegetarians and vegan can’t help but be pleased with brussels sprouts containing 10.4 DV (% of daily value) of iron, 8.0 DV of protein and 5.6 DV of calcium. Although unusually high in protein for a green vegetable, the protein found in brussels sprouts is incomplete and needs a serving of whole grains to supply additional amino acids to make it complete.
Brussels Sprouts derives its name from the capital of Belgium where it was sold in markets as early as the 13th century. It is one of the few vegetables to have originated in northern Europe and still prefers cooler climates. It took awhile for those little cabbages to catch on and they didn’t spread into France and England until the 19th century. Surprising, brussels sprouts managed to migrate to the United States pretty quickly; Thomas Jefferson brought them to America in 1812.
Perhaps part of the reason they haven’t caught on in the U.S. as much as in Europe is because they have a long growing season and are sensitive to hot weather. Due to the fact that they don’t can well and in so many parts of the country the summers are too short or too hot for them to be grown in home gardens many American’s didn’t have an opportunity to eat brussels sprouts until frozen vegetables became common. However, although the got off to a slow start, Brussels sprouts are becoming increasingly popular in America and their taste as well as their many health properties are making new converts everyday.