Brussels sprouts: The superfood you don’t want to miss

Brussels sprouts: The superfood you don’t want to miss

Brussels sprouts: The superfood you don’t want to miss



5  Mins Read

Rainbow Color Group: Green

Celebratory festivities at Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are often surrounded by food. Despite being one of the designated festive foods, Brussel sprouts often appear on the most-hated vegetables list for its bitter taste when overcooked. Before you write them off completely, let us win your heart back through stellar nutrition and versatility.

Brussels sprouts belong to the cruciferous vegetable family; other members include broccoli and kale. They are indeed one of the few vegetables that supply loads of beneficial antioxidants and nutrients while delivering protein at the same time. Just one serving of Brussels sprouts provide a whole day’s worth of both Vitamins C and K!

In Hong Kong, the chinese name for Brussels sprouts is “mini cabbage” or “baby cabbage”. That’s why some people may have mistaken them as the young version of cabbage. Although both vegetables belong to the cruciferous family and they are related, they are two different kinds of vegetables. The more common cabbages that most people know have heads grown out of the ground. Brussels sprouts, on the other hand, are buds grown out from a long, thick stalk; usually we will find at least 10 to 20 sprouts on each stalk.

Nutritional tidbits

1 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains:

  • Calories: 56
  • Carbohydrates: 10.9 g
  • Sugar: 2.7 g
  • Fibre: 4.0 g
  • Fat: 0.8 g
  • Protein: 3.9 g
  • Glycemic Index: <20  (Low)
  • Gluten Free: Yes

Health benefits of Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts have many health benefits, but one thing that stands out the most is their antioxidant profile. In particular, Brussels sprouts are rich in antioxidant kaempferol, a nutrient has been been found to tame inflammation and reduce cancer cell growth. In addition, Brussels sprouts contain a sulfur-containing nutrient called glucosinolates which are able to regulate inflammatory responses. In other words,  they have high anti-inflammatory capabilities.

Speaking about Vitamin C, most people immediately think of citrus fruits. Indeed, fruits are not the only sources for Vitamin C, Brussels sprouts are also a good source; they help promote iron absorption, tissue repair, as well as collagen production. One cup of Brussels sprouts can meet your daily Vitamin C requirement!

Brussels sprouts are also an excellent source of Vitamin K; just half a cup already provides more than the daily requirement. We may have heard of Vitamin K being helpful in blood coagulation, but it is also crucial for bone growth. Studies have found that Vitamin K plays an important role in strengthening bones and preventing bone fractures in postmenopausal women.

How to choose Brussels sprouts

Although they are available almost all year round, Brussels sprouts are particularly abundant from late fall through winter. At the grocery stores or wet markets, they are sold still attached to the stalk or loose. Those still attached to the stalk can be kept longer. Remember to wrap unused portions with paper towels and keep them attached to the stalk in refrigerator until you cook them. For those sold loose, choose small, tight heads; smaller sprouts are likely to be sweeter and more tender. Regardless of the form, avoid choosing ones with yellow leaves or yellow spots.

How to prep and cook Brussels sprouts

The biggest challenge of cooking these little green gems is that because they are tightly packed, it is not easy to cook them thoroughly. And because we often want to make sure they are fully cooked, overcooking happens and at the end no one wants to eat them. Some people describe a bitter taste from Brussels sprouts; this is normal of vegetables that have natural sulfur-containing nutrients. When Brussel sprouts (especially when boiling) are overcooked, it will also intensify the bitter flavours and unpleasant smell.

As a general rule, smaller sprouts (less than 1 ½ inches in diameter) can be cooked intact. Sprouts bigger than 1 ½ inches in diameter are best cut into halves or quarters to shorten the cooking time. Either way, trim just a small amount on the stem portion.

Instead of boiling, you may try the following 3 easy ways of cooking Brussels sprouts:

  1. Roasting: Arrange sprouts on the baking pan lined with parchment paper. Alternately place halved or quartered sprouts with cut-side-down; do not overlap. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and preferred spices. Roast at 200C (400F) for 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Steaming: Place sprouts into steamer and steam for 6 minutes. Check for tenderness to see if extra time is needed. If you are using a stovetop steamer, remove the lid once in a while to release the sulfur components.
  3. Sauteing: Separate the leaves after trimming the bottom stem. Heat up a cooking pan, then add olive oil, minced garlic and other desirable condiments. Quickly saute or stir-fry the leaves, similar to how you usually stir-fry other green leafy vegetables.

Gloria Tsang - Registered Dietitian