Be sure to eat your Brussels sprouts

Published 11:48 am Tuesday, September 20, 2022

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Today’s unsung hero of nutrition is Brussels sprouts. They rank 21st on the CDC’s list of powerhouse foods, ahead of cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, turnips, sweet potatoes, turnips, and radishes. 


Brussels sprouts have long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, from which they gained their name. Brussels sprouts may be small, but they deliver big flavor and pack a nutritional wallop. 

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These sprouts may reduce the risk of cancer. They present an impressive lineup of antioxidants, including sulforaphane, a potent antioxidant phytochemical also obtained from other cruciferous vegetables. Sulforaphane and other glucosinolates have been shown to inhibit the growth and development of cancer by protecting cell DNA, inactivating carcinogens, inducing cancer cell death and providing anti-inflammatory effects. 


Brussels sprouts also provide an excellent source of many blood pressure-reducing nutrients, including fiber, potassium, and antioxidants. Potassium helps lower blood pressure by negating the effects of sodium, which tends to raise blood pressure. They can also help manage blood sugar levels. Folks who are diabetic or prediabetic can benefit from eating Brussels sprouts. This vegetable contains an omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-lipoic acid. This antioxidant shows benefits related to glycemic control, improved insulin sensitivity, oxidative stress, and neuropathy in diabetic patients. 


Stronger bones are another benefit of this veggie. Vitamin K is an essential nutrient for bone health. Just a half cup of Brussels sprouts provides 137% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K. Studies show that folks with higher blood levels of vitamin K  also have higher bone density. Brussels sprouts also have bile acid-binding properties. That means they adhere to cholesterol and guide it from the digestive tract, so it doesn’t absorb into the bloodstream, resulting in lower cholesterol levels.


Brussels sprouts supply nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy, including vitamin B9, also called folic acid, and iron. Folate deficiency during pregnancy is linked to severe congenital disabilities known as neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly. 


Don’t like the taste of Brussels sprouts (even though I love them)? There are a couple of reasons…First, cruciferous vegetables contain a sulfur-containing phytochemical which is responsible for the distinctive bitter flavor. The other reason you might find Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables bitter is actually genetic. That’s right, 50 percent of the world’s population has a gene, named TAS2R38, that gives the taste sensation of bitterness.


The United States produces a staggering 32,000 tons of Brussels sprouts annually, with the largest producers being California, followed by Washington, and New York. The heaviest Brussels sprout weighed in at 18lb 3oz in 1992. Even though the British produce nowhere near the number of sprouts their Dutch cousins produce, they consume the most when compared to the whole of Europe. The peak season for Brussels sprouts is late September to February, however, you can find them all year round. 


David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer. Questions? Email David at, or text to 864-494-6215.