Thursday, January 7, 2016

Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts

The Brussels sprout is a member of the Gemmifera Group of cabbages (Brassica oleracea), grown for its edible buds.

The leafy green vegetables are typically 2.5–4 cm (0.98–1.6 in) in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have originated and gained its name there.

Nutrients, phytochemicals and research
Raw Brussels sprouts contain excellent levels of vitamin C and vitamin K, with more moderate amounts of B vitamins, such as folic acid and vitamin B6 (USDA nutrient table, right); essential minerals and dietary fibre exist in lesser amounts (table).

Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contain sulforaphane, a phytochemical under basic research for its potential anticancer properties. Although boiling reduces the level of sulforaphane, steaming and stir frying do not result in significant loss.

Consuming Brussels sprouts in excess may not be suitable for patients taking anticoagulants since they contain vitamin K, a blood-clotting factor. In one such reported incident, eating too many Brussels sprouts may have countered blood-thinning therapy.

VARIETIES: There are several different varieties of hybrid Brussels sprouts currently being grown in the US. Hybrid varieties replaced the open-pollinated types produced prior to the 1960's because of the need for more uniform maturation of the plants due to the switch from hand harvesting to machine. Some of the original varieties developed, particularly Jade Cross, had several characteristics that were desirable, though they tasted rather bitter. The current varieties have an improved taste, as some are almost sweet. The first variety of the season in California is a hand-picked variety called Confidant. It matures rather rapidly, allowing harvesting to begin approximately 90 days after transplanting. The sprouts mature from the bottom of the plant up and are usually picked 4 to 5 times over 8-10 weeks. Confidant is a medium green color, and has a fairly mild taste. This variety is harvested from late June through early October. Following the handpicking comes the first of the machine-harvested sprouts. The first variety that matures in 140-160 days from transplanting is also Confidant, though they are topped between 90-100 days so that the sprouts mature uniformly along the stalk . They are slightly darker green, denser, with tightly wrapped leaves. These are usually available from October through November. The late season varieties are Genius and Cobus. They take from 180-195 days from transplanting to harvest, and they are available from December through January.  These varieties are used because of their better tolerance of the winter weather.

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 179 kJ (43 kcal)
8.95 g
Sugars 2.2 g
Dietary fibre 3.8 g
Fat 0.3 g
Protein 3.38 g
Vitamin A equiv. 38 µg (5%) 
beta-carotene    450 µg (4%) 
lutein zeaxanthin 1590 µg

Thiamine (B1) (12%) 0.139 mg
Riboflavin (B2) (8%) 0.09 mg
Niacin (B3) (5%) 0.745 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5) (6%) 0.309 mg
Vitamin B6 (17%) 0.219 mg
Folate (B9) (15%) 61 µg
Choline (4%) 19.1 mg
Vitamin C (102%) 85 mg
Vitamin E (6%) 0.88 mg
Vitamin K (169%) 177 µg
Calcium (4%) 42 mg
Iron (11%) 1.4 mg
Magnesium (6%) 23 mg
Manganese (16%) 0.337 mg
Phosphorus (10%) 69 mg
Potassium (8%) 389 mg
Sodium (2%) 25 mg
Zinc (4%) 0.42 mg
Other constituents
Water 86 g

Cooking and Preparation

The most common method of preparing Brussels sprouts for cooking begins with cutting the buds off the stalk. Any surplus stem is cut away, and any loose surface leaves are peeled and discarded. Once cut and cleaned, the buds are typically cooked by boiling, steaming, stir frying, grilling, or roasting. To ensure even cooking throughout, buds of a similar size are usually chosen. Some cooks will make a single cut or a cross in the center of the stem to aid the penetration of heat. Brussels sprouts can be pickled as an alternative to cooking.

Overcooking will render the buds gray and soft, and they then develop a strong flavour and odour that some dislike. The odor is associated with the glucosinolate sinigrin, an organic compound that contains sulfur: hence the strong smell. For taste, roasting Brussels sprouts is a common way to cook them to bring out flavor. Common toppings or additions for Brussels sprouts include Parmesan cheese and butter, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, bacon, pistachios, pine nuts, mustard, brown sugar, and pepper. Another popular way of cooking Brussels sprouts is to saute them.

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