Brussels sprouts have as much vitamin C as oranges — and plenty of other health benefits

For many people, Christmas dinner wouldn’t be complete without Brussels sprouts. Indeed, it is Britain’s favorite Christmas dinner vegetable. But if you haven’t converted, perhaps these health benefits will entice you to give them a second chance.

The sprouts belong to the cruciferous or cruciferous family of cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, kale, and broccoli. Like all cabbages, Brussels sprouts are packed with fiber, which is good for keeping the beneficial bacteria in your gut happy.

They also provide essential minerals like potassium and calcium to keep your muscles and bones healthy. They are rich in vitamins K and C, which support a healthy immune system and bones.

You get more vitamin C than oranges when eaten raw. Cooked Brussels sprouts still contain vitamin C—about the same pound you’d get from orange juice and raw oranges.

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Most importantly, Brussels sprouts are rich in a wide variety of natural chemicals that have been linked to health, such as carotenoids and polyphenols. They are especially abundant in sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates.

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Think about the last time you cooked Brussels sprouts, cabbage, or cauliflower. Have you ever stopped to wonder what that pungent smell is? This is the breakdown of sulfur compounds in the sprouts. These are what give Brussels sprouts its characteristic bitter taste. So the more bitter it is to saturate with these beneficial chemicals, the better.

So you may wonder why these chemicals are so special. Various scientific studies have shown that these sulfur compounds are powerful antioxidants that can improve health by preventing cell damage.

Various studies have also shown that higher consumption of these cruciferous glucosinolates, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cabbage, is associated with a reduced risk of developing a wide range of cancers. Research continues to gather more evidence of its benefits, but the best advice to keep in mind is to try to eat about five servings of cruciferous vegetables per week and vary your options.

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Bitter sulfur compounds are part of Brussels sprouts’ advanced defense system known as the mustard oil bomb, which deters insects from biting but still allows pollination to attract insects.

And because plants are clever, brassica vegetables contain about 200 different glucosinolates, and each of these vegetables has different combinations that give them their characteristic flavor. This is why the following vegetables in the Brassica family have different flavors: broccoli, kale, kale, swedish, wasabi, horseradish, turnip, arugula, watercress, cauliflower, and mustard.

how to cook

For convenience, Brussels sprouts are often boiled. But if you boil them for too long, they not only lose their nutritional value (some glucosinolates are destroyed by heat and are lost in water), but also give the sprouts an unpleasant odor and taste.

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So what are the other options?

You can fry the sprouts in a pan with some olive oil or butter and some garlic and herbs. An alternative would be to steam or microwave them. But make sure they maintain their crunchiness.

Or why not get adventurous and try something new by cutting them raw, into small pieces and adding sprouts to a salad?

Don’t forget to try Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts the next time you walk through the fruit and vegetable aisle of the supermarket. Cabbages like Brussels sprouts are for life—not just for Christmas.

Federico Bernuzzi, Research Scientist, Quadram Institute and Maria Traka, Research Lead for Personalized Nutrition and Gut Microbiome, Quadram Institute

This article has been republished under a Creative Commons license from The Conversation.

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