Brussels sprouts are small, round, bright green vegetables. They are most often about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) wide. They belong to the cabbage family, which also includes kale, broccoli, collard greens, and cauliflower. In fact, Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages, but they are milder in flavor.
Brussels sprouts need to be cooked so they are tender for eating. They are full of nutrients and can be included in many meals.
Why They are Good for you
Brussels sprouts are full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. You can count on Brussels sprouts to support your immune system, blood and bone health, and more. Eating just a few Brussels sprouts will give you plenty of vitamin C and vitamin K.
Brussels sprouts rank high in antioxidants, just after kale and spinach. Antioxidants are substances that can help you stay healthy by preventing cell damage in the body. Just half cup (120 milliliters, mL) of cooked Brussels sprouts will give you almost half of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C.
Many other vitamins and minerals are in Brussels sprouts, including vitamin A, potassium, and folate. Regularly eating Brussels sprouts and similar vegetables may help to prevent many common cancers, although this is not proven.
Brussels sprouts are very filling. The leaves are tightly packed and dense. They are also low in calories, so they can help you maintain a healthy weight. A cup (240 mL) of Brussels sprouts has about 3 grams (g) each of fiber and protein and just 75 calories. They are one of several "super veggies" that give you the most nutrients for the fewest calories.
If you take the blood-thinning drug, warfarin (Coumadin), you may need to limit your intake of foods that are high in vitamin K. Warfarin makes your blood less likely to form clots. Vitamin K and foods containing vitamin K can affect how blood-thinners work.
How They are Prepared
Before you cook Brussels sprouts, be sure to wash and clean them. Cut off the tough bottom and remove any outer, wilted leaves. When cleaning Brussels sprouts before cooking, cut an X-shape in the bottom after you trim the tough bottom. This will help them cook more evenly.
Brussels sprouts can be added to any warm meal and prepared in several simple ways, such as:
- Microwave in a microwave-safe bowl with one quarter cup (60 mL) of water for about 4 minutes.
- Steam in a small pan on the stove with an inch (17 mL) of water. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Roast after coating with olive oil on a sheet pan for 25 to 30 minutes at 400°F (204°C). Add a little salt and pepper, or other flavorings like red pepper flakes.
- Sauté on stove top with garlic and olive oil. Add chicken, mushrooms, or beans for a hearty meal. Add whole wheat or high fiber pasta as well.
Boiling Brussel sprouts is not recommended because much of the vitamin C is lost with this cooking method.
Where to Find Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are available year round in the grocery store produce section. You will find them near the broccoli and other greens. Pick Brussels sprouts that are firm and bright green. Avoid Brussels sprouts that are soft or yellowing.
Put Brussels sprouts on your weekly shopping list. They will last in the refrigerator for at least 3 to 5 days.
There are many delicious Brussel sprouts recipes. Here is one to try.
- Half pound (227 g) Brussels sprouts
- Half cup (120 mL) chicken broth, low-sodium
- One teaspoon (5 mL) lemon juice
- One teaspoon (5 mL) brown mustard (spicy)
- One teaspoon (5 mL) thyme (dried)
- Half cup (120 g) mushroom (sliced)
- Trim Brussels sprouts and cut in half. Steam until tender, for 6 to 10 minutes, or microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes.
- In a non-stick pot, bring the broth to a boil.
- Mix in the lemon juice, mustard, and thyme. Add the mushrooms.
- Boil until the broth is reduced by half, for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the Brussels sprouts (or other cooked vegetables).
- Toss well to coat with the sauce.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture
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Bosetti C, Filomeno M, Riso P, et al. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk in a network of case-control studies. Ann Oncol. 2012;23(8):2198-2203. PMID: 22328735 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22328735.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Seasonal produce guide: Brussels sprouts. Updated July 1, 2016. snaped.fns.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce/brussels-sprouts. Accessed May 4, 2016.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 - 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th ed. Updated December 2015. health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf. Accessed May 4, 2016
Review Date 4/24/2016
Updated by: Emily Wax, RD, The Brooklyn Hospital Center, Brooklyn, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.