Brussel sprouts are usually near the top of most superfood lists. A cruciferous vegetable, they are related to broccoli, kale, and collard greens, and cabbage. In fact each sprout looks like a little cabbage. Brussel sprouts are rich in vitamins and the nutritional data is as follows for a 100 gram serving: 40 calories, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein. They also provide 15% DV (Daily Value) of vitamin A and 140% DV of vitamin C, while providing 8% DV of iron and 4% DV of calcium. In addition, they are considered mildly anti-inflammatory, considered by Dr. Joel Fuhrman very nutrient dense, with his ANDI score of 672. Very near the top of his list!
Brussel sprouts (Brassica oleracea Gemmifera Group) of the Brassicaceae family, is a Cultivar group of wild cabbage cultivated for its small (typically 2.5–4 cm or 1–1.5 in diameter) leafy green buds, which resemble miniature cabbages.
Forerunners to modern Brussels sprouts were likely cultivated in ancient Rome. Brussels sprout as we now know them were grown possibly as early as the 1200s in what is now Belgium. The first written reference dates to 1587. During the sixteenth century they enjoyed popularity in the southern Netherlands that eventually spread throughout the cooler parts of Northern Europe.
Plants grow from seeds in seed beds or greenhouses, and are transplanted to growing fields. Fields are ready for harvest 90-180 days after planting. The edible sprouts grow like buds in a spiral array on the side of long thick stalks of approximately 60 to 120 cm (2–4 ft) in height, maturing over several weeks from the lower to the upper part of the stalk. Sprouts may be picked by hand into baskets, in which case several harvests are made of 5-15 sprouts at a time or by cutting the entire stalk at once for processing, or by mechanical harvester.
Cooking methods for brussel sprouts include boiling, steaming and roasting. To ensure even cooking throughout chose buds of a similar size. Some cooks will cut a cross in center of the stem to aid the penetration of heat. Whatever cooking method is employed, care must be taken not to overcook. Overcooking releases the sulphur smelling glucosinolate, sinigrin. This is the reason many people profess to dislike Brussels sprouts; only ever having tried overcooked sprouts with the accompanying sulfuric taste and smell. Generally boiling or steamed 6–7 minutes is enough to cook, without overcooking and releasing the sinigrin.
Brussels sprouts are among the same family that includes cabbage, collard greens, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi: they are cruciferous. They contain good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber.
Although they contain compounds such as goitrin that can act as goitrogens and interfere with thyroid hormone production, realistic amounts in the diet do not seem to have any effect on the function of the thyroid gland in humans.
Brussels sprouts are believed to protect against colon cancer, due to their sinigrin content. Sinigrin is a glucosinolate which belongs to the family of glucosides found in some plants of the Brassica family such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and the seeds of black mustard (Brassica nigra) to name but a few. Research has suggested that sinigrin may destroy pre-cancerous cells through a process called apoptosis. It has been suggested, therefore, that sinigrin may prevent cancer of the colon if foods containing it are eaten regularly.
Here is a more complete nutritional breakdown of raw brussel sprouts per 100 g (3.5 oz).
Carbohydrates 8.95 g, Sugars 2.2 g, Dietary fiber 3.8 g, Fat 0.30 g, Protein 3.38 g, Vitamin A equivalent 4%, Thiamine (Vit. B1) 11%, Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.090 mg 6%, Niacin (Vit. B3) 0.745 mg 5%, Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.309 mg 6%, Folate (Vit. B9) 15%, Vitamin C 85 mg 142%, Vitamin E 0.88 mg 6%, Calcium 42 mg 4%, Iron 1.4 mg 11%, Magnesium 23 mg 6%, Phosphorus 69 mg 10%, Potassium 389 mg 8%, Sodium 25 mg 1%, and Zinc 0.42 mg 4%
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database.