What's New and Beneficial About Brussels Sprouts
- Brussels sprouts can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you will use a steaming method when cooking them. The fiber-related components in Brussels sprouts do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they've been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it's easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw Brussels sprouts still have cholesterol-lowering ability-just not as much as steamed Brussels sprouts.
- Brussels sprouts may have unique health benefits in the area of DNA protection. A recent study has shown improved stability of DNA inside of our white blood cells after daily consumption of Brussels sprouts in the amount of 1.25 cups. Interestingly, it's the ability of certain compounds in Brussels sprouts to block the activity of sulphotransferase enzymes that researchers believe to be responsible for these DNA-protective benefits.
- For total glucosinolate content, Brussels sprouts are now known to top the list of commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. Their total glucosinolate content has been shown to be greater than the amount found in mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli. In Germany, Brussels sprouts account for more glucosinolate intake than any other food except broccoli. Glucosinolates are important phytonutrients for our health because they are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances. All cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates and have great health benefits for this reason. But it's recent research that's made us realize how especially valuable Brussels sprouts are in this regard.
- The cancer protection we get from Brussels sprouts is largely related to four specific glucosinolates found in this cruciferous vegetable: glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, sinigrin, and gluconasturtiian. Research has shown that Brussels sprouts offer these cancer-preventive components in special combination.
- Brussels sprouts have been used to determine the potential impact of cruciferous vegetables on thyroid function. In a recent study, 5 ounces of Brussels sprouts were consumed on a daily basis for 4 consecutive weeks by a small group of healthy adults and not found to have an unwanted impact on their thyroid function. Although follow-up studies are needed, this study puts at least one large stamp of approval on Brussels sprouts as a food that can provide fantastic health benefits without putting the thyroid gland at risk.
WHFoods RecommendationsYou'll want to include Brussels sprouts as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy Brussels sprouts and other vegetables from the cruciferous vegetable group 4-5 times per week and increase your serving size to 2 cups.
It is very important not to overcook Brussels sprouts. Not only do they lose their nutritional value and taste but they will begin to emit the unpleasant sulfur smell associated with overcooked cruciferous vegetables. To help Brussels sprouts cook more quickly and evenly cut each sprout into quarters. Let them sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out the health-promoting qualities and then steam them for 5 minutes. Serve with our Honey Mustard Dressing to add extra tang and flavor to Brussels sprouts.
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You'll find nearly 100 studies in PubMed (the health research database at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C.) that are focused on Brussels sprouts, and over half of those studies involve the health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable in relationship to cancer. This connection between Brussels sprouts and cancer prevention should not be surprising since Brussels sprouts provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are (1) the body's detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly. Among all types of cancer, prevention of the following cancer types is most closely associated with intake of Brussels sprouts: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer.
Brussels Sprouts and Detox SupportThe detox support provided by Brussels sprouts is both complicated and extensive. First, there is evidence from human studies that enzyme systems in our cells required for detoxification of cancer-causing substances can be activated by compounds made from glucosinolates found in Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are an outstanding source of glucosinolates. The chart below shows the best studied of the glucosinolates found in Brussels sprouts and the detox-activating substances (called isothiocyanates) made from them.
Glucosinolates in Brussels sprouts and their detox-activating isothiocyanates
|Glucosinolate||Derived Isothiocyanate||Isothiocyanate Abbreviation|
* Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is not an isothiocyanate. It's a benzopyrrole, and it is only formed when isothiocyanates made from glucobrassicin are further broken down into non-sulfur containing compounds.
Second, the body's detox system requires ample supplies of sulfur to work effectively, and Brussels sprouts are rich in sulfur-containing nutrients. Sulfur is connected with both the smell and taste of Brussels sprouts, and too much sulfur aroma is often associated with overcooking of this vegetable. Sulfur-containing nutrients help support what is commonly referred to as Phase 2 of detoxification. Third, our body's detox system needs strong antioxidant support - especially during what is called Phase 1 of detoxification. Brussels sprouts are able to provide that kind of support because they are an excellent source of vitamin C, a very good source of beta-carotene and manganese, and a good source of vitamin E. Brussels sprouts also contain a wide variety of antioxidant phytonutrients, including many antioxidant flavonoids. Finally, there is evidence that the DNA in our cells is protected by naturally occurring substances in Brussels sprouts, and since many environmental toxins can trigger unwanted change in our DNA, Brussels sprouts can help prevent these toxin-triggered DNA changes.