Named after the capital of Belgium, where they may have first been cultivated, Brussels sprouts look like diminutive heads of cabbage. The resemblance is not surprising, since both belong to the same botanical family. Brussels sprouts are a relative newcomer to the cabbage family. The standard cabbage has been around for some 4,000 years, while Brussels sprouts have been cultivated for a mere few hundred years.
Brussels sprouts are one of the few vegetables to have originated in northern Europe. In the 19th century, they were introduced to France, then to England—where they are still highly popular—and later to America, where French settlers grew them in Louisiana. Since this plant is actually a form of cabbage, Brussels sprouts are similar to cabbage in taste, but are slightly milder in flavor and denser in texture.
Brussels sprouts: nutrition
Brussels sprouts are nutrient-dense and offer a plentiful supply of vitamin C, fiber, folate, and other B vitamins, as well as the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. With over 25 percent of their calories coming from protein, they are a healthy, low-fat source of plant protein.
Brussels sprouts are among a handful of foods (including broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) with a rich reservoir of phytochemicals, such as indoles and isothiocyanates. There are some suggestions that these phytochemicals may help thwart tumor development and to stimulate natural anticancer enzymes in the body.
Brussels sprouts contain antioxidant flavonoids as well. Flavonoid phytochemicals contribute to this vegetable’s high score on the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scale, which scientists use to measure a food’s antioxidant power.
Vitamin K interactions
Brussels sprouts also contain small amounts of vitamin K. People who take blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) are sometimes told to avoid foods high in vitamin K, such as chard, collards, kale, mustard greens, and spinach. In fact, they don’t need to shun these vegetables. It’s more important to keep a consistent diet, and eat these vegetables moderately. Newer anticoagulants such as dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), and apixaban (Eliquis) are not affected by vitamin K.
For a full listing of nutrients, see Brussels sprouts in the National Nutrient Database.
Types of Brussels sprouts
There are several varieties of Brussels sprouts, each planted to peak at various times in the fall-winter season. This provides a steady supply of the vegetable. The most common varieties—Rampart, Content, Oliver, Rowena, and Valiant—are virtually indistinguishable from one another.
Brussels Sprouts: Cooking Tips and Recipe Ideas
Brussels sprouts are delicious roasted, steamed, or sliced thinly and added to salads.
Published February 08, 2016