You probably remember turning your nose up at Brussels sprouts when you were a kid. You weren’t alone. The cruciferous vegetable consistently ranks among the top five most hated veggies in America, among children and adults alike. But the health benefits of Brussels sprouts are undeniable. Here’s everything you need to know about this ultra-healthy vegetable.
Most haters argue that the intense aroma and bitter flavor put them off. However, those characteristics are typically the result of overcooking. When prepared correctly, Brussels sprouts have a sweet, almost nutty flavor. Furthermore, they take on the flavors of whatever marinades or flavors they accompany, which may explain why they have been popping up on trendy restaurant menus and family dinner tables across the country.
Yep, love ‘em or hate ‘em, Brussels sprouts have been having a moment over the past couple of years. They are roasted, air-fried, tossed with bacon, and drizzled with syrup for flavor combinations that satisfy even the most skeptical palate. The grownup versions of this controversial side dish are attracting foodies everywhere who are learning that Brussels sprouts are far from boring and full of benefits.
“I love that they are becoming more popular because they are so healthy,” says Angela Aladjem, RDN, LD at My Nutrition Studio. “We know that many vegetables taste better when not simply boiled, and I think chefs have become better about experimenting with different flavors and techniques to enhance them.”
Although small in size, Brussels sprouts offer enormous benefits, especially to women. First, they are rich in vitamin K, the vitamin that is essential for both blood clotting and bone health. Research from Mount Sinai Medical Center states that there is increasing evidence to support that Vitamin K reduces the risk of bone fractures, especially in postmenopausal women at risk for osteoporosis.
In addition to that all-important vitamin K, the green pods are a good source of vitamin C, which aids in iron absorption, boosts immunity, and can help restore a youthful glow to aging skin.
Vitamins aside, another reason to add Brussels sprouts to your plate is the cancer-fighting and preventative properties. Sulforaphane, contained in many cruciferous vegetables, has been proven to be a powerful anticarcinogen that may reduce the ability of cancerous cells to multiply.
“The phytochemicals found in Brussels may help prevent certain types of cancers, especially those that are hormone related,” explains Aladjem.
Finally, the high fiber content of Brussels offers a multitude of benefits from guy health to lower cholesterol, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, decreased risk of colon cancer, and may even help with cognitive decline and weight loss.
“Fiber helps with nearly every aspect of your health,” says Aladjem. “It’s the main thing I focus on adding to my client’s meal plans because so few people get the recommended daily allowance.” What is that daily allowance? For women over 50, it’s a whopping 21 grams. Aladjem blames several factors for the lack of ability to meet that number, including an obsession with protein and carbs.
“I find most people are lacking vegetables in their diets, or they eat them every day, but not in a large enough serving to get the full benefits,” she says, adding that many people reach for juice as a shortcut. “They fail to understand that the fiber gets lost in the juice production.”
Just as many people fail to realize they are losing the fiber in juiced fruits and vegetables, others fail to recognize that their preferred cooking method is turning this low-fat, low-calorie veggie into something less healthy. It isn’t necessary to drown your Brussels in butter or melted cheese to make them palatable. There are many ways to add delicious flavor that won’t tip the scales.
The first step is to choose firm sprouts with tightly wrapped leaves. Remove the bottom layer of leaves if necessary and trim the stem. Store them in an airtight plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator until ready to use.
Once you’re ready to cook, the options are endless. Of course, browning and roasting are two of the most popular methods, thanks to the delicious, crispy texture they yield. Some people say the more charred the leaves, the tastier the flavor. But you can also steam, sautee, and even microwave them.
Aldajem recommends cutting the sprouts in half, tossing them with a bit of avocado oil and garlic salt, and spreading them on a baking sheet. Roast at 425 degrees until crispy (approx 20 minutes), and then toss in a little balsamic vinegar before serving.
For an even easier method, toss them in olive oil and kosher salt and place them in the air fryer while you make the rest of dinner.
Experiment with spices, sauces, salads, and slaws. There’s no wrong way to add these superfoods to your diet. We promise they’ve come a long way since you were a kid.
Nutrition Over 50: Foods All Women Should be Eating
9 Heart Healthy Foods that Protect Against Heart Disease
6 Potassium-Rich Foods to Start Eating Today