Brussels sprouts are a staple of Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner. However, including more of these low calorie, nutritionally dense vegetables in the diet could provide significant health benefits.

Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of protein, and just 88 grams (g), or 1 cup, of raw Brussels sprouts meets the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) recommended daily requirements for vitamin C and vitamin K.

Brussels sprouts are part of the cruciferous vegetable family. Vegetables in this family provide a wide variety of nutrients and contain few calories. People seeking a high nutrient diet should consider including cruciferous vegetables in their diet.

This Medical News Today feature is part of a series on the health benefits of popular foods. In this article, we look at the possible health benefits of Brussels sprouts, their nutritional content, and how to incorporate more of them into the diet.

We also clarify any potential health risks of consuming Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts offer several significant benefits.

Consuming cruciferous vegetables may have a range of health benefits, including decreasing the risk of certain diseases, such as heart disease and some cancers.

Brussels sprouts also offer the following health benefits.

Improving bone health

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The vitamin K-1 in Brussels sprouts may improve bone health.

Consuming Brussels sprouts provides a significant amount of vitamin K-1.

A 2017 study linked a low vitamin K intake to a higher risk of bone fracture. Adequate vitamin K is necessary for healthful bone formation and mineralization.

Brussels sprouts are also a great source of calcium. Calcium is essential for bone strength and growth.

Please note that individuals taking blood-thinners, such as warfarin, should maintain the amount of vitamin K they consume each day due to its important role in blood clotting.

Managing diabetes

Brussels sprouts contain the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). In a 2019 review, supplementation with this compound demonstrated an ability to lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in people with diabetes.

Many green vegetables contain ALA.

The review also suggests that taking ALA supplements may lead to decreases in nerve damage for people who have diabetes.

However, most studies have used intravenous (IV) ALA or high dose supplements. It is unclear whether consuming the substance in smaller doses as part of the diet would provide the same benefits.

Preventing cancer

Cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, contain sulfur-containing compounds that provide their bitter taste. During consumption and digestion, these compounds break down into other active compounds that may prevent cancer from developing in some organs in animals.

However, studies have been inconclusive on the preventive effects of sulfur-containing compounds on cancer risk in humans. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) conclude that the studies on prostate, colorectal, lung, and breast cancer risk generally found no association between cruciferous vegetable intake and cancer.

Brussels sprouts also contain a high amount of chlorophyll, the green pigment that occurs in plants. A 2018 study on pancreatic cancer cells suggested that chlorophyll may serve as an antioxidant, acting against some of the compounds responsible for the development of pancreatic cancer.

Numerous studies have also shown that compounds found in cruciferous vegetables might have powerful cancer-fighting effects. However, more research is needed to confirm any links between cruciferous vegetable intake and cancer risk.

Maintaining vision

Brussels sprouts contain plenty of vitamin C.

Getting enough dietary vitamin C may help people preserve eye health and reduce the risk of cataracts.

Here, learn more about vitamin C.

Skin health and appearance

Including the antioxidant vitamin C as part of the diet can help protect skin cells against sun damage and pollution.

Vitamin C can also combat free radical damage and is necessary for the production of collagen, a protein that helps to support skin strength and elasticity. This can reduce wrinkles and improve overall skin texture.

Brussels sprouts are also a good source of provitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which is crucial for healthy skin. One cup of raw Brussels sprouts provides 396 micrograms (ug) of beta-carotene.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s FoodData Central database, 1 cup of raw Brussels sprouts provides:

  • 37.8 calories
  • 0.264 g of fat
  • 7.88 g of carbohydrate
  • 2.97 g of protein

1 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains:

  • 56.2 calories
  • 0.78 g of fat
  • 11.08 g of carbohydrate
  • 3.98 g of protein

Consuming the same amount of Brussels sprouts will also provide the following nutrients, with percentages calculated from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans:

NutrientPercentage of daily intake in adults
Vitamin C83.11% for males and 99.73% for females
Vitamin K-1130% for males and 173.33% for females
Vitamin B-614.85%
Folate13.43%
Potassium7.28%

Brussel sprouts pack a nutritional punch. The Aggregate Nutritional Density Index (ANDI) measures how much nutrition a vegetable offers for its weight.

Brussel sprouts are 21st on this list, meaning they rank highly for nutritional density alongside many other cruciferous vegetables.

Try to find sprouts that are still on the stalk. This means they are still fresh. It is also best to look for smaller sprouts. These tend to be sweeter and more tender than their larger counterparts.

Make sure the leaves are tight and firm. Loose leaves indicate older sprouts. Store the sprouts in a bag in the refrigerator. The fresher the sprouts are, the less bitter they will taste. People should take care not to overcook sprouts, as this tends to give them a bitter flavor and may diminish their nutritional value.

Tips for preparing Brussels sprouts include:

  • Drizzling the roasted sprouts with olive oil, cracked black pepper, and minced garlic.
  • Slicing them thin and mixing them in raw with salad greens.
  • Adding candied walnuts and dried cranberries to roasted sprouts for a festive side dish.
  • Panfrying sliced Brussels sprouts for a crunchier texture.

Roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven brings out their sweet, almost nutty flavor and keeps them crisp. It also reduces the harsh, sulfurous odor and taste that many people find unpleasant.

Try these healthful and simple recipes:

Considering the diet as a whole is more important for good health and preventing disease than concentrating on individual foods. Eating a varied diet is the key to a healthful life.

Consider including Brussels sprouts in your next meal.

Q:

Are Brussels sprouts seasonal?

A:

Brussels sprouts are more common in the colder months because these cruciferous vegetables thrive in cooler weather. However, depending on where you live, you may be able to find fresh or frozen Brussels sprouts in the store at any time of year.

This is because many commercial growers pump out Brussels sprouts to supply grocery store chains with these nutrient-dense veggies year-round. However, eating seasonally, based on what’s available from local farms in your area, is the best way to ensure you are purchasing the freshest, most nutritious Brussels sprouts available.

Plus, eating seasonal foods helps support local agriculture. Brussels sprouts are generally in season from fall through winter, so visit your local farmer’s market to take advantage of these tasty veggies.

Jillian Kubala, MS, RD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.