Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Italy during the Roman Empire and the name derives from the city of Brussels, Belgium where they were first referenced. They belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables, along with kale, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.
Brussels sprouts have an amazing nutritional value and only a cup of cooked Brussels sprouts provides 130% of the recommended daily intake for vitamin C and 240% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K1.
Moreover, they are an excellent source of B vitamins, protein, potassium, choline, fiber, and manganese. However, what makes them so healthy and beneficial are their phytochemicals and antioxidants, which have been proven to fight cancer.
Sulfur-Containing Compounds in Brussels Sprouts May Fight Cancer
Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds which activate cancer-causing enzyme systems in the body.
According to Carcinogenesis,
“Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing glycosides found in the Brassica vegetables. Their breakdown products include isothiocyanates, which are produced following exposure to the endogenous plant enzyme myrosinase. Isothiocyanates are pungent, biologically active compounds that suppress carcinogenesis in vivo, and induce apoptosis in vitro.”
For example, indole-3-carbinil is a glucosinolate breakdown product which stops the cell cycle in breast cancer cells but it doesn’t kill the cells themselves. The cell cycle is a very important step a cell must go through before dividing into two and splitting.
Changing certain components of the cell cycle allows you to stop the growth of cancer cells while leaving the normal cells intact. Indole-3-carbinol basically turns off a gene for an enzyme important in the cell`s growth cycle and this interferes the entire cell cycle.
Many studies suggest that there is a strong link between Brussels sprouts and prevention of various types of cancer, including ovarian and colon cancer. According to one study, the compounds in Brussels sprouts force the pre-cancerous cells to commit a suicide.
A study has shown that men who consumed 1.5 cups of Brussels sprouts on a daily basis over the course of five weeks had a 28% decrease in DNA damage which led to the conclusion that “that consumption of cruciferous vegetables [Brussels sprouts] may result in a decreased cancer risk.”
Even though all cruciferous vegetables are shown to contain cancer-fighting properties, it has been found that Brussels sprouts contain a greater amount of glucosinolates when compared to broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage.
Brussels Sprouts Are Detoxification Superstars
According to the George Maateljan Foundation:
“The 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.
…Second, the body’s detox system requires ample supplies of sulfur to work effectively, and Brussels sprouts are rich in sulfur-containing nutrients… 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 and a very good source of manganese. 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 the unwanted change in our DNA, Brussels sprouts can help prevent these toxin-triggered DNA changes.”
Brussels Sprouts Are Anti-Inflammatory and Powerful Antioxidants
Not only do Brussels sprouts contain well-known antioxidants, such as vitamin C, they are abundant in other less-known ferulic and caffeic acid, kaempferol and isorhamnetin. In other words, the consumption of Brussels sprouts helps your body prevent chronic oxidative stress, which is the major risk factor for many chronic diseases, including cancer.
It is important to mention that the anti-inflammatory compounds in Brussels sprouts have the ability to reduce chronic inflammation in the body, yet another risk factor for chronic disease. Indole-3-carbinol which was mentioned above regarding breast cancer is yet another anti-inflammatory agent which prevents inflammatory responses in initial stages of disease development.
Given the fact that Brussels sprouts provide anti-inflammatory properties, they are beneficial for the heart as well.
According to George Maateljan Foundation:
“Of particular interest here has been the isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane, which is made from glucoraphanin (a glucosinolate) found in Brussels sprouts. Not only does this ITC trigger anti-inflammatory activity in our cardiovascular system — it may also be able to help prevent and even possibly help reverse blood vessel damage.”
How to Best Prepare (and Enjoy!) Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are highly versatile and they can be used in a variety of ways. Even though adding them to your regular meal works fine, we suggest even more ways of preparing (and enjoying) them:
– Steam Brussels sprouts and toss them with butter, olive oil, or Parmesan cheese
– Roast them and quarter them, then toss them like a salad with feta cheese, balsamic vinegar, and onions
– Keep them in a bowl, seasoned with salt and pepper, to snack throughout the day
Note: Make sure you don’t overcook them in order to prevent a nutrient loss and change in their taste. They should be bright green with a crisp texture and sweet flavor.