AUTHORITY NUTRITION

10 Ways Brussels Sprouts Benefit Your Health

Written by Rachael Link, MS, RD on September 8, 2017

Brussels sprouts are a member of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables and closely related to kale, cauliflower and mustard greens.

These cruciferous vegetables resemble mini cabbages and are typically cut, cleaned and cooked to make a nutritious side dish or main course.

Brussels sprouts boast high levels of many nutrients and have been linked to several health benefits. This article examines 10 ways Brussels sprouts may benefit your health.

Brussel Sprouts in Skillet

Brussels sprouts are low in calories but high in fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Here are some of the major nutrients in a half cup (78 grams) of cooked Brussels sprouts (1):

  • Calories: 28
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin K: 137% of the RDI
  • Vitamin C: 81% of the RDI
  • Vitamin A: 12% of the RDI
  • Folate: 12% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 9% of the RDI

Brussels sprouts are especially rich in vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and bone health (2).

They’re also high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps promote iron absorption and is involved in tissue repair and immune function (3).

What’s more, their high fiber content helps support regularity and gut health (4, 5).

In addition to the nutrients above, Brussels sprouts contain small amounts of vitamin B6, potassium, iron, thiamine, magnesium and phosphorus (1).

Summary: Brussels sprouts are low in calories but high in many nutrients, especially fiber, vitamin K and vitamin C.

Brussels sprouts have many health benefits, but their impressive antioxidant content stands out.

Antioxidants are compounds that reduce oxidative stress in your cells and help lower your risk of chronic disease.

One study found that when participants ate about 2 cups (300 grams) of Brussels sprouts daily, damage to their cells from oxidative stress decreased by 28% (6).

Brussels sprouts are especially high in kaempferol, an antioxidant that has been studied extensively for its many health-promoting properties.

Test-tube studies show that kaempferol may reduce cancer cell growth, ease inflammation and improve heart health (7, 8, 9).

Eating Brussels sprouts as part of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help supply the antioxidants your body needs to promote good health.

Summary: Brussels sprouts contain kaempferol, an antioxidant that may reduce cancer growth, decrease inflammation and promote heart health.

Some studies suggest that the high levels of antioxidants in Brussels sprouts could help protect against certain types of cancer.

There are several possible ways this may work.

A 2008 study found that Brussels sprouts could protect against carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents, and prevent oxidative damage to cells (10).

In another small study, eating Brussels sprouts increased the levels of some detoxification enzymes by 15–30%.

The researchers hypothesized that this effect could potentially lead to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, though further research is needed (11).

Also, the antioxidants in Brussels sprouts can neutralize free radicals. These are compounds formed by oxidative stress that contribute to diseases like cancer (12).

Including Brussels sprouts as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle may help reduce the risk of cancer, but more research is needed.

Summary: Some studies show that the compounds found in Brussels sprouts may decrease the risk of cancer.

Just a half cup (78 grams) of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 2 grams of fiber, fulfilling up to 8% of your daily fiber needs (1).

Fiber is an important part of health, and including a good amount of it in your diet affords many health benefits.

Studies show that dietary fiber can relieve constipation by increasing stool frequency and softening stool consistency to ease passage (4).

Fiber also promotes digestive health by helping feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut (5).

Increased fiber intake has been associated with other health benefits too, such as a reduced risk of heart disease and improved blood sugar control (13, 14).

Current guidelines recommend women eat at least 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should eat at least 38 grams of fiber per day (15).

Eating Brussels sprouts, along with other good sources of fiber like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, can easily help you meet your fiber needs.

Summary: Brussels sprouts are high in fiber, which can promote regularity, support digestive health and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Brussels sprouts are a good source of vitamin K. In fact, just a half cup (78 grams) of cooked Brussels sprouts provides 137% of your daily vitamin K requirement (1).

This important nutrient plays a vital role in the body.

It is essential for coagulation, the formation of blood clots that stop bleeding (16).

Vitamin K may also play a role in bone growth and could help protect against osteoporosis, a condition characterized by progressive bone loss (17).

In fact, one review of seven studies concluded that taking vitamin K supplements could increase bone strength and decrease the risk of bone fracture in postmenopausal women (18).

Keep in mind that those taking blood-thinning medication should moderate their vitamin K intake.

But for most people, boosting vitamin K intake may reap many health benefits.

Summary: Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin K, a nutrient important for blood clotting and bone metabolism.

In addition to their impressive nutrient profile and long list of health benefits, Brussels sprouts may also help keep blood sugar levels steady.

Multiple studies have linked an increased intake of cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, to a decreased risk of diabetes (19, 20).

This is likely because Brussels sprouts are high in fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Fiber moves slowly through the body undigested and slows the absorption of sugar into the blood (21).

Brussels sprouts also contain alpha-lipoic acid, an antioxidant that’s been researched extensively for its potential effects on blood sugar and insulin (22).

Insulin is a hormone that’s responsible for transporting sugar from your blood to your cells to keep your blood sugar levels under control.

In one study, 12 patients with diabetes who were given alpha-lipoic acid supplements experienced increased insulin sensitivity.

The researchers proposed this was because the alpha-lipoic acid allowed insulin to work more efficiently to lower blood sugar (23).

Increasing your intake of Brussels sprouts alongside an otherwise healthy diet may help you keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Summary: The fiber and antioxidants in Brussels sprouts may help keep your blood sugar levels stable.

For those who don’t eat fish or seafood, eating enough omega-3 fatty acids can be a challenge.

Plant foods only contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that’s used less effectively in your body than the omega-3 fats from fish and seafood.

This is because your body can only convert ALA to the more active forms of omega-3 fatty acids in limited quantities (24).

For this reason, you would need to consume a greater amount of ALA omega-3 fatty acids to meet your daily omega-3 needs, compared to if you were getting your omega-3 fats from fish or seafood.

Brussels sprouts are one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, with 135 mg of ALA in each half-cup (78-gram) serving of cooked Brussels sprouts (1).

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce blood triglycerides, slow cognitive decline, reduce insulin resistance and decrease inflammation (25, 26, 27).

Including a few servings of Brussels sprouts in your diet each week can help you easily meet your omega-3 fatty acid needs, with a half cup (78 grams) providing 12% of the daily requirement for women and 8.5% for men (28).

Summary: Brussels sprouts are a good source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, cognitive decline and blood triglycerides.

Inflammation is a normal immune response, but chronic inflammation can contribute to diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease (29).

Some test-tube studies have shown that the compounds found in cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts possess anti-inflammatory properties (30).

A large study found that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables was associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers in the blood (31).

Additionally, Brussels sprouts are high in antioxidants, which can help neutralize the free radicals that can cause inflammation (32).

Multiple test-tube and animal studies have found that kaempferol, one of the main antioxidants found in Brussels sprouts, has especially potent anti-inflammatory properties (33, 34, 35).

Based on these findings, a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts may reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of pro-inflammatory diseases.

Summary: Brussels sprouts are high in antioxidants and contain compounds that may help lower levels of inflammation.

Brussels sprouts provide 81% of your daily vitamin C needs in each half-cup (78-gram) cooked serving (1).

Vitamin C is important for the growth and repair of tissues in the body. It also acts as an antioxidant, is involved in the production of proteins like collagen and may even enhance immunity (3, 36).

One review including over 11,000 participants found vitamin C reduced the severity of the common cold, decreasing its duration by an average of 8% in adults (37).

Vitamin C can also increase the absorption of non-heme iron, a form of iron found in plant foods that your body can’t absorb as easily as iron from animal sources.

In fact, one study found that taking 100 mg of vitamin C with a meal increased the absorption of iron by 67% (38).

Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables, but Brussels sprouts are one of the best vegetable sources available (39).

Adding even just one or two serving of Brussels sprouts to your diet a few times a week can help you meet your needs.

Summary: Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that’s important for immune health, iron absorption, collagen production and the growth and repair of tissues.

Brussels sprouts make a healthy addition to any diet and are easy to incorporate into side dishes and entrées.

People often enjoy them roasted, boiled, sautéed or baked.

For a simple side dish, first cut off the ends of the Brussels sprouts. Mix the sprouts with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and then roast them on a baking sheet until they’re crispy.

Brussels sprouts can also be added to pasta, frittatas or stir-fried dishes for a flavorful and nutritious dinner.

Summary: Brussels sprouts are simple to prepare and you can enjoy them in a variety of delicious side dishes and main courses.

Brussels sprouts are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making them a nutritious addition to your diet.

They may also come with added health benefits, including the potential to reduce the risk of cancer, decrease inflammation and improve blood sugar control.

Adding Brussels sprouts to a balanced diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains has the potential to make a major positive impact on your health.

An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.

CMS Id: 131212