Top 5 health benefits of brussels sprouts
Love them or hate them, brussels sprouts are rich in protective antioxidants and cancer-protecting plant compounds
What are brussels sprouts?
Brussels sprouts are small, green edible buds that look like mini cabbages, measuring around 2.5-4cm in diameter. They're native to Belgium, around the city of Brussels, hence the name.
Brussels sprouts belong to the brassica family, along with broccoli, kale and cabbage, and are typically in season during the winter, although you may start to see them as early as October. Brussels sprouts enjoy a long season in the UK, until March.
The health benefits of brussels sprouts include:
- Rich in protective antioxidants
- Contain anti-cancer compounds
- May support heart health
- May support gut health
- May reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes
Nutritional analysis of brussels sprouts
An 80g portion (boiled) provides:
More like this
- 28 kcals/122KJ
- 2.3g protein
- 1.0g fat
- 2.8g carbohydrates
- 3.3g fibre
- 256mcg carotene
- 88mcg folate
- 48mg vitamin C
An 80g portion (about eight brussels sprouts) counts as one of your five-a-day. Check our printable infographic to find out what portions of fruit and veg count towards your five-a-day.
Top 5 health benefits of brussels sprouts
1. Rich in protective antioxidants
Antioxidants are protective compounds that reduce the impact of a process called oxidation, and as a result may help lower our risk of chronic disease.
A study looking at the effect of eating 300 grams of cooked brussels sprouts each day showed as much as a 28 per cent reduction in oxidative damage. This damage is typically caused by inflammation, and brassica vegetables appear to be especially helpful at reducing these inflammatory effects.
2. Contains anti-cancer compounds
While there is no single food that can prevent cancer, there is evidence that eating a healthy diet can reduce your risk. Brussels sprouts contain anti-cancer plant compounds, including glucosinolates, which help us detoxify and remove carcinogens from the body.
3. May support heart health
Brussels sprouts are especially rich in a plant compound, called kaempferol. This antioxidant has been studied for its many health-promoting properties, including the benefits it has for heart health. Another study in the US found increasing vegetables in the diet, especially those of the brassica family, like brussels sprouts, may reduce the risk of heart disease.
4. May support gut health
This is because sulphur supports the production of glutathione, which is important for maintaining the integrity of the gut lining, as well as supporting repair. As a powerful antioxidant, glutathione works throughout the body, protecting cells from inflammatory damage and improving the body’s ability to detox.
5. May reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes
A number of studies have linked the consumption of brassica vegetables with a reduced risk of type-2 diabetes. This may be because brassicas, like Brussels sprouts, are rich in fibre, which helps stabilise blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, consuming more brassicas appears to protect people with diabetes against some of the complications that may impact their blood vessels and circulation.
Are brussels sprouts safe for everyone?
For most of us, brussels sprouts are a healthy option. However, if you have a thyroid issue you may be advised to minimise the amount of brassica vegetables you eat. This is because these vegetables may interfere with the absorption of iodine which is needed for the production of thyroid hormones. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that you would need to eat a reasonable amount and on a consistent basis for this to be an issue.
Brussels sprouts are a high-fibre food, which for most of us is highly beneficial – it supports the digestive process and provides a fuel source for the healthy bacteria which reside in our gut. However, for some people, high-fibre foods may cause bloating and gas, this is especially relevant for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
If you are on blood thinning medication such as warfarin, your GP or registered dietitian may suggest you monitor the vitamin K foods, like brussels sprouts, in your diet to ensure you eat similar amounts consistently. If in doubt, consult your GP before making any significant changes to what and how much you eat.
Overall, are brussels sprouts good for you?
High in fibre and nutrient-dense, brussels sprouts make a positive contribution to a varied, balanced diet for many of us. However, if you have a thyroid issue or a gut disorder you may need to manage the size of your portions.
Healthy brussels sprouts recipes
Chilli-charred brussels sprouts
Sprouts with sesame & spring onions
Mashed parsnip & sprout colcannon
Sprouts with sticky shallots
Chicken, kale & sprout stir-fry
Toasted sesame sprouts
Roasted brussels sprouts with bacon & chestnuts
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This article was reviewed on 1o October 2023 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.