The Brussels sprout (botanical name Brassica oleracea gemmifera) is a plant variety produced by breeding cabbage growing in the wild and is basically used for edible buds of the cultivar. The leafy vegetables have a greenish hue generally grow up to 2.5 cm to 4.0 cm (0.98 inch to 1.6 inches) across and appear like small cabbages. The Brussels sprout is known as Brassica oleracea belonging to the 'gemmifera' group of Brassicaceae family. While the vegetable has derived its name from the capital of Belgium, very few historians are of the belief that the plant's origin is associated with this place.
The Brussels sprout is a winter crop, growing during cool weather. This vegetable thrives excellently in cool as well as somewhat frost weather conditions. Brussels sprouts emerge along the entire length of the stalk that usually grows up to a height of 90 cm - the sprouts start appearing from the base of the stalk and gradually move upward. Generally, the appearance and makeup of each sprout is akin to that of cabbage, with the only difference being that they a very diminutive in size.
In their arrangement or makeup, every head comprises bunches of stiff leaves that are super-imposed in the form of packed in strata providing the vegetable with a spherical or globular form like that of cabbages.
If you wish to obtain standardized or consistent sprouts, you need to cut the tip of the stalk immediately when the sprouts begin to develop at the base. In addition, if the sprouts are exposed to hot weather conditions, they do not get the shape of compact buds. In the United States as well as the European nations in the region of the Mediterranean, Brussels sprouts are among the most favored vegetables available there.
Brussels sprouts provide us with several health benefits, for instance we can obtain a number of cholesterol-lowering benefits from this vegetable provided we employ a steaming method while cooking them. Brussels sprouts enclose dietary fibers that help in binding with bile acids in our digestive tract only when they are consumed in steam cooked variety. When this process occurs, it becomes easy to excrete bile acids resulting in a lessened cholesterol level in the body. Although raw or uncooked Brussels sprouts too possess cholesterol lowering attributes, they are actually less compared to the steamed sprouts.
From the domain of DNA protection, Brussels sprouts may provide us with an exceptional health benefits. According to the findings of a recently concluded research, daily consumption of Brussels sprouts in amounts of about 1.25 cups have shown augmented stability of DNA within out white blood cells. It is interesting to note that the aptitude of specific compounds enclosed by Brussels sprouts in obstructing the activities of sulfotransferase enzymes that scientists consider being responsible for such DNA-protective benefits.
Among the normally consumed cruciferous vegetables, Brussels sprouts are currently known to be the most favourite and top ranked owing to its complete glucosinolate contained by it. In fact, it has been established that the entire glucosinolate content of Brussels sprouts is more than the amount of the substance present in turnip greens, cabbage, mustard greens, cauliflower, kale or even broccoli. It may be mentioned that glucosinolates are extremely vital phytonutrients for our wellbeing since they comprise the chemical basis for an assortment of substances that protect us from developing cancer. It may be noted that every cruciferous vegetable encloses glucosinolates and for this reason all of them have been found to provide us with immense health benefits. However, a number of studies undertaken recently with Brussels sprouts have helped us to understand the extent to which Brussels sprouts are valuable in this context.
To a great extent, the protection offered by Brussels sprouts against developing cancer is actually attributed to the four particular glucosinolates present in this cruciferous vegetable - glucobrassicin, gluconasturtiian, sinigrin and glucoraphanin. Studies have demonstrated that Brussels sprouts provide us with components that protect us from cancer in specific blends.
It may be noted that scientists have used Brussels sprouts to ascertain the possible consequences of cruciferous vegetables on the functioning of thyroid glands. A study conducted recently involving a small set of fit adults gave five ounces of Brussels sprouts to each of the participants daily for four successive weeks and did not find any undesirable impact of the vegetable on their thyroid functioning. While there is a need for more follow-up studies on this subject, this particular study has especially been useful as it has approved the use of Brussels sprouts in the form of a food that has the ability to supply us with wonderful health benefits with no risks to the thyroid gland or the thyroid functioning.
Maintaining your health is simply one of the health benefits offered by Brussels sprouts. These benefits are attributed to the presence of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and manganese in this cruciferous vegetable. All the nutrients mentioned here are antioxidants and besides shielding us from the oxidative pressures, they also provide protection against ailments and chronic diseases. It is important to remember that when you keep your body hale and hearty, it is one of the most effective ways to continue burning up fat.
Lessening of chronic inflammation is one of the major health benefits offered by Brussels sprouts. Such types of inflammations may result in health problems, such as diabetes, heart attack, arthritis, cancer, asthma and atherosclerosis. Since Brussels sprouts contain high levels of dietary fiber, it provides us with the most desired health benefit - weight loss. Fiber also facilitates in fulfilling one's hunger and, hence, he or she is less liable to give in to reckless craving for food.
Precisely speaking, Brussels sprouts are considered to be depots of flavonoid antioxidants, such as indoles, thiocyanates, lutein, sulforaphane, zeaxanthin and isothiocyanates. Collectively, these phytochemicals provide us with protection from various forms of cancer, including colon, prostate and endometrial cancers.
Scientists have found the presence of a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol called di-indolyl-methane (DIM) in Brussels sprouts that is said to be an effectual immune modulator as well as an anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent by means of this substance's action of increasing the effectiveness of 'Interferony-γ' receptors. Moreover, Brussels sprouts also enclose the glucoside, sinigrin. Initial laboratory experiments have hinted that sinigrin facilitates in protecting us from developing colon cancers by obliterating the pre-cancerous cells.
As discussed above, Brussels sprouts are known to be a very good storehouse of vitamin C with 100 grams of the sprouts supplying us with approximately 142 per cent of RDA. Together with additional antioxidant vitamins, including vitamin A and vitamin E, Brussels sprouts help to protect our body by scavenging the detrimental free radicals.
Brussels sprouts enclose an important dietary carotenoid called zeaxanthin, which is discerningly soaked up into the retinal macula lutea in our eyes, wherein it is believed to work as an antioxidant as well as a protective light-filtering agent protecting our eyes from the harmful ultra-violet (UV) rays. Hence, consumption of Brussels sprouts facilitates in preventing damage to the retina - ARMD, which is an age-related macular degeneration disease among the elderly people.
Brussels sprouts are also an excellent source of vitamin A, another antioxidant vitamin, providing us with approximately 754 IU per 100 grams of the sprout. It may be noted that vitamin A is essential for sustaining the health of the mucus membranes as well as the skin. In addition, this nutrient is also necessary for sharpness of vision. In addition, foods that have a rich content of vitamin A provide us with fortification against lung as well as oral cavity cancer.
Besides being a storehouse of vitamins A and C, Brussels sprouts are also a very good natural resource for vitamin K; it has been established that consuming 100 grams of this steamed cruciferous vegetable offers our body as much as 177 mcg or approximately 147 per cent of RDA. It needs to be underlined here that vitamin K has a vital role in maintaining healthy bones by means of supporting osteotrophic actions - activities related to the formation as well as fortification of the bones. Having sufficient amount of vitamin K in one's daily diet facilitates in controlling neuronal harm inside the brain and also aids in preventing or at any rate impeding the commencement of Alzheimer's disease.
Additionally, the Brussels sprouts are having a remarkably high content of several B-complex vitamins, including pyridoxine (vitamin B6), niacin (vitamin B3), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), thiamin (vitamin B1) as well as other nutrients that are virtually indispensible for the substrate metabolism within our body.
The Brussels sprouts also have a rich content of several valuable minerals, including iron, copper, potassium, calcium, phosphorus as well as manganese. Potassium is known to be a vital element of the cells in our body as well as the body fluids that aid in regulating the heart rate as well as blood pressure by means of neutralizing the consequences of sodium. Similarly, our body uses manganese in the form of a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for the formation of red blood cells as well as cellular oxidation.
As mentioned earlier, Brussels sprouts are vegetables that grow and thrive well in cool weather conditions. Generally, Brussels sprouts are harvested when the buds mature and develop to a size of about one inch. It is quite easy to identify fresh sprouts, as they will be compact, firm and have a dark green hue. It is advisable that you keep away from sprouts that have loose leaves, turned yellowish from deep green and weigh light when taken up in hand.
If you store fresh Brussels sprouts in a refrigerator, they will remain intact for about a couple of days. In case you find any external leaves becoming damaged or being discoloured, remove them immediately and store the freshly obtained unwashed Brussels sprouts in zip pouches or plastic bags in the vegetable container of your refrigerator, as it will help the vegetables to remain edible for some time.
Brussels sprouts are consumed after cooking. However, prior to cooking the sprouts, ensure that you get rid of the loose leaves as well as those that have been discoloured on the outer side. At the same time, you also require trimming the stems. Wash the sprouts in clean water and subsequently soak them in saline water for a few minutes with a view to get rid of any dust particles or eggs of insects that the vegetables may contain.
Fresh Brussels sprouts have a very subtle essence. However, when you cook them over an excessive period of time, they release a substance called allyl isothiocyanates that passes on a pungent smell (sulfur-like stench) to the cooked dishes. Hence, these sprouts are normally blanched in boiling water for only about five minutes, allowed to cool and subsequently added to different recipes.