Brussels sprouts are so called because they are thought to have originated in Belgium, where they are recorded as growing in the mid-18th century. By the beginning of the 19th century they had spread to France and Britain. Even after 200 years of cultivation, Brussels sprouts still seem to be an acquired taste. Not everybody likes them, and children in particular seem to find that they have too strong a taste. When cooked properly, however, they are very tasty and valuable part of winter meals, and few would consider their Christmas dinner complete without a bowl of them.
Brussels sprouts are usually categorized according to season: early, mid and late. If plants are grown from each group, there can be a continuous crop from autumn right through to spring.
The sprouts themselves are the tight buds that form where the leaves join the main stem. As well as the sprouts, the succulent tops of the plants can be harvested once the sprouts are finished. The size of the plant varies according to cultivate, and some that have been bred as dwarf or compact plans are best suited to smaller gardens where space is at a premium. Another intriguing type is the red-leaved variety, ‘Rubine,’ which is ideal for decorative kitchens.
Brussels sprouts share a close relation to broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower. As far as vegetables go, they’re relatively high in protein — at 3 grams per serving — and low in calories, at just 38 calories per cup.
Brussels sprouts come packed with dietary fiber. Each 1-cup serving offers 3.3 grams of fiber — 13 percent of the daily fiber intake recommended for women and 9 percent for men, according to fiber intake guidelines from the Institute of Medicine. Fiber helps lower the levels of cholesterol in your blood and reduces the risk of several types of cardiovascular disease — such as coronary heart disease and stroke. It also reduces your risk of a heart attack and protects you from other health conditions, including type-2 diabetes.
Brussels sprouts support healthy eyesight because they contain lutein and zeaxanthin. A serving of brussels sprouts provides you with 664 international units of vitamin A — 28 percent of the recommended daily intake for women and 22 percent of the RDI for men, according to the Institute of Medicine. A cup of brussels sprouts also contains 1,399 micrograms of lutein and zeaxanthin, or roughly one-quarter of the 6,000 micrograms you need for heath benefits, according to the Linus Pauling Institute.
Brussels spouts’ vitamin content also keeps your skeleton strong. It contains vitamin C — a nutrient you need to make the collagen abundant in bone tissue — as well as vitamin K, a vitamin that promotes bone mineralization. A cup of brussels sprouts provides you with 156 micrograms of vitamin K — your entire daily recommended intake, according to the Institute of Medicine. Each serving also provides 76 milligrams of vitamin C. This makes up 84 percent of the RDI for men and the entire RDI for women.
Consume brussels sprouts as a healthful side dish — try roasting them, lightly coated in olive oil, or saute them in a mixture of no-sodium broth and minced garlic. Add flavor to your sprouts by using fresh herbs, such as rosemary or basil. Alternatively, eat the sprouts raw. Simply combine thinly sliced brussels sprouts with chopped kale and a raspberry vinaigrette, or mix chopped brussels sprouts with broccoli florets, chopped cooked sweet potato and a maple vinaigrette.