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Have you looked at those tiny cabbage like vegetables and not given them a second thought? Read on to know about the amazing benefits of Brussel Sprouts. This tiny vegetable tends to be missed, but they hold a wealth of nutrition. They belong to the Brassica family of vegetables and are cruciferous. This unsung hero contains properties similar to other vegetables in this category such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. These vegetables are known to have cancer fighting properties.

Health Benefits:

1. Antioxidants and Cancer fighting properties

Antioxidants help fight free radical damage. Free radicals are produced in response to stress, pollution, smoking, an unhealthy diet, alcohol, excessive exercise or continuous exposure to sunlight. They accelerate ageing and cause degeneration of healthy cells and tissues. Brussel sprouts contain an antioxidant known as kaempferol that is specifically known for its cancer prevention properties. Studies suggest that kaempferol can be used as an alternative to chemotherapy since it can distinguish between healthy and malignant cancer cells.  This research is still in its initial stages and it is important to note that at this point, antioxidants are not to be used as a full-fledged treatment for cancer. Instead, antioxidants can be enjoyed from foods and are beneficial to overall health. They are efficiently absorbed and utilized by the body.

2. Fiber 

Brussel sprouts contain a good amount of fiber. Fiber is important to ensure good digestion and also plays an important role in weight management and prevention of diseases like diabetes and cholesterol. Fiber can help prevent problems like constipation by softening stools and increasing stool frequency. Sulforaphane present in these sprouts help the gastrointestinal tract to produce enzymes that are protective in nature and prevent inflammation in the stomach.

For diabetes management, fiber is important, Brussel sprouts are low in carbohydrates and contain fiber that regulates blood sugar. The alpha lipoic acid present help increase insulin sensitivity and lower glucose levels. Adding this vegetable to a healthy diet can keep your blood sugars under control.

3. Protein

100g of Brussel sprouts contains 3.4 g of protein, which is impressive considering this is from a plant source. This is beneficial to vegetarians who obtain their protein from plant based foods. It is important to include them as part of a balanced diet along with grains, daals and legumes. Protein forms the building blocks of the body and is needed to repair tissue damage. It also builds muscle, which is important for health and fitness. 

4. Potassium

Potassium is essential to maintain a healthy balance of electrolytes. It also helps in regulating heart contractions, builds bone density, maintains healthy nerves and muscles. In the body, potassium is present as ions and transmits nerve impulses that help maintain a normal heart beat. While exercising or when food is being digested, our skeletal and smooth muscles contract, potassium helps in these normal contractions.

5. Vitamin C

100g of Brussel sprouts can give you more than 100% of the Daily Value for Vitamin C. This vitamin helps prevent degenerative eye diseases like cataract. It also maintains healthy skin since it is instrumental in the production of collagen (which gives skin its youthful appearance). Vitamin C increases absorption of iron, especially in the case of non- heme iron (plant based iron).  Being a protective antioxidant, Vitamin C builds a strong immune system, reduces inflammation and prevents cell damage. 

6. Vitamin K

Brussel sprouts contain high amounts of Vitamin K, which is a fat-soluble vitamin. This vitamin is essential for blood clotting. It also helps maintain the skeletal structure and helps in bone calcification. Vitamin K increases bone mineral density, which can prevent against osteoporosis that occurs during old age. This is especially important for post-menopausal women. Being a fat-soluble vitamin, the Brussel sprouts should be cooked using a small amount of oil (vegetable oil or olive oil) to enable the nutrients to be absorbed and utilized by the body. 

Caution: Those who are taking blood thinning medications need to regulate the amount of Vitamin K. High amounts can cause interactions with blood thinners.

7. Low on calories

For those looking to lose weight, Brussels Sprouts can be an ideal vegetable to include into the diet. They can be sliced in half and cooked. Serve them up as a side dish or use them as a salad. Do not cook them at high temperatures for long periods of time, or the nutrients will be lost. They are best prepared steamed or stir fried.

Try including Brussel sprouts in your diet. Being low on calories and high in essential nutrients, they can provide you with a plethora of health benefits. For those with thyroid issues, limit on consumption. When eaten in cooked form, the goitrogenic properties are inactivated. 

With inputs from:
6.    Chen AY, Chen YC. A review of the dietary flavonoid, kaempferol on human health and cancer chemoprevention. Food chemistry. 2013;138(4):2099-2107. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.11.139.

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