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Brussels sprouts have made a delicious comeback

When properly picked and prepared, these tiny green globes pack as much sweet, intense flavor as they do health-protecting vigor.

Roast Brussels sprouts for a mighty side dish.
Roast Brussels sprouts for a mighty side dish.
Dreamstime/TNS

Brussels sprouts have made a comeback, but why?

Turns out, it’s all about preparation. Roasting them reveals the sweet, caramelized essence, so say goodbye to overcooked and odorous sprouts of the past.

Brussels sprouts were first cultivated near Brussels, Belgium, in the thirteenth century. When properly picked and prepared, these tiny green globes pack as much sweet, intense flavor as they do health-protecting vigor.

Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea var. gemmifera) are related to cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. They grow in groups of 20 to 40 — each sprout about a one- to two-inch diameter replica of a green cabbage — along a stalk nearly three feet tall. There are more than 100 hybrid varieties of Brussels sprouts in shades of green, red, and purple.

A half-cup serving of cooked Brussels sprouts delivers 12% Daily Value (DV) of vitamin A and 81% DV of vitamin C. Combined with 137% DV of anti-inflammatory vitamin K, and glucosinolates — important health promoting plant chemicals — Brussels sprouts are known for cancer-preventing properties.

Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane, a compound derived from glucosinolates, which may play a role in the control of cancer formation due to anti-inflammatory and cancer cell-fighting abilities (Journal of Cell Communication and Signaling, 2018). According to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food (2019), sulforaphane may protect against a variety of cancers, decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, and help with osteoporosis.

Enjoy fresh Brussels sprouts from September to February (peak flavor and sweetness). Look for firm, tight sprouts with healthy green leaves. Smaller sprouts tend to be sweeter than large, which taste more like cabbage.

Refrigerate sprouts, unwashed, in a sealed bag up to two weeks. Trim stems and leave whole, cut into pieces, or shred the leaves. Raw, shredded leaves make excellent salads and slaws. Or, give sprouts a steam, boil or roast, and season to taste with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Environmental Nutrition is the award-winning independent newsletter written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition.