Brussels Sprouts – The Unexpected Cancer Saviour

The Brussels sprout maintains its reputation as one of the most highly feared vegetables on earth. They trigger as many shudders as they do adoration. When prepared wrongly, it can be nasty. The reality is, people who hate them most probably ate them overcooked. Overcooking this tiny spherical vegetable is like pulling the pin out of a hand grenade. It releases the glucosinolate sinigrin, a sulphurous odor that can knock the lights out of a heavyweight boxer. It is true that on too much heat, no pun intended, Brussels sprouts can turn into the Pepe Le Pew of vegetables. Cook it right, it will be the most delicious greens to set foot in your mouth; flavourful bite-sized balls of slightly sweet crunch that gives in to a delightfully dense texture.


As the name dictates, Brussels Sprouts may have been grown as early as 13th century in Belgium, and possibly even cultivated by the ancient Romans, eventually spreading to cooler regions in Northern Europe. Visually resembling miniature cabbages, they are cute as can be. This cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica Oleracea Gemmifera Group of the Brassicaceae family is a Cultivar group of wild cabbage. The cruciferous category includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard collard and mustard greens, turnips, bok choy, kohlrabi, rutabaga, and horse radish.


It is worth getting over Brussels Sprout phobia. Here's why.


All cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, phytonutrients with potent anti-cancer properties. There are 4 specific glucosinolates in the Brussels Sprout: glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, gluconasturtiian, and sinigrin. The foul smelling sinigrin is believed to be the same sword which comes to the rescue in fighting colon cancer. And guess what? Of all cruciferous vegetables, the total glucosinolate content in Brussels Sprouts has been shown to be greater than its sisters including the cabbage, cauliflower, or broccoli.


Another chemical in the Brussels Sprout which blocks the growth of cancer cells is the indole-3-carbinol, which also boosts DNA repair in cells. Certain studies show that consuming 1.25 cups of it daily can improve the stability of DNA inside our white blood cells. Plus, these miniscule wonders are packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamin (vitamin B1), and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, iron, phosphorus, protein, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), copper and calcium.


Brussels Sprouts are master detoxifiers. Specifically, they help the body become more efficient in detoxifying itself. If our liver is a factory that breaks down substances that are harmful to us, these cute veges actually speed this up, quickening the enzyme processing of toxic compounds. In the same manner, they help our bodies balance out hormones, reducing risk of hormone related cancers plaguing both men and women, such as breast and prostate cancers. The body's detox system requires a lot of sulphur­containing nutrients to work effectively, a forte of the sulphur rich Brussels Sprouts. Not all potentially smelly things are bad for you.


Technically, the best way to eat most vegetables is raw. Except for hardcore holistic hippies who are accustomed to chowing their greens in their best natural form, this might be a small deterrent to the fussier taste bud. A realistic way to palatably maximize the level of the anti-cancer compounds is to either steam or lightly stir fry.


The good news is, as long as they are not cooked longer than 6 – 7 minutes, the hellish fumes that normally surface with the release of the malodorous sinigrin is kept tightly under wraps. That's the secret. If you want even more health gains, try steaming. Apparently preparing it this way can provide cholesterol-lowering benefits that exceed those of raw Brussels Sprouts.


Sounds like there are enough reasons to charge to the market and swallow them whole. Want to sign up for these health benefits? Put 1 – 1.5 cups of these adorable looking vegetables on your plate at least 2 – 3 times a week.

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