No one knows the origin of brussels sprouts, though it's logical to assume they originated in Belgium. Like nearly all vegetables, brussels sprouts are naturally low in fat and calories. But unlike most vegetables, brussels sprouts are rather high in protein, accounting for more than a quarter of their calories. Although the protein is incomplete -- it doesn't provide the full spectrum of essential amino acids -- it can be made complete with whole grains. This means you can skip a higher-calorie source of protein, like high-fat meat, and occasionally rely on a meal of brussels sprouts and grains.
Brussels sprouts are loaded with vitamin A, folacin, potassium, calcium. They have 3-5 grams of fiber per cup, and at 25 calories per 1/2 cup cooked, they give us a reason to eat them more often. Brussels sprouts are one of those foods that will fill you up, without filling you out, always a plus for weight loss.
Brussels sprouts are very high in fiber, and they belong to the disease-fighting cabbage family. Indeed, they look like miniature cabbages. Like broccoli and cabbage -- fellow cruciferous vegetables -- brussels sprouts may protect against cancer with their indole, a phytochemical. They are also particularly rich in vitamin C, another anticancer agent.
Selection and Storage
Fresh brussels sprouts shine in fall and winter. Look for a pronounced green color and tight, compact, firm heads. The fewer the yellowed, wilted, or loose leaves the better. You're better off choosing smaller heads; they're more tender and flavorful. Pick ones of similar size so they cook evenly. Stored in the refrigerator in the cardboard container they came in or kept in a plastic bag, loosely closed, they'll last a week or two.
Preparation and Serving Tips
Dunk sprouts in ice water to debug them. Then rinse them under running water. Pull off loose or wilted leaves; trim the stem ends a little. Cut an "X" in the bottoms, so the insides cook at the same rate as the leaves. Steaming is your best bet. The sprouts will stay intact, odor will be minimized, and you'll preserve more nutrients than you would if you boiled them. As with broccoli and cabbage, the odor becomes most pronounced when overcooked. Brussels sprouts also lose valuable vitamin C when overcooked. So don't be afraid to leave your sprouts a bit on the crisp side. As soon as you can barely prick them with a fork they're done -- about 7 to 14 minutes, depending on size. Brussels sprouts are delicious served with just a squeeze of lemon. For more flavor, try a mustard sauce.
It's true that brussels sprouts may not be one of the most popular vegetables around. But they merit our attention. Their membership of the cruciferous vegetable family makes them cancer-fighting veggies. Give these little cabbages more of a chance because they really are among the healthiest vegetables and foods we can eat.