The Comeback Kid
Brussels sprouts were once named America's 'most hated vegetable, 'but their health benefits are now earning them a place on many a menu.
Less than a decade ago, it seemed unlikely the Brussels sprout would eventually become a revered addition to the dinner table. In fact, in 2008 the cruciferous vegetable, a relative of cauliflower and broccoli, was named America’s “most hated vegetable” by a Heinz survey. It’s since soared in popularity, and whether or not you’re sold on the flavor—nutty with a balance of sweet and savory elements—the health benefits should serve as temptation enough to give them a shot.
One cup of raw Brussels sprouts has only about 40 calories, 2 grams of sugar, 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber—a combination that earned the veggie a stamp of approval from the American Diabetes Association. It’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals, including about double (190 percent) the daily-recommended amount of vitamin K, which the body uses to help blood clot. (Note: Because of its high vitamin K content, people on blood thinning medications should talk to their physician before eating Brussels sprouts in excess.) It has 120 percent of the recommended value of vitamin C, which boosts immune function, and 15 percent of vitamin A (promotes healthy vision), manganese (builds bones and metabolizes energy), and folate (supports reproductive and heart health).
One common complaint about Brussels sprouts is their sulfuric smell when cooking—that comes from the presence of glucosinolates, a compound in all cruciferous vegetables. But those glucosinolates have a plus side: When digested, they form active compounds that may prevent certain cancers. For those deterred by the smell, cook the sprouts at a lower temperature or eat them raw.
Look for sprouts that are small, compact and relatively similar in size so that they cook evenly. They should look fresh, without bruised, browned or yellowed leaves. Once purchased, they will stay fresh in the refrigerator (in a sealed plastic bag) for about a week. You can also purchase sprouts still attached to the stalk, which will allow them to keep fresh longer.
An easy (and tasty) way to prepare Brussels sprouts is to roast them with extra virgin olive oil (you can even add some pork bacon or lean turkey bacon to enhance the flavor). Simply cut off the bottoms, slice the sprouts in half lengthwise and toss them with the oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 400˚F for 20–30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until browned on the outside. The leaves can also be roasted separately until crisp to eat as chips or used as a topping on pizza. In addition, you can serve the sprouts raw by shredding them and tossing with lemon and olive oil.
Did You Know?
A recent recipe for Brussels sprouts sliders published by The New York Times caused a pre-Thanksgiving debate that might rival even a heated political discussion. It can be accessed on the Times website, complete with commentary. —Liz Donovan