Aptly named for the town where it originated, Brussels sprouts have been growing in the cool, lush Belgian countryside for over 400 years. These mini cabbages may be small in size, but they’re mighty in well, pretty much everything else. The versatile vegetable has become a must-have on food lovers’ plates. You can serve them air-fried, baked, grilled, crumbled or even grated raw in a crunchy salad. The topping options are endless.
But are Brussels sprouts good? Brussels sprouts offer a series of beneficial plant compounds. But they can also lead to gas and bloating—and for some health issues, Brussels sprouts can pose certain risks (more on that later). If you’ve ever wondered if these popular lettuce-looking vegetables are actually healthy, read on to find out.
Eating Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are full of good-for-you nutrients that many of us could use more of. Here are some nutrients found in one cup of Brussels sprouts, according to the USDA:
- Calories: 30
- Protein: 3 grams
- Fat: less than 1 gram
- Carbohydrates: 8 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugars: 2 grams
- Calcium: 37 mg
- Iron: 1 mg
- Sodium: 22 mg
- Vitamin C: 75 mg
Along with these important macro and micronutrients, Brussels sprouts, classified as a cruciferous vegetable, contain plant compounds that can support our health in a variety of ways. For example, lutein and zeaxanthin found in Brussels sprouts can support eye health.
Health benefits of Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts are tiny vegetables that pack a punch in the nutrition department. “Brussels sprouts contain sulfur-containing plant compounds called glucosinolates, which break down into another compound called isothiocyanates,” Melissa Azzaro, registered dietitian and author of A Balanced Approach to PCOS, told POPSUGAR. “Isothiocyanates are associated with a lower risk of certain cancers and slower tumor growth.”
Azzaro also adds that certain compounds in Brussels sprouts “increase detoxification enzymes, including glutathione, in the body and have antioxidant activity that protects cells from damage and inflammation.”
Brussels sprouts are a natural source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health, says registered dietitian Sarah Anzlovar. She also emphasizes that these vegetables contain vitamin C (a nutrient that supports immune health) and folate, which “is especially important for women of reproductive age,” as this nutrient supports neural tube development during pregnancy.
The fiber found in Brussels sprouts may also offer some benefit. “Fiber helps promote balanced blood sugar and healthy digestion,” shared Rahaf Al Bochi, RDN, LD spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition LLC.
Are there any risks to eating Brussels sprouts?
Despite the many health benefits of eating Brussels sprouts, including their high vitamin C and fiber content, there are potential risks to be aware of. For people taking blood-thinning medications, the high vitamin K content in Brussels sprouts may interfere with the medication’s effectiveness. Additionally, Brussels sprouts are goitrogenic, meaning they can affect thyroid function when consumed in large amounts, especially in people with existing thyroid conditions.
In addition to the risks mentioned earlier, Brussels sprouts can also contribute to increased gas and bloating. This is due to their high fiber content, which can be difficult for some people to digest. In particular, Brussels sprouts contain a type of carbohydrate called raffinose that our bodies cannot break down. It is fermented by bacteria in the gut, leading to gas and bloating. If you are sensitive to this effect, it is recommended that you introduce Brussels sprouts into your diet gradually and drink enough water to aid digestion.
So are brussels sprouts good?
Brussels sprouts are perfectly fine for most people. Between the nutrients it provides to the compounds that help support many aspects of our health, the potential benefits associated with consuming these vegetables are countless. When consumed in moderation and as part of a varied diet, Brussels sprouts can really benefit your overall health.