The Ultimate Guide to Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts on a cutting board with a white napkin.

Are Brussels sprouts the new kale? Maybe. I can tell you, I didn’t touch either as a kid, and now I love them both so very much. I think, growing up, a lot of veggies were considered to be wholesale “terrible,” and no one ate them. Brussels sprouts, kale, and peas come to mind. Even if you were served these veggies as a child, I feel like most of us could say they came out bland and mushy, and that’s no way to treat a vegetable.

Now, Brussels sprouts are one of my all-time favorite vegetables (and I finally learned how to spell it). They are great almost any which way (except cooked to death). Sliced raw in a salad, roasted, grilled, in pasta, in a veggie mix, or served all by themselves, I think Brussels sprouts are one of the most versatile vegetables out there. Plus, those little, tiny cabbage heads are adorable.

Brussels sprouts have been popular in Brussels, Belgium, for a long time. Unsurprisingly, that’s most likely where these edible buds of the Gemmifera group of cabbages may have gotten their name. If you haven’t yet taken the plunge, what are you waiting for?

Brussels sprouts are filling, low-calorie, low-fat, and chock full of vitamin and mineral goodness. If you are watching what you eat, consider adding these groovy globes to your diet. They are only 2-3 Weight Watchers points in many recipes, as well. Bonus!

Are Brussels Sprouts Good for You?

Packed full of vitamins K, C, and A, plus folate and manganese, these low-calorie gems are certainly good for you. They are great for your heart, bones, and immune system. They’re also great plant source of Omega-3s. The antioxidants they contain can help ward off certain cancers. Plus, their high fiber content can help keep your blood sugar steady and your digestive system healthy.

Are Brussels Sprouts Good for Weight Loss?

Brussels sprouts are very low in calories (just 38 calories per cup) and very filling, which make them a great vegetable to add to your diet if you are trying to lose weight. They are also easy to prepare and cook, or you can eat them shaved raw for when you are looking to add some extra texture in the same old, same old salad. Plus, their fiber content keeps you fuller, longer, which is what we all strive for when trying to lose or maintain weight.

The Nutritional Makeup of Brussels Sprouts

According to the USDA, one cup of Brussels sprouts has 38 calories, 3 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar, 0 grams of fat, and 0 grams of cholesterol. In addition, a serving of Brussels sprouts also contains 37 mg of calcium, 342 mg of potassium, and healthy doses of vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K. You’ll also receive 13 percent of your recommended daily intake of folate, 11 percent of thiamin, and 7 percent of your needed riboflavin intake for the day.

Brussels sprouts stalk with individual sprouts.

The Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts

  • They are low in calories. If you are trying to lose weight, or are just watching your calorie intake, then adding Brussels sprouts to your meal repertoire is a no-brainer. With only 38 calories per cup, you could eat five cups of Brussels sprouts and still not reach the calorie content of one cup of pasta. So go ahead and indulge in the sprouts.
  • They keep you fuller, longer. Here’s where we discuss one of a dieter’s most favorite words: fiber. Fiber is great at keeping you full long after your meal has ended. One cup of Brussels sprouts provides 13 percent of your daily recommended intake of fiber. Fiber can help regulate your digestive system, feed your good gut bacteria, and relieve constipation (just be careful not to overdo it).
  • They are good for your heart. The fiber content in Brussels sprouts can also reduce your risk of heart disease and help your body maintain its blood sugar levels. Fiber can also help reduce your cholesterol levels, which, in turn, helps lower your risk for stroke or heart disease.
  • They are a good source of plant protein. For some reason, I wouldn’t have expected that Brussels sprouts would be a good source of protein, yet they are. One cup provides six percent of your suggested protein intake for the day. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, I always think every little bit helps. Protein is a necessary component of every cell in our bodies, from tissue growth and repair to the building blocks of our nails, skin, and hair. We need to make sure we are getting adequate protein to function properly.
  • They are low in fat. So low, in fact, that they contain exactly zero grams of fat per serving. This leaves plenty of room in your diet for adding in those heart-healthy, good fats that you get from eating avocados, eggs, lean meats, seeds, and salmon.
  • They have cancer-fighting properties. The antioxidants in Brussels sprouts can help fight inflammation, as well as combat free radicals that can mess with your body at a cellular level. One phytochemical in particular stands out from the rest: Sulforaphane, which is currently being studied for its anti-cancer properties.
  • They make your bones stronger. The vitamin K that Brussels sprouts contain plays an important role in helping your blood to clot. Vitamin K also has been shown to increase bone strength and may help to stave off osteoporosis.

Can Brussels Sprouts Be Bad for You?

Like anything else, variety is the spice of life. Even too much of a good thing is just too much. For example, if you are taking medicine that keeps your blood from clotting, then eating too many brussels sprouts or any food that contain a high concentration of vitamin K is not advised.

You could also overdo it on the fiber if you eat too many Brussels sprouts. Symptoms of too much fiber in your diet include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, and more unfortunate digestive side effects. If you have any of these symptoms, cease eating Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous vegetables until you’ve seen your doctor.

Do Brussels Sprouts Make You Gassy?

Because Brussels sprouts contain fiber, and too much fiber can make you gassy or bloated. The best thing to do in this situation is to stop eating the food that is causing discomfort and reintroduce it slowly back into your diet.

Are Brussels Sprouts a Superfood?

Brussels sprouts are very super, indeed. A part of the cruciferous family (which includes broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, and cauliflower), Brussels sprouts takes the cake when it comes to cancer-fighting antioxidants. It also holds its own in regard to its content of other good-for-you vitamins and minerals.

How to Pick Brussels Sprouts

Peak picking time for Brussels sprouts is September to February, though they are considered a fall vegetable. Although mostly found loose, you can also purchase Brussels sprouts on the stalk. Either way you choose, you’ll want to purchase the ones that have a bright green head and that feel heavy and firm — avoid any that feel mushy. The leaves shouldn’t be loose or falling off around the sprout. If the leaves are yellowing, aging or have any black spotting, those are signs of sprouts gone bad.

How to Store Brussels Sprouts

Keep unwashed, loose Brussels Sprouts in an uncovered bowl or container in the refrigerator for three or four days. Though freshest in the first few days, they can sometimes keep for longer — be sure to check in on them once in a while. If they still look bright green and delicious, then they’re good to go.

If your sprouts are cooked and you’re storing leftovers or fresh cut sprouts, those will still reheat and be tasty up to another three days if kept in the fridge.

If you want to freeze your Brussels sprouts, I recommend that you blanch them first for a few minutes. You can then store them in your freezer in an airtight container, freezer bag, or vacuumed sealed bag for up to a year.

How to Eat Brussels Sprouts

Eaten raw, Brussels sprouts tend to taste bitter. (Keep in mind smaller Brussels sprouts tend to be sweeter than the larger ones.) Cooking methods, such as roasting or sauteing reduces the bitterness in the sprouts and leaves you with more of a delicious, nutty flavor.

That’s not to say you can’t eat Brussels sprouts raw. I would suggest, however, slicing them thin with a mandolin or buying bagged salads that contain shredded Brussels sprouts. In the slicing of the sprouts, you will cut down on the bitterness and, by tossing in a light dressing, you will be sure to enjoy the crunchy goodness of the sprouts and not give the bitterness a second thought.

No matter which way you enjoy sprouts, the first thing you should do is rinse them, then chop off the tough ends and at least cut them in half before cooking or eating. I also will remove some of the outer leaves if they are coming loose or looking wilted. From there, how you eat your cabbage cousins is up to you.

Brussels sprout salad with farro and pomegranate seeds.

In a salad

Whether you purchase your shredded or sliced sprouts pre-packaged or make your own, either would make a great addition to a salad. Mix sprouts in with other baby lettuces and your favorite healthy toppings or add it to the kale in this Healthy Kale Caesar Salad. You can also add them thinly sliced, then tossed in raw or blanched to a salad like I did for this hearty Crunchy Brussels Sprout Salad.

I also like to add them to slaws for extra nutrients (and, plus, it tastes way better than just plain old cabbage). Try this Brussels Sprout and Pear Slaw the next time you’re in the mood for a tangy topping to add to your barbecue sandwich or as a side.

Roasted Brussel sprouts on a sheet pan with an Asian sauce.

Roasted

Roasting is one of my favorite ways to eat Brussels sprouts (well, any vegetable, really). When you roast vegetables, it caramelizes the sugars within, bringing out their natural sweetness. If you are short on time, you can always cut the sprouts smaller or shred into individual leaves for faster roasting.

You can roast your sprouts alone for a side dish, as I do in one of my favorite recipes, Crispy Balsamic Brussels Sprouts. Or, you can add them to a one-pan dinner, like in this recipe for One Pan Mustard Roasted Sausages, Potatoes, and Brussels Sprouts. And if you are looking for something different, try these Crispy Asian Brussel Sprouts.

Roasted Brussel sprouts with sausages and potatoes.

Sauteed

Adding sauteed Brussels sprouts to your pasta is a fun way to liven up a meal, like for this Lemon Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta. Thinly slice your sprouts and add them to a skillet or saute pan with your aromatics and cook for several minutes to ensure a nice, crispy texture. Toss in broth, pasta, and other ingredients and serve to everyone currently drooling in anticipation.

Baked

Brussels sprouts are easy to add to your favorite egg dish. Simply toss thinly sliced sprouts to your scrambled eggs or whip them into a Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Frittata.

Grilled

Already throwing a protein on the grill? Add Brussels sprouts and other vegetables to a simple marinade and toss on the grill like I do when I make up a batch of Easy Grilled Vegetables.

Even More Brussel Sprouts Recipes

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