Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts - a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables - are strikingly high in cancer-fighting compounds called glucosinolates. They are sprouts are also a good source of fibre and vitamin C. Yet, Brussels sprouts are largely underrated for their taste and nutrition profile. This month I'm telling you why you should give this healthy vegetable a second chance.

Brussels Sprouts

Nutrition Notes

Brussels sprouts come from the Brassica oleracea species of plant and are closely related to other cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, bok choy, cabbage and cauliflower.

Cruciferous vegetables are highly regarded for their exceptional glucosinolate content, phytochemicals that are broken down in the gut and transformed into potent cancer-fighting chemicals called isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol. 

Together, these two compounds help eliminate cancer-causing substances by regulating the body's natural detoxification system.  Studies in the lab have revealed that components in cruciferous vegetables stop the growth of cancer cells for tumours of the breast, uterus, cervix, lung, colon and liver.

Eating cruciferous veggies may help reduce cancer risk too.  One large study followed more than 80,000 men and women and found that people who ate cruciferous vegetables at least three times per week - versus less than once per week -  were 30 percent less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

Cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, may also guard against cardiovascular disease.  One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed more than 100,000 men and women for up to 14 years and found that eating 1/2 cup or more of cruciferous vegetables each day reduced the risk of ischemic stroke by 32 percent.

Brussels sprouts are chock full of nutrients including vitamin K, manganese, folate, fibre and vitamin C.  In fact, gram for gram, Brussels sprouts contain nearly fifty percent more vitamin C than an orange.

According to Canada's Food Guide, one serving of Brussels sprouts equals 4 sprouts or ½ cup (125 ml).

Nutrient information per 4 cooked Brussels sprouts:


30 kcal


2 g


0.4 g


6 g


3 g

Vitamin C

52 mg

Vitamin K

118 ug


50 ug


0.19 mg

Source: Canadian Nutrient File, 2007b


The most common variety of Brussels sprouts is Jade E. Other commercial varieties include Lunet, Oliver, Silverstar YT and Valiant.  Most varieties of Brussels sprouts are green, although some rare varieties are purple in colour.

Brussels sprouts range in size from 2.5 to 4 cm in diameter and resemble miniature cabbages.


Brussels sprouts grow together in a tight spiral pattern on a thick stalk with a burst of leaves at the top.

While some specialty markets carry Brussels sprouts still on the stalk, you're most likely to find them as individual sprouts, varying in size from an olive to a golf ball. While you can find Brussels sprouts year-round, their peak growing season in North America is autumn through early spring.

To ensure you're buying the freshest sprouts, look for those that have bright green leaves. Old sprouts will tend to have yellow, wilted leaves and a strong odour that's similar to cabbage.

Avoid sprouts that are puffy or soft; instead choose ones that are firm, dense and compact. Be sure to choose sprouts of a comparable size to ensure they will cook evenly.

Look at the leaves and stem - tiny holes may indicate the presence of worms or plant lice; make sure the stem of the sprout is white and firm.


Gently remove any wilted or yellow leaves prior to storing. Do not wash sprouts prior to storing as this can cause them to spoil more quickly.

To store Brussels sprouts, loosely wrap in a paper towel and wrap in a plastic bag; store in the crisper of your refrigerator until ready to cook. They will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Avoid storing Brussels sprouts at room temperature as heat can quickly turn the leaves yellow.


The secret to good Brussels sprouts is to not overcook them. Overcooked Brussels sprouts have a pungent, sulfurous odour. Properly cooked Brussels sprouts have a crisp, dense texture and a slightly nutty taste.

To prepare Brussels sprouts for cooking, gently remove any wilted or yellow leaves. Trim the stem and cut a shallow cross in the base of the sprout, to allow heat to penetrate the core. Regardless of how you cook Brussels sprouts, test for doneness by inserting the tip of a knife into the stem - Brussels sprouts are thoroughly cooked when the stem in barely tender.

Braising - Braising sprouts, or cooking in stock or seasoned broth, can add extra flavour and spice to the sprouts. Sprouts can be braised in the oven at 350°F or on the stove-top over medium heat. Either way, add sodium-reduced stock to cover sprouts and cook until tender - approximately 30 minutes.

Microwaving - To microwave Brussels sprouts, put 1/2 pound of sprouts in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with 1/4 cup of liquid (stock, broth or water). Cook on medium-high heat - 4 minutes for small-medium sprouts, 8 minutes for larger sprouts.

Steaming - To steam, place sprouts in a steamer basket over one inch of boiling water. Cover and cook for 5-8 minutes. Be sure to remove the lid every 2 minutes to allow the naturally occurring sulfur compounds to disperse.

Roasting - Cut sprouts in half length-wise and place them cut side up on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Roast at 400°F for 25 minutes.


Healthy Ways to Enjoy:


  • Add leftover roasted Brussels sprouts to an omelet along with sliced red pepper and fresh garlic.
  • Add shaved raw Brussels sprouts to frittatas and quiches.
  • For brunch, serve sautéed Brussels sprouts with sliced chicken apple sausage.


  • Add quartered Brussels sprouts to a hearty bean and vegetable soup. Click here for a recipe.
  • Grate raw Brussels sprouts into a salad for extra vitamin C and anti-cancer glucosinolates.
  • Toss leftover roasted Brussels sprouts with toasted pecans, sliced red onions and balsamic vinaigrette for a tasty mid-day salad.


  • Sauté Brussels sprouts in a teaspoon of olive oil with strips of fresh ginger, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add some orange juice, a splash of soy sauce and freshly ground pepper and cover for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Roast Brussels sprouts in the oven with some olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Click here for a recipe.
  • Substitute grated Brussels sprouts in place of cabbage in stir-fries and casseroles.

More Information

Did you know?

  • Brussels sprouts were voted Britain's most hated vegetable in 2002. However, they seem to be making a comeback. In 2005 a poll named the sprout as Britain's 5th favourite vegetable.
  • When overcooked, Brussels sprouts release sulphur compounds resulting in an unpleasant smell, possibly contributing to their bad rap.

For more information


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