Several studies have confirmed that plant compounds called isothiocyanates, found in cruciferous vegetables, have potent anticancer activity. One particular isothiocyanate compound called sulforaphane has been shown to inhibit growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death.
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts have garnered a reputation for being high in these beneficial compounds, but other cruciferous veggies have them as well, including Brussels sprouts, which have actually been shown to contain greater amounts of glucosinolates than broccoli.1 Glucoraphanin is a glucosinolate precursor of sulforaphane that influences carcinogenesis and mutagenesis.2,3 Compared to mature broccoli, broccoli sprouts can contain up to 20 times more glucoraphanin.
Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts
In one study,4 men who ate about 1.5 cups of Brussels sprouts daily for five weeks had a 28 percent decrease in DNA damage, which the researchers concluded showed "that consumption of cruciferous vegetables [Brussels sprouts] may result in a decreased cancer risk.” As noted by World’s Healthiest Foods:5
“This connection between Brussels sprouts and cancer prevention should not be surprising since Brussels sprouts provide special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention.
These three systems are (1) the body's detox system, (2) its antioxidant system, and (3) its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system. Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly.”
One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts also contains more than 240 percent of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamin K1, and nearly 130 percent of the RDA for vitamin C. They’re also a good source of fiber, manganese, potassium (which helps control your blood pressure by balancing the rather high sodium), choline, B vitamins, antioxidants and other health-promoting phytochemicals.
Brussels Sprouts — A Hardy Winter Crop
Brussels sprouts are a valuable addition to your home garden,6,7 and while they require quite a bit of space, they are among the hardiest of the cabbage family. If you time your planting to coincide with fall frost, they’ll actually be tastier, as the overnight chill brings out their sweetness. While they rarely do well in hotter climates, some newer hybrid varieties allow for greater temperature variances.
Popular hybrid varieties8 include Bubbles, which has shorter maturation (82 days instead of 100), tolerates warmer weather and is resistant to rust, and Prince Marvel, which produces tighter, sweeter sprouts and has a maturation rate of about 90 days. Other recommended varieties include Jade Cross, Oliver, Royal Marvel and Valiant.