by Denise Sullivan, Nutrition & Health Education Specialist, MU Extension-Jackson County
If it is possible for vegetables to be ‘trending’, we could say that Brussels sprouts are doing exactly that. These tiny cabbages (as my kids used to call them) are showing up shaved into salads and roasted in savory side dishes on menus and dinner tables across the country.
Brussels sprouts are a member of the Brassicaceae family, as are cabbage, broccoli and kale, sharing a similar nutrient profile. These tiny sprouts are an excellent source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K and folate.
Vitamin C is important for tissue repair, immune function and aids in the body’s ability to absorb iron.
Vitamin K is necessary for effective blood clotting and important to bone health. It is important to note that anyone taking blood-thinning medication should monitor vitamin K intake.
Folate is an important nutrient for women who are pregnant or wishing to become pregnant, as it reduces the risk of neural tube defects in the developing fetus.
As with most vegetables, Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber that is beneficial in digestive and gut health. A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts has shown to reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of pro-inflammatory diseases.
When selecting Brussels sprouts, look for bright green compact heads, and whenever possible, buy them on the stalk. It was actually on-the-stalk Brussels sprouts that caught my kids’ attention over 20 years ago that forced – I mean inspired – me to try the fresh variety.
My kids were genuinely excited about a vegetable that looked like something out of a science fiction movie, but I did not share their enthusiasm. I had only eaten them in the school cafeteria growing up and I was not a fan. That day, however, I made a decision to build on their enthusiasm and we bought them.
Now, this was in a time before Google and Pinterest, so I had to figure out how to cook them on my own. I knew from experience that lemon, garlic and butter could make anything palatable, so after steaming them, that’s what I added. Guess what…the kids loved them and even more surprising…so did I. From that day, Brussels sprouts became a part of our vegetable rotation.
If, like me, you formed your opinion of Brussels sprouts (or any vegetable for that matter) on something you were served in the school lunchroom, I really urge you to try them fresh. God bless the school lunch ladies decades ago, but most of the vegetables served were overcooked and not very tasty.
The recipe below is a tasty way to add more colorful plants to your holiday plate. When we served this dish at last year’s Christmas dinner, it got more attention than the ever-famous green bean casserole!