Good Things in Small Packages
Reduce the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancers
Lower the risk of heart disease
If any one food has the reputation for being "the thing on your plate you'd most like to slip to your dog under the table," it could very well be this one.
Just say the name and people start crinkling their noses.
Well, believe it or not, these super vegetables have gotten a lot tastier during the past decade.
What's more, scientists have found that they're even better for you than they ever imagined.
New Taste in Your Market
Brussels-Sprouts are miniature members of the cabbage family.
And while the sprouts of yore were often strong and bitter, the taste has literally changed, says Steve Bontadelli, a brussels sprouts grower in Santa Cruz, California.
The taste problem originally began when growers started using machines instead of harvesting sprouts by hand.
To make machine harvesting easier, they developed a new strain of sprouts.
Unfortunately, these "new and improved" plants yielded some really bitter sprouts.
It wasn't until the past 10 years or so that growers started changing the hybrids to make them taste better.
Today they're much sweeter and milder."
So now you'll be smacking your lips instead of holding your nose when you spoon these health-saving leafy nuggets onto your plate.
Taste aside, these super vegetables are packed with plant chemicals that provide protection against major league diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Belgium's Burly Cancer Beaters
Like other cruciferous vegetables, Brussels-Sprouts are chock-full of natural plant compounds called phytonutrients, which may help protect against cancer.
These compounds may be particularly effective against common cancers like those of the breast and colon.
One of the key protective compounds in these super vegetables is sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane triggers the release of enzymes that help rid your body's cells of toxic wastes and reduce your risk for cancer.
In a groundbreaking study at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, scientists exposed 145 laboratory animals to a powerful cancer-causing agent called DMBA.
Twenty-five of the animals had not received any special treatment, while the rest had been fed high doses of sulforaphane.
Fifty days later, 68 percent of the unprotected animals had breast tumors, compared with only 26 percent of those that received the sulforaphane.
Brussels-Sprouts contain another protective phytonutrient called indole-3carbinol, or I3C.
This compound works as an anti-estrogen, meaning it helps sweep up your body's harmful estrogens before they contribute to the growth of cancer cells.
It also helps boost the production of certain enzymes that help clear cancer-causing toxins from the body.
Indoles are probably very useful against colon, breast, and prostate cancers.
And population studies show that they probably protect against other cancers as well.
In one small study, researchers in the Netherlands found that people who ate more than 10 oz. of Brussels-Sprouts (about 14 sprouts) a day for one week had levels of protective cancer-fighting enzymes in their colon that were, on average, 23 percent higher than people who did not eat them.
In another study, five people ate more than 10 oz. a day for three weeks, while another five avoided the sprouts and other similar vegetables.
At the end of the study, the sprout-eating group had 28 percent less wear and tear to their DNA.
It's a promising find, say experts, because the healthier you keep your DNA, the healthier you stay.
In the Kitchen
For such tiny guys, these super vegetables sure cause some large culinary conundrums.
Not only is it challenging to cook them just so, but it's also likely that you'll smell up the house while you do it.
It doesn't have to be this way.
If you follow these tips, you'll get the health benefits without the hassles.
Mark the spot.
To allow the tough stems to cook as quickly as the leaves, make an "X" on the bottom of each stem, using a sharp knife.
Then steam them for 7 to 14 minutes, until they're just tender enough to poke with a fork.
Quell the smell.
The big sulfur smell thrown off by these little cabbages discourages some people from taking advantage of their healing power.
Try tossing a stalk of celery in the cooking water.
It'll help neutralize the smell.
Use them fast.
Although they'll keep for a week or more in the refrigerator, they start getting bitter after about three days, which may discourage you and your family from eating them and reaping their benefits.
Buy only as many as you'll use in the next few days.
Brussels for your Bones
Aside from all the compounds in Brussels-Sprouts, there's also plenty of good old fashioned vitamins, minerals, and other substances that can help fight off cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol and a host of other health problems.
Topping this list is fiber.
These super vegetables are a good source of fiber, with about 3 grams in a half cup serving.
You'd have to eat more than two slices of whole-grain bread to get the amount of fiber in a half cup of these little green gems.
Eating your daily fill can help you avoid all the conditions that a diet rich in fiber is known to prevent, like constipation, hemorrhoids, and other digestive complaints.
A half-cup provides 48 milligrams of immunity-building vitamin-C, more than 80 percent of the Daily Value (DY).
It also provides 47 micrograms of folate, about 12 percent of the DV.
Folate is essential for normal tissue growth, and studies show that it may protect against cancer, heart disease and birth defects.
Women, especially those on birth control pills, often have low levels of this important vitamin.
Gettinq the Most
Though you'll lose some nutrients during the cooking process, raw sprouts just don't go down well.
Gently steaming will help release some of their healing compounds.
But don't steam them too long; cooking sprouts until they're mushy makes them lose too much vitamin-C, along with other valuable phytonutrients.
Plus, overcooking gives them a bitterness.
And, if you're wondering how to add them to your dinner this evening, might we suggest;
Awesome Sprouts with Bacon, Walnuts and Balsamic Vinegar
The bacon and walnuts give a nutty flavor to the Brussels-sprouts while the balsamic vinegar adds sweetness.
It's become our tradition to serve Brussels-sprouts this way as one of the side dishes for family holiday dinners.
Makes 4 servings
- 16 Brussels-sprouts, washed and halved with stems removed
- 2 strips of lean bacon, diced
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 minced shallot
- 1/2 c. toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 c. of sherry
- 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
- Aged (or regular) balsamic vinegar
- Sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
1. Fill the bottom of your steamer with 2 inches of water.
While steam is building up in steamer, cut your sprouts into halves and let sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out their hidden health benefits.
Chop or press garlic and let sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out their health-promoting properties.
Steam sprouts for 5 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl.
2. In a skillet, put in 1 Tbs. of olive oil.
Put in the bacon and pan fry the bacon until crispy.
Put in the garlic and shallot and pan fry them for 1/2 minute.
3. Add in the Brussels-sprouts.
Add 1 tsp. of salt and freshly grounded pepper.
Mix the Brussels-sprouts with the bacon.
Add the sherry.
Continue to cook the sprouts until the sherry has reduced and the sprouts become fork-tender, about 3 minutes.
Mix in the walnuts.
4. If using regular balsamic vinegar, then add 2 Tbs. of vinegar into the pan and continue to cook the sprouts until the vinegar has completely reduced.
5. If you're using aged balsamic vinegar, then drizzle in 2 Tbs. of vinegar onto the sprouts after they have been plated.
Mix the vinegar into the sprouts and serve.
Research shows that carotenoids found in foods are best absorbed when consumed with oils.
Healthy Cooking Tips:
To mellow the flavor of garlic, add garlic to sprouts for the last 2 minutes of steaming.Tweet
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