Health Benefits Summary
Physical inactivity and excess weight, especially abdominal adiposity, accelerate aging and are major risk factors for many, if not all, chronic illnesses. However, changes in lifestyle practices can promote healthy aging. Chief among these modifications is a diet predominantly rich in plant-based foods. Because they are tasty and versatile, Brussels sprouts can be regularly integrated into people’s diets; they can be prepared as side dishes, added to vegetable soups, stews or casseroles, tossed into stir fries or shaved raw into salads.
With only 38 calories per cup, a serving of Brussels sprouts provides the daily recommended allowance of the following nutrients: 195 percent of vitamin K, 125 percent of vitamin C (more than an orange),_  and 10 percent or more of vitamin A, vitamin B-6, folate, potassium, and manganese. As a low calorie, high fiber food, Brussels sprouts have a positive effect on satiety, the feeling of fullness, and consequently, can play a role in weight management by helping people eat less and feel more satisfied. Brussels sprouts are a good source of fiber; eating foods rich in fiber reduces both hunger and the number of calories people’s bodies can absorb._
In addition to traditional nutrients, Brussels sprouts are chock full of lesser know phytochemicals—compounds that have a variety of health protecting properties, among them anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic _ and anti-diabetic. Research on glucosinolate,_ a phytochemical abundant in Brussels sprouts, is associated with preventing several chronic illnesses.
While some research has focused on individual components in Brussels sprouts, there is widespread agreement within the scientific community that the greatest benefit to human health is the effect of eating the whole food rather than a supplement of an individual compound. This is attributed to the synergy of all of the nutrients and phytochemicals working together.
Eating cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, can help maintain health and wellness and prevent or delay the onset of age-related illness. Research substantiates that eating Brussels sprouts as part of an active lifestyle and plant-based diet can support healthy aging and maintenance or prevention of chronic illnesses ranging from type 2 diabetes to cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, obesity, cognitive impairment and chronic inflammation–widely recognized as the root of most illnesses. Cruciferous vegetables also help maintain a proper balance of bacteria in the human gut. Recent studies underscore the importance of gut bacterial composition and health.
Like many other chronic diseases cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer and neurological disorders, type 2 diabetes is associated with chronic, low-grade inflammation.
The greatest risk factors for diabetes include being overweight and physically inactive. Healthy dietary patterns that include eating Brussels sprouts on a regular basis can prevent and/or help manage diabetes. In fact, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends eating green vegetables like Brussels sprouts on a daily basis.
Brussels sprouts offer multiple compounds and mechanisms of action that provide protection from diabetes. They are a good source of fiber that can improve blood sugar and lower the risk of diabetes. In people with diabetes, a high fiber diet is associated with a reduced risk of mortality. Healthy weight reduction is one of the best ways to fight or manage diabetes. Brussels sprouts are low in calories and high in fiber. Moreover, eating them can have a positive effect on satiety, the feeling of fullness. Fiber helps reduce both hunger and the number of calories people’s bodies can absorb. Brussels sprouts also have a low glycemic index. The lower a food’s glycemic index or glycemic load, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels. Glycemic index and glycemic load keep food glucose and insulin levels within healthy and manageable ranges for people with diabetes. Many factors contribute to glycemic index, including fat and fiber content, and how much a food has been processed. The American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association stress the importance of glycemic control in the primary prevention of CVD in patients with diabetes. In addition to fiber, Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, a compound that researchers have found to have anti-diabetic properties.
The epidemic level of diabetes is a major public health concern. Diabetes has long been known to increase CVD risk and mortality. Even after adjusting for other heart disease risk factors, people with diabetes are at least twice as likely to develop CVD and face two to four times greater cardiovascular mortality compared to people without diabetes.
A growing body of research has found that cancer, type 2 diabetes, and CVD have common physiological associations that are active areas of scientific research. Moreover, scientific studies reviewed by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) have also found that diabetes is associated with an increased risk for several types of cancer. Lifestyle changes that include weight loss and dietary changes like regularly eating Brussels sprouts and other plant-based foods can lower the risk of a whole host of chronic illnesses.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death worldwide. Lifestyle choices, including exercise and eating a variety of fiber-rich fruit and vegetables, protect against CVD. As part of a healthy lifestyle, Brussels sprouts promote cardiovascular health through several different mechanisms.
Regularly eating Brussels sprouts helps reduce the incidence of diabetes and facilitates weight loss and management, critical to preventing CVD. In a population study of 135,000 people, researchers found that those who ate cruciferous vegetables daily reduced their risk of heart disease by 20 percent compared to those who ate either no or very few cruciferous vegetables.
Phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals in Brussels sprouts lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood pressure. Brussels sprouts inhibit LDL oxidation that plays a key role in the development of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Brussels sprouts also increase HDL (good) cholesterol.
Additional cardiovascular benefits from Brussels sprouts include improved vascular health, circulation and reduced clotting. Brussels sprouts fight against heart attacks, ischemic heart disease, and arteriosclerosis. Preliminary research indicates that the anti-inflammatory properties of Brussels sprouts may also reverse blood vessel damage.
A comprehensive review of scientific evidence by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) concludes that over a third of the most common cancers can be prevented by lifestyle choices— eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly. Changes in dietary practices can have a major impact on the risk of developing a considerable number of cancers. Between 70 and 80 percent of cancers of the gastrointestinal system (including the esophagus, stomach and colon) may be avoided by eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruit. The cruciferous cabbage family has more cancer-preventative nutrients than any other category of vegetables. Brussels sprouts, in particular, are associated with lower rates of colorectal, laryngeal, oral, esophageal, lung, kidney, breast, prostrate and ovarian cancers.
Primarily plant-based diets protect against cancer on multiple levels by reducing risk factors that include diabetes, metabolic syndrome as well as obesity. An emerging area of scientific research has also found that people with diabetes are more likely to be diagnosed with, and die of, some types of cancer. Additionally, research has demonstrated that there are substances in some fruits and vegetables that offer greater protection than others. Brussels sprouts are among the most powerful cancer fighting foods. Specifically, they are loaded with constituents, compounds and chemicals, including glucosinolates that have been found to offer particular protection against cancer. One of the known mechanisms of action of glucosinolates is to activate cancer-fighting enzyme systems in the human body. Brussels sprouts also prevent DNA damage, a risk factor for cancer. During digestion, glucosinolates break down into compounds that prevent cancer by blocking the growth of precancerous cells and regulating the hormonal activity that can lead to tumor development.
Inflammation is the body’s natural protective response to illness, stress and infection; however, some illness and disease cause the body’s immune system to malfunction leading to chronic inflammation. When inflammation is activated continuously over many years, it can result in excess oxidation and chronic disease. Chronic inflammation is widely accepted as the root cause of major illnesses such as neurological disorders (including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease), obesity, metabolic syndrome,_ cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer. As a result of this understanding, professionals in the medical community are embracing anti-inflammatory diets—comprised primarily of plant-based foods—as key to promoting healthy aging, delaying the onset of age-related illnesses and promoting optimum health at any age. In animal and human studies, a range of nutrients, phytochemicals, foods and spices reduces markers of inflammation.
As a good source of vitamin C, fiber, other vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals, Brussels sprouts are an anti-inflammatory food. Eating them helps to maintain good digestive health, associated with reduced inflammation. The glucosinolates in Brussels sprouts act as anti-inflammatories in the body and inhibit low-density lipoprotein oxidation (an important reaction in the atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease). Glucosinolates have also been found to reduce inflammation related to metabolic syndrome and osteoporosis.
Bacteria and other organisms in the human body do a lot more than help digest food. Between seventy and ninety percent of the immune system resides in the gut. With more knowledge about the immune system and role chronic inflammation plays in illness, new research is emerging that links good gut microbial to healthy weight reduction _ and maintenance as well as preventing chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative problems. To put it simply, if gut microflora isn’t healthy, then people are at greater risk for all sorts of illnesses. Scientists think that the sicknesses extend beyond physical ailments, and that healthy gut flora can also improve an array of mental health symptoms. The research adds further evidence to the notion that an assortment of human health issues may depend upon the diversity and complexity of bacteria that lives within the gut, the microbiome.
Containing both good and bad bacteria, the complex gut microbial is the population of bacteria and other microbes that reside inside the gut. About 100 trillion bacteria and other microbes live in the intestines, especially the large intestine. The right balance of bacteria in the gut keeps people healthy and protects them from disease. Researchers are looking for the causes of chronic illnesses and the connection between health and nutrition. Increasingly, scientists suspect that the answer is in the gut and what people eat or don’t eat.
A diet high in refined, heavily processed foods will disrupt the gut; antibiotic use and some environmental factors also negatively affect good bacterial balance. Conversely, a plant-based diet rich in fiber and some fermented foods nourishes beneficial bacteria and rebalances the microbiome. To promote a healthy gut, researchers are recommending diets high in fiber that will fortify the healthy probiotic bacteria. Specifically, some of the best prebiotics are cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts. Fiber is critical for numerous health reasons, and without it, the microbiotica will instead feed on the thin layer of mucus that protects the intestinal lining, potentially leading to “leaky gut” and other health problems. Further evidence that Brussels sprouts boost digestive health is that their consumption may also prevent gastric ulcers by inhibiting the growth of the ulcer-forming microorganism Heliobacter pylori that is also a risk factor for gastric cancer.
More analysis is needed to determine specific dietary recommendations, but the knowledge that Brussels sprouts are particularly helpful to a healthy gut offers further proof that eating them regularly promotes well-being and protects against chronic illness.
- Excess fat that settles around the abdominal area
- Many people are vitamin C deficient. In its Second National Report on Biochemical Indicators, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that at least ten percent of the United States population is vitamin C deficient because of poor diet, age and poor health status. Vitamin C deficiency is particularly acute in children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Vitamin C is one among few nutrients that has been proven to act as an antioxidant in the human body.
- In spite of greater awareness that fiber consumption plays a critical role in healthy aging and preventing chronic illness, most Americans don’t eat enough fiber. Adults need about 25 – 38 grams of fiber a day, depending upon age, gender and overall health status. Unfortunately, average consumption is closer to 16 grams/day. This poses a significant public health crisis since abundant research has linked inadequate fiber consumption to a range of serious illnesses.
- Foods with anticarcinogenic compounds inhibit the development of cancer.
- Glucosinolates are compounds found in all cruciferous vegetables; glucosinolates form isothiocyanates and indoles.
- Metabolic syndrome is characterized by obesity, hypertension as well as disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism, and linked to increased risks of type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Research is underway that links unhealthy gut bacteria with higher rates of obesity.