Cancer Prevention in Brussels

Cut them in half, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and roast them in the oven.   Steam them and serve them with lemon zest.  Sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese.  However you prefer Brussels sprouts, you should include these super-veggies in your diet both for their health benefits and because they are delicious. 

Closely related to Kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts are different horticultural forms of the same species called Brassica oleracea of the Cruciferae plant family.  “Cruciferous” vegetables may sound familiar because of their famed anti-cancer properties.  Originating from a common relative (wild cabbage), other veg in this category include:  cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, and horseradish.   The most important word to remember about this category of veggie is “glucosinolate” which is a sulfur-containing compound and the origin of the potent smell when cooking.  This is one of many compounds in plants called phytochemicals that likely provide health benefits to humans but have not been quantified in regards to proven needs for health like vitamins and minerals have.  We may not yet know exactly how much glucosinolate a person needs, but we do know that these compounds are most probably important for human health.

In order to reap the anti-cancer benefits of these compounds, an enzyme called myrosinase needs to be activated by processing the plant (such as chopping or chewing).   With myrosinase being stimulated, two classes of chemicals can become active:  indoles and isothiocyanates.  You don’t have to remember these long names, but do recall that eating plenty of these types of foods can be beneficial to your health because they block/suppress cancer development, decrease inflammation, and play a role in detoxification of foreign substances in the body.

Besides their bioactivity and anti-cancer properties, Brussels sprouts also contain fiber (4 grams in 1 cup), so they can assist in lowering blood cholesterol levels.  Additionally, they are high in vitamin K, C, A, folate, potassium and B vitamins.  They are very low in calories and if prepared properly, can be a welcome addition to any meal.

By Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, LDN 

Linus Pauling Institute:

Worlds Healthiest Foods:

ANZ J Surg (2003):

Photo credit: via Posts for Syndication at

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