Brussels sprouts are a common staple today but they have a fairly short history. The plant was first cultivated in Ancient Rome and later in Belgium around the thirteenth century. Brussels sprouts belong to the cabbage family and they are actually the same plant species as kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower: B. oleracea. Also known as wild mustard, the plant is cultivated to select for stems and flowers in the case of broccoli, terminal buds for cabbage, and lateral buds for Brussels sprouts. Brussels sprouts are now considered a superfood with a powerful blend of nutrients like folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, fiber, and protein.
Here are some of the most important health benefits of eating more Brussels sprouts.
Dietary fiber is one of the best remedies for constipation. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool to help it pass more quickly through the intestines, while soluble fiber slows digestion to improve nutrient absorption. Fiber has been shown to relieve chronic constipation in adults without the potential side effects of laxatives while improving gut health. Brussels sprouts are one of the best sources of fiber to relieve constipation with four grams of fiber per cup and only fifty-six calories. Research shows adults should get at least twenty-five grams of fiber per day for women and thirty-eight grams per day for men to reduce the risk of constipation and serious conditions like heart disease and cancer yet the average American consumes just fifteen grams per day. Adding Brussels sprouts to one's diet can help with daily fiber needs.
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Regulate Blood Sugar
Research shows Brussels sprouts may help regulate blood sugar thanks to high fiber content and an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid. The high fiber in Brussels sprouts helps maintain blood sugar by moving through the body slowly without being digested and slowing the absorption of sugar. The alpha-lipoic acid in Brussels sprouts also plays a role in regulating blood sugar. This antioxidant has been found to boost insulin sensitivity. Insulin is the hormone that transports sugar from the blood to the cells to keep blood sugar levels healthy. It's believed alpha-lipoic acid helps insulin work more efficiently. Researchers also believe alpha-lipoic acid supplements or a diet rich in foods with alpha-lipoic acid can help with insulin resistance and neuropathy associated with diabetes.
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While inflammation is a healthy and normal immune response, chronic inflammation may be a common factor in many diseases like heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. Chronic inflammation can affect many internal systems and organs, including the lining of blood vessels. This inflammation is often associated with free radical damage and oxidative stress to cells, which slowly causes damage. Certain foods contain compounds that help fight inflammation. Cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts have known anti-inflammatory properties and studies have shown a diet high in cruciferous vegetables is associated with lower blood levels of inflammatory markers. Brussels sprouts also contain antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals responsible for inflammation. One of the most powerful antioxidants in Brussels sprouts is kaempferol, which alleviates inflammation. A diet high in foods with kaempferol has been associated with a lower risk of diabetes, certain types of cancer, and arthritis.
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Slows Cognitive Decline
A growing body of research indicates the antioxidants, vitamin A, and vitamin E in foods like Brussels sprouts, walnuts, and blueberries can reduce inflammation and slow cognitive decline. Eating foods high in vitamin A like Brussels sprouts slows cognitive decline because vitamin A is converted into retinoic acid, which works with the central nervous system and interacts with brain receptors. It's believed retinoic acid helps boost the number of brain neurons and connections. Brussels sprouts are also rich in omega fatty acids and tryptophan, which are important for healthy brain function and may help with DNA repair in cells. In a recent study, researchers at the University of Aberdeen created a 'supercharged' vitamin A inspired by the vitamin content of Brussels sprouts that will eventually be used in human trials for Alzheimer's disease.
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Benefits Bone Health
Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of vitamin K, which benefits bone health and helps with blood clotting. Just half a cup of Brussels sprouts contains 137% of an individual's recommended daily intake of vitamin K, which plays a role in bone metabolism and helps protect against osteoporosis. According to new research, the MK-7 form of vitamin K2 helps keep calcium in bones and out of arteries, where it leads to arterial calcification. Vitamin K1, which is found in dark, leafy greens like Brussels sprouts, can help reduce the risk of bone fractures. Because vitamin K is fat-soluble, the body absorbs it better when it's taken with healthy fat sources such as fish or nuts.