Brussels sprouts are the hero of Christmas dinners – this is why

Posted by for Nutrition

Haven’t heard about the benefits of this key vegetable? Here’s why they’re too good to just be served on Christmas Day.

Brussels sprouts get a bad rep – but it might be misguided to assume that this is a nation of sprout haters. Three-quarters of people in the UK do actually like sprouts, according to DNA specialists 23andMe, who pointed out that the reason they may receive a turned-up nose is because 66% of people have a gene variant which means they’re able to detect a bitter chemical called PTC that’s contained in the green vegetable. 

Nevertheless, one in 10 people don’t like them but still force them down over Christmas dinner because it’s tradition. Whether you love them or loathe them, they’ll end up on most people’s plates at some point over the festive period. But there’s more to Brussels than just bitterness – they’re actually loaded with vitamins and minerals

Plus, eating seasonally is best for the environment as there’s no need to ship from abroad and, as the nutritional value of produce can decline with time, it means you’re getting the best of the vegetable.“It’s also to do with the nutrients and bacteria that are in the soil in your local environment being specific to your needs,” explains nutritionist Cheryl Telfer. As right now is sprout’s time to shine, what is it that makes them so good for you? 

The benefits of Brussels sprouts

Supporting gut health

As with most other vegetables, sprouts are choc-full of fibre, but they are specifically high in soluble fibre. “This is a prebiotic fibre, meaning it feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut,” says Cheryl. Looking after your microbiome is a well-known way to boost overall health, “but it’s also a great way to get things moving and encourage daily stools. If you’re finding you have problems with being regular, Brussels will definitely help,” adds Cheryl. After all, no one wants to be feeling bloated and full on Christmas Day. 

Speaking of digestion though, one reason people complain about this vegetable is the gassy side effect. But that is just a sign of the bacteria working, says Cheryl, and not a reason to avoid sprouts. “Some people are a bit more sensitive, particularly if they aren’t used to eating much fibre or this type of fibre. The gases are produced from the bacteria as they feed off of the fibre and that is then released into your gut, so just make sure you eat them in moderation,” she says. 

Repairs and rebuilds tissue 

Sprouts contain around 81% of your daily vitamin C intake, which is responsible for the growth and repair of the tissues in your body. If you have been nailing the home workouts in the lead up to Christmas, it’s essential to get enough of the nutrient in order to rebuild your torn tissue. But even if your exercise routine isn’t at it’s peak, vitamin C is needed to grow and rebuild our immune cells – something we should definitely have in mind during winter. 

“It’s good to frequently be adding vitamin C foods into your diet,” says Cheryl, as the body never stop growing and repairing, so don’t forget to eat sprouts all season long. But as vitamin C helps with the metabolism of iron, pair it with iron-rich foods to reap even more benefits. Red meat and nuts are a great source of iron, so sauteeing them with bacon or eating them alongside your nut roast serves purposes beyond taste. 

“Vitamin C can also play a role in reducing tiredness and fatigue,” says dietician Azmina Govindji, something most people could probably all do with right now. “Whether you enjoy them whole or shredded, cook them lightly and quickly to preserve as much of the vitamin C as you can and eat them soon after preparation,” she advises. 

Supports healthy blood

Half a cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains around 137% of your daily recommended vitamin K intake, a nutrient responsible for proper blood clotting. “It seems like the sort of thing your body should do naturally, but if you find that you bruise easily or you often have a bloody nose or nose bleeds, it might be a sign of low levels of vitamin K,” says Cheryl. “It’s a vitamin that we often forget about, so it’s worth getting easy sources into your diet.” 

Plus, vitamin K also plays a role in bone growth and strengthening, which is particularly important for women who are at a greater risk of osteoporosis as they get older. 

Of course, consistency is key when it comes to eating nutrient dense foods. Christmas Day is probably not the best time to be thinking about hitting vitamin targets, but eating a wide range of food all the time is the best way to top up your nutrition levels. So if you like sprouts it’s great to know that they are loving you right back – and don’t just need to be eaten with turkey and cranberry sauce. 

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Images: Getty

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