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Love ‘em or hate ‘em, when it comes to Brussels sprouts it seems there’s no in-between. One study found that our strong feelings about these mini cabbage-like veggies is in part determined by a genetic variation that makes us more or less sensitive to bitter tastes.1 Sure, they can be a little bitter, but Brussels sprouts roasted just right are a staple of the fall season, even if just for some of us. And if you’re not a Brussels-lover, perhaps the oodles of health benefits will help them go down a little sweeter.
Brussels sprouts get a bad rap for being bitter and pungent, but it’s those very qualities that indicate one of their most beneficial nutrients: glucosinolates, a group of plant metabolites and precursors to the health-promoting phytonutrient sulforaphane. Glucosinolates give Brussels sprouts their bitterness, but are also anti-inflammatory, powerful antioxidants, and support the body in detoxing carcinogens and other harmful compounds.2 Sulforaphane, as its name might suggest, has a slightly sulphuric taste and with its strong antioxidant properties, protects the brain, kidneys, liver, and heart from oxidative damage.3
Our Brussels-loving family members may have been on to something when they bribed us to try the bitter veg as kids—in addition to glucosinolates, Brussels sprouts are a rich source of vitamins A, C, and K, contain more potassium than a banana, and are a great source of fiber.4 5 So go ahead and take the Brussels sprouts bribe, indulge in the best of bitters, and your body will thank you!
Choosing organic veggies as they come into season is a great way to keep those fall feasts the most nutritious and environmentally friendly they can be. In the U.S., Brussels sprouts are harvested from fall through winter and contain the highest levels of nutrients during this time.6 Growing foods out of their season creates more of a demand for pesticides, as the crops aren’t growing in their natural conditions. Conventionally farmed Brussels sprouts are sprayed with chlorpyifos, dimethoate, and imidacloprid—pesticides known to disrupt the endocrine system, neurofunction, and cause harm to bees. The same glucosinolates that provide us with nutrition and the signature flavor of Brussels sprouts are also a natural pesticide—no need for harmful sprays!7
The air is crisp as leaves of all colors float down from the trees—a perfect setting for a feast of autumn’s bountiful harvest with loved ones. As the bowl of Brussels sprouts makes its way around the table, here are some fun facts you can share:
This recipe takes a holiday staple—roasted Brussels sprouts—up a notch with the savory flavors of garlic and Parmesan cheese. Roasting the Brussels sprouts on a sheet pan results in irresistible crispy, crunchy cheese edges and brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable.