Sautéed Brussels Sprouts: health benefits and tips for cooking

     

    Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

     

    Time:        prep. 5 mins
                      cook. 15 mins
    Difficulty: very easy
    Yields:      2 portions
    Cost:         low

     

    I love all vegetables, especially those that have health benefits due to a rich content of functional nutrients: just like brussels sprouts.
    These buds contain excellent levels of vitamins (A, B1, B6, B9, C, E and K) and minerals (manganese, potassium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus); and loads of fiber, while having very few calories.

    Oh I forgot, also about 3.5 grams of protein and roughly 170 mg of omega-3s per 100 grams, not bad for a miniature cabbage. But before the recipe of Sautéed Brussels Sprouts, let’s see why your parents were right in forcing you to finish yours.

     

    The Origins and Diffusion

    The entry of Brussels sprouts in the culinary scenes dates back to the fifth century, whereas their name obtained Belgian citizenship only after the thirteenth century, given the expanding production in the neighboring areas of the homonymous city.
    Despite being so ancient, it is strange that both I (born and raised in Istanbul) and my husband (born and raised in Rome) do not have any gastronomic memories of our childhood, related to Brussels sprouts: they were never served in our homes!
    The reason for the delay in their diffusion in the world is certainly due to their pungent taste and not very inviting smell; there is no other explanation, as these plants are not at all choosy: they can be cultivated without any problem at our latitudes and therefore climatic conditions are among the most varied.
    Having said that, I would also like to specify that Brussels sprouts are never found in the lists of foods with higher pesticide residues (actually you could be led to think that even insects do not love them!); just like the other members belonging to the Brassicaceae family, such as broccoli, cabbage and savoy cabbage (read here to learn more about foods with higher pesticide residues).

     

    The transformation of Brussels sprouts

    If today your children eat these gems without making too much fuss, you owe it to the ‘Dutch researchers’: in the 1990s under the guidance of Dr. Hans van Doorn, they have been able to identify the specific molecules responsible for the “undesirable characteristics” mentioned above. Consequently, with traditional methods of crossbreeding and related (I will not go into too much detail, but it is good to know that Brussels sprouts are not GMOs in the “Frankenfood” sense), they gave way to a cultivar with a lower concentration of glucosinolates (GLS), therefore more pleasant to eat, even by very picky eaters.

    It was important to underline their evolution, in case you were avoiding them because of not very happy memories, maybe you could give them another chance: now they are really different, definitely better than in the past.

     

    Health benefits

    1) Exactly like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are also rich in antioxidants, particularly kaempferol (1), which is very useful for:

    – the treatment of atherosclerosis;

    – the well-being of the heart, as it has a perfect cardio-protective action;

    – combating inflammation;

    – fighting cancer: these sprouts show a high anti-cancer and DNA damage repairing capacity (2).

    2) In addition to kaempferol, the anticancer property also comes from glucosinolates (GLS).
    Vegetables in the Brassicaceae family, such as Brussels sprouts, are the main source of GLS in the human diet: and fear not, despite the “work of the Dutch researchers” to decrease their concentration, our precious buds still hold the record for the highest levels in the entire family (3).

    3) High vitamin K content helps with blood clotting; and is also beneficial for healthy bones.

    4) Excellent source of vitamin C, these vegetables help strengthen the immune system and tissue repair; as well as improving the absorption of non-heme iron.

    5) Rich in dietary fiber, brussels sprouts prove to be excellent allies for those suffering from lazy bowels; fiber also offers real help to those with high bad cholesterol, and to those who need to keep blood sugar levels under control.

    6) The beneficial effects to reduce the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance, are also stimulated by the presence of alpha lipoic acid: a very powerful antioxidant, able to counteract the disorders derived from diabetes and fight oxidative stress (4).

    7) Last but not least, Brussels sprouts are one of the vegetables with the highest concentration of omega-3: therefore they become automatically a must-eat for people who do not eat fish and do not want to use the supplements (5)

     

    Cooking tips

    Some love sautéed Brussels sprouts with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar; others like them roasted in the oven with butter or drowned in béchamel; I won’t go into the preferences, but I have two pieces of advice for my readers:

    – to be moderate with condiments made with animal products;

    not to cook them for a long time.

    The first advice is for your health: the fact that it is an extremely nutraceutical food does not give you a free pass for gastronomic sins! Save the precious antioxidants for more important missions of the body.
    Instead, the second advice is for the sense of smell: researchers have discovered that if Brussels sprouts are boiled for more than 5 minutes, glucosinolates (the molecules with anti-cancer properties) degrade a lot, generating the molecules responsible for the “sulfurous odors” not exactly idyllic (6). To cook them in less time, it is advisable to cut them in two.

    strong sulfurous smells of brussels sprouts

    Consequently, if you agree with me, that you prefer sprouts that are a little al dente, rather than “feeling like you are in a thermal spring”, here is my recipe.

     

    Ingredients for sautéed Brussels sprouts

    300 grams of Brussels sprouts
    1 medium onion
    3 dried tomatoes, soaked (I use my own dried ones, made by employing only salt and sunshine)
    1 tablespoon sesame seeds
    1 teaspoon poppy seeds
    2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar of Modena (or low-sodium soy sauce)
    a few basil leaves to serve

     

    Directions

    Preparing sautéed Brussels sprouts is very easy.
    Start by soaking the sun-dried tomatoes: about 15 minutes in hot water.
    Meanwhile, wash the sprouts under running water and cut them in half lengthwise. Then boil them for 2-3 minutes in boiling water.
    When the time is up, remove them with a skimmer and save the cooking water for the preparation of risotto, pasta or soups: it is wise not to lose any functional nutrients of these little treasures.
    To saute them I use a Wok pan, but any pan of adequate size will be more than sufficient.
    Finely chop a small onion and cook it over low heat with a little oil; add 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, poppy seeds and diced sun-dried tomatoes; finally add the boiled sprouts; increase the heat and saute the vegetables while continuing to stir and moving the base of the pan for about 8 minutes.
    Before removing from heat, add the balsamic vinegar or soy sauce while continuing to move the pan.
    Once a light crust has formed on the sprouts, turn off the heat and serve this delicious and very functional side dish, using, why not, some basil leaves as well.

    Enjoy your sautéed Brussels sprouts and good revolution to all

     

    Bibliography
    1) Chen AY, Chen YC. A review of the dietary flavonoid, kaempferol on human health and cancer chemoprevention. Food Chem. 2013;138(4):2099-2107. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.11.139
    2) Hoelzl C, Glatt H, Meinl W, et al. Consumption of Brussels sprouts protects peripheral human lymphocytes against 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP) and oxidative DNA-damage: results of a controlled human intervention trial. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008;52(3):330-341. doi:10.1002/mnfr.200700406
    3) L. Nugon-Baudon, S. Rabot Glucosinolates and glucosinolate derivatives: Implications for protection against chemical carcinogenesis. Nutrition Research Reviews, 7 (1994), pp. 2005-2231
    4) Golbidi, Saeid et al. “Diabetes and alpha lipoic Acid.” Frontiers in pharmacology vol. 2 69. 17 Nov. 2011, doi:10.3389/fphar.2011.00069
    5) Nutrition facts label for Brussels sprouts, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. Read More https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2363/2#ixzz7CPaMscZ9
    6) Ewa Ciska, Natalia Drabińska, Joanna Honke, Agnieszka Narwojsz,
    Boiled Brussels sprouts: A rich source of glucosinolates and the corresponding nitriles,
    Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 19, Part A, 2015, Pages 91-99, ISSN 1756-4646,
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jff.2015.09.008.

     

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