Brussels Sprouts seem to fall into a love them or hate them group. Which are you?
Brussels sprouts are incredibly good for you! They are a perfect cool/cold season vegetable to include in your weekly meal plan. They contain amazing constituents that are not only anti-cancer, hormone helping, but heart healthy. This is great news for perimenopause moms since our risk for cardiovascular disease increases as we enter menopause. They are part of the cruciferous vegetable family which means they also have many of the same benefits as other cruciferous vegetables like phytonutrients that help the body with detoxification. Our detoxification pathways need to be supported daily, like my functional nutrition teacher says, “If you’re not detoxing, you’re retoxing!” Brussels sprouts are also high in compounds that contain sulfur where many of these are derived. (Think Sulforaphane)
Brussels sprouts are excellent sources of antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, manganese and beta-carotene. They are also great for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, and Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps with PMS, adrenal support, methylation, and much more. *(I can only offer supplement recommendations if you are a clients and B vitamins are best when used in a B-complex form.) It’s good to know we can get so many nutrients from one vegetable. They also have 4 grams of fiber per cup and most people are not getting enough fiber. Brussels sprouts also have omega 3 fatty acids. One cup has roughly the same amount of ALA as a teaspoon of whole flaxseeds.
When it comes to cooking Brussels sprouts shorter cooking times and lower temps are better. Do not boil them or you will lose water soluble nutrients into the cooking water. I love roasting them quickly at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes after I have prepped, quartered and tossed them in either avocado oil or toasted sesame oil and sprinkle with salt and any herbs I feel like doing. They can also be halved, then thinly sliced or shredded and steamed for just 5 minutes. When you over cook Brussels sprouts they get a sulfur smell and bitter taste, which could be the very reason someone doesn’t like them. Both methods I suggest are shorter cooking times and less heat exposure to retain the sweetness and unique flavor profile as well as preserving the nutrients. Brussels sprouts can and should have a sweetness to them from harvesting after the frost, but unfortunately if you are buying commercially produced Brussels sprouts and you are in the US, they were more than likely grown in California where the weather doesn’t get cold enough to bring about the sweetness. I suggest looking for a local source or growing your own, especially if you are in an area where you get frost. Growing your own allows you to grow a variety that will be ready just after frost when your planting time is right. This is perfect for seasonal eating in the winter and adding a boost of really good nutrition. We are growing Brussels sprouts again this year, I think there is nothing like a stalk of Brussels sprouts. Have you seen a stalk with their little buttons that look like tiny cabbages and the leaf bush on it’s “head”? I love them!
Brussels sprouts can be easily added to salads, tossed in a number of different dressings or made as simple as steaming, tossing in olive oil and garlic with lemon juice squeezed over them. It’s important to divide them by size when cooking so they are cooked evenly. You do not want to over cook or you risk having bitter Brussels sprouts as I mentioned earlier. To the olive oil, garlic and lemon juice, mentioned above, you could add crushed almonds for texture. When picking out your Brussels sprouts look for dense green cabbage like buttons that are 1-2 inches in diameter. Aim to pick them in the same size to ease cooking differences and to avoid over cooking smaller pieces while waiting for larger pieces to cook.
Some good pairings for Brussels sprouts include the following:
- Mustard and caraway seeds
- Garlic, lemon and olive oil (my favorite way)
- Lemon and mustard with parsley
- Balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar with garlic and walnuts
- Any other cruciferous vegetables
- Mushrooms and onions
- Shallots, toasted sesame seed oil, sesame seeds and pine nuts
These are just a few options, once you know how to properly cook them the world of possibilities opens up. They are a perfect cool/cold season vegetable for a mom in perimenopause based on their nutrients that support detoxification, hormonal health, and are heart healthy. All things we as perimenopausal moms need to think about.
Brussels sprouts take a long time to grow, we’re talking 80-110 days depending on variety and whether you planets seeds or transplants. So make sure you plan accordingly, it’s best to start seeds indoors because of the long growing time. You can stagger harvests by picking the larger lower heads allowing the newer growth to mature. Just like many other greens or brassicas they become sweeter after a frost as mentioned earlier, keep this in mind when starting seeds. You want to water regularly and make sure to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. They are considered a heavy feeder, to help make sure they have enough nutrients I always add compost. (I do this for everything I plant.) As the plant grows you will want to add more soil around the base t help it stand up, or you can add a stake that is about as high as the mature plant will get when transplanting. (Be mindful of the roots so you don’t damage them.) Since Brussels sprouts are in the brassica family they are susceptible to all the same as things like kale and cabbage, pests like aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, etc. Using a row cover can help keep pests away as well as keeping the birds off your plants. You want to harvest them when heads are about 1 inch in diameter. Remember waiting until after a frost helps make them sweeter as well as proper cooking technique.
Recipes for you:
Roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts salad:
Shaved Brussels sprouts salad:
Roasted Balsamic Chicken with Brussels Sprouts:
Though this has autumn in the name it can also be a great winter dish:
Tips for growing:
The Farmers Almanac: