Eat In Season: January
The Brussels Sprout

The Brussels Sprout: Love it or hate it, there can be no other vegetable that divides opinion so divisively. Brussels sprouts are a member of the brassica (or cruciferous) family, alongside other green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. For some, the sprout is an unpleasant reminiscence of soggy school dinners, but there are some fantastically delicious ways to cook these veggies that will help convert even their most ardent haters! Even better, their tiny cabbage bud form is absolutely bursting with nutritional benefits.

Just one cupful of sprouts can supply all your daily requirement of vitamins A, C and K as well as a dose of folate, fibre, iron, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, zinc and more. That’s a heft dose of goodness from just one little vegetable! (1)

On top of these well-known nutrients, sprouts are also packed full of phytochemicals (an estimated 5000 other chemicals found in plants which are not yet established as essential nutrients, but have an important role to play in helping maintain health and fight disease). (2)

In sprouts, one such group of phytochemicals are the glucosinolates. These are sulphur containing compounds which contribute the pungent, sometimes bitter taste which is unique to cruciferous veg. More than 100 glucosinolates have been found, each of which has a unique breakdown product, and it is these breakdown products that are biologically active in us. However, cooking (especially boiling and microwaving) sprouts can reduce the concentration of glucosinolates by more than 50%, so it is best to try to either gently steam or eat green leafy vegetables raw if possible. (3)

It is thought that it’s the complex and unique combination of such phytochemicals and essential nutrients in whole foods that work together to give us health benefits, which could help to explain why eating lots of green leafy vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of lung and colorectal cancer in some studies. (4) However, it is important to point out that these studies are very difficult to make absolutely fair – maybe the people who eat lots of green leafy vegetables are healthier altogether, for example, or take more exercise. It would also be true that the benefit of eating lots of sprouts to help prevent lung cancer would be smaller than the benefit of stopping smoking.

Having said that, lots of research has shown that regularly eating an abundance of fruit, vegetables and whole grains is strongly associated with a reduced risk of developing all sorts of ill-health (2), from cancer to cardiovascular disease, and it is definitely better to be eating between 5-10 portions of fruit and veg each day than junk food – whatever your starting point is. And although there are no clear goals yet for how many of these servings should be cruciferous vegetables, the results of some studies suggest that enjoying at least 5 weekly servings is a great place to start from (4). So have a go at these recipes, and enjoy eating them in the knowledge that at the same time you are giving your body the gift of fantastic nutrition.

So, here are my 3 delicious things to do with sprouts:

Sprout Slaw

Sprout Slaw

This is so fresh, crunchy and zingy with the lime and I love the sweetness that coconut amino brings. I wanted to keep it simple, but you could easily add red onions, carrot, orange and yellow peppers to boost the nutritional content some more.”

You’ll Need (Serves 2)

  • 200g sprouts, try to find purple ones, very thinly sliced
  • Half a red pepper, cut into fine strips
  • Half a bunch of radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds

For the Dressing

  1. 1 tbsp sesame oil
  2. 1 tbsp coconut amino
  3. juice of half a lime

Step-by-Step

Toss the salad in a bowl, with the dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Nutty Sprouts

Nutty Sprouts

You’ll Need (Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish)

  • 450g brussels sprouts
  • A handful of parsley, chopped
  • 50g blanched roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped

For the Dressing

  • 1 tbps hazelnut oil
  • 1/2 tsp raw honey
  • salt and pepper

Step-by-Step

  1. Whisk dressing in a bowl.
  2. Blanch or steam sprouts until tender, drain and toss in the dressing with the hazelnuts and parsley.

Simple but delicious!

Cashew Cheese Sprouts

Sprouts Cashew Cheese

You’ll Need (Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish)

  • 450g brussels sprouts
  • 180g cashew nuts soaked for 3 hours & drained
  • 400ml water
  • I garlic clove
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Grating of nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Step-by-Step

  1. Preheat oven to 200/180 fan.
  2. Blanch or steam the sprouts for 3 minutes, drain and place in an ovenproof dish.
  3. Whizz all the other ingredients until creamy and pour over the sprouts.
  4. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes and finish under a hot grill for a few minutes to brown the top.

 

January Veg

Also, in the garden  . . .

Our garden is still providing for us, even so late in the season: celeriac, parsnips, purple sprouting broccoli, leeks, kale, spinach, chard, herbs and winter salad leaves. Lots to keep me busy! Will report back on what I create with this lot. Happy January x

 

References:

(1) NDL/FNIC food composition database home page (2011) Available at: http://ndb.nal.usda.gov (Accessed: 2 December 2015)

(2) Liu, R. (2004) ‘Potential synergy of phytochemicals in cancer prevention: mechanism of action.’, Journal of Nutrition, 134 no.12 34795-34855

(3) McNaughton, S. A. and Marks, G. C. (2003) ‘Development of a food composition database for the estimation of dietary intakes of glucosinolates, the biologically active constituents of cruciferous vegetables’, British Journal of Nutrition, 90(03), p. 687. doi: 10.1079/bjn2003917

(4) HIGDON, J., DELAGE, B., WILLIAMS, D. and DASHWOOD, R. (2007) ‘Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: Epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis’, Pharmacological Research, 55(3), pp. 224–236. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.009.