Sprouts are not just for Christ­mas din­ner

As sprout sea­son is in full swing, Liz Con­nor finds rea­sons to pile more of these nu­tri­ent pow­er­houses onto your din­ner plate this win­ter

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health -

These lit­tle veg­eta­bles, known as cru­cif­er­ous, might look medi­ocre, but they’re qui­etly one of the most nu­tri­tious side dishes go­ing, thanks to their high an­tiox­i­dant con­tent, rich cock­tail of vi­ta­mins and sur­pris­ing ver­sa­til­ity.

Loved and loathed in equal mea­sure, sprouts have a nutty, earthy taste and are a mem­ber of the Bras­si­caceae fam­ily of veg­eta­bles; their close re­la­tions in­clude the cab­bage, broc­coli, and kale. They gained their name af­ter be­com­ing a sta­ple of the Bel­gian diet in the 16th cen­tury, although they’re thought to have orig­i­nally found their way to Europe from Afghanistan.

With more of us turn­ing to plant-based di­ets, the hum­ble sprout is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some­thing of a re­ju­ve­na­tion, with chefs stir­ring them into raw sal­ads or saute­ing them with honey and bal­samic vine­gar to make ex­cit­ing flavour com­bi­na­tions.

If you’re still on the fence about serv­ing them to your din­ner guests, we’ve found plenty of good rea­sons why sprouts are for life, and not just for Christ­mas...

1. They could pro­tect against can­cer

While quit­ting smok­ing and reg­u­larly ex­er­cis­ing is sen­sible ad­vice to re­duce your risk of can­cer, di­eti­tians also ad­vise eat­ing a veg­etable-rich diet to safe­guard your health.

Sev­eral stud­ies have sug- gested that sprouts have par­tic­u­lar can­cer-fight­ing po­ten­tial, thanks to their high an­tiox­i­dant count, which can ward off harm­ful free rad­i­cals that con­trib­ute to dis­eases like can­cer.

Re­search from a 2008 study found that sprouts could pro­tect cells against car­cino­gens and from ox­ida­tive DNA-dam­age, although more re­search into the sub­ject is needed.

2. They’re high in fi­bre

Fi­bre is not only im­por­tant for reg­u­lar bowel move­ments, but it can also im­prove choles­terol, reg­u­late blood sugar lev­els and can help to pre­vent dis­eases such as di­a­betes, heart dis­ease and bowel can­cer.

A 100g serv­ing of the win­ter sprout con­tains 3.5 grams of fi­bre, and we all know that ev­ery lit­tle bit helps when it comes to hit­ting your daily count.

Not only is fi­bre handy for di­ges­tive is­sues, it can also help you to feel fuller for longer, curb­ing the crav­ings for sec­onds or thirds of Christ­mas pud­ding, if you’re try­ing to watch your waist­line.

3. Rich in nu­tri­ents

One of the best things about the hum­ble sprout is its port­fo­lio of nu­tri­ents, min­er­als and all-im­por­tant vi­ta­mins.

As well as fi­bre, each sphere packs a punch of vi­ta­min K (which helps blood to clot), vi­ta­min C (nec­es­sary for growth and re­pair) and vi­ta­min A (good for vi­sion and eye health).

They’re also high in folic acid, which is im­por­tant for pro­duc­ing and main­tain­ing red blood cells, and ma­g­a­nese — an es­sen­tial nu­tri­ent for op­ti­mum brain health. That means you’re keep­ing the ner­vous sys­tem in good nick and some of your body’s en­zyme sys­tems too when you serve up sprouts.

4. They’re low in calo­ries

Half a cup (or 78 grams) of sprouts con­tains just 28 calo­ries, which is why you’ll of­ten find them in­cluded in healthy weight loss recipes.

Of course, it all de­pends how you pre­pare them — fry­ing them with but­ter and ba­con is never go­ing to be su­per healthy — but adding sprouts raw to a salad is a good way of reap­ing their low-calo­rie ben­e­fits.

5. They con­tain ALA omega-3 fatty acids

You’d have to be liv­ing un­der a very large rock to miss the rise in ve­g­an­ism. And for those of us who chose not to eat fatty fish, get­ting enough omega-3 can be a chal­lenge.

These fatty acids are cru­cial for brain health, help­ing to slow cog­ni­tive de­cline and fight against de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety.

Sprouts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, with around 135 mg of ALA in each 78 gram serv­ing. Although it’s worth not­ing that plant-based omega-3 is used less ef­fec­tively in your body in com­par­i­son to fish and seafood, be­cause your body needs to con­vert it to more ac­tive forms.

6. Bone health

Thanks to their high vi­ta­min K con­tent, sprouts are a great way to keep your bones in shape. Stud­ies have found that this es­sen­tial vi­ta­min is help­ful in in­creas­ing bone den­sity and lim­it­ing frac­tures in os­teo­poro­sis pa­tients, as well as de­creas­ing the risk of bone in­jury in post­menopausal women.

Most doc­tors would ad­vise that any­one tak­ing blood-thin­ning med­i­ca­tion should mod­er­ate their vi­ta­min K in­take, but your GP can ad­vise you on any ques­tions or con­cerns you might have about your diet.

If you’re think­ing of up­ping your cru­cif­er­ous veg in­take, but you’re still de­vel­op­ing a stom­ach for sprouts, you can bal­ance out the flavour with a bit of gar­lic and olive oil in a hot pan. Or, if all else fails, whizz them up in the blender with ba­nana, mixed berries, or­anges and honey, to cre­ate a smoothie.

Pic­ture: iS­tock

GREEN NU­TRI­ENTS: Loved and loathed in equal mea­sure, sprouts have a nutty, earthy taste and are a mem­ber of the Bras­si­caceae fam­ily of veg­eta­bles.

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