Although native to the Mediterranean region with other cabbage species, Brussels sprouts first appeared in northern Europe during the fifth century, later being cultivated in the thirteenth century near Brussels from which they derived their name.
russels sprouts, like cabbages which they resemble, are rich in bioflavonoids and nitrogen compounds called indoles. These are thought to reduce the risk of certain cancers. They are also rich in vitamin C and beta carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. A potential drawback is the production of intestinal wind.
Certain forms of breast cancer are linked to high levels of oestrogen. Indoles in Brussels sprouts stimulate the liver. This in turn breaks down oestrogen. Experiments have shown that when oestrogen metabolism is faster, moving it quicker out of the body, less remains to feed the dependant malignancy.
Women who quickly metabolise oestrogen might have a lesser chance of contracting breast or uterus cancer. It is theorised, but not yet established, that vegetable indoles may prevent cancer from spreading if it has already set in.
Eating plenty of starch, fibre and vegetables is part of the treatment and prevention of colon and stomach cancer. Fibre and indole rich Brussels sprouts may prevent this form of cancer.
Brussels sprouts are also rich in folates, a nutrient which may protect against lung cancer.
How to have your sprouts
Choose small, bright green, firm sprouts with tightly packed leaves and no patches of yellow. Old and loose sprouts will have a sulphurous smell and bitter taste.
Cook your Brussels sprouts lightly. Overcooking may seep indoles into the cooking water, reducing the effectiveness of vitamins. Cook them quickly in fast boiling water. To prevent build-up of sulphurous gases, leave the lid off the cooking pan.
Sulphur-containing compounds in Brussels sprouts help to activate enzyme systems in your cells that are required for detoxification of cancer-causing substances. They also support your body's Phase 2 detoxification process, during which broken down toxins are shuttled out of your system. Even better, they're also a rich source of antioxidants, which are necessary for Phase 1 detoxification, which is when toxins are broken down into smaller particles (that are later eliminated during phase 2).