• Melanie Dixon DipION mBANT CNHC

The Humble Sprout

With Christmas fast approaching, it seems only fitting to give a mention to Brussels sprouts. Like marmite, you either love them or hate them!

They've always had bad press for causing some rather embarrassing consequences!

Sprouts are notorious for causing a build up of gas in our intestines.

Sprouts can be hard to digest in the gut because our bodies can't produce the enzymes needed to break down raffinose which is a complex sugar found in sprouts and other vegetables in the brassica family. Instead raffinose is broken down by bacteria in our bowel and in the process they produce hydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide which causes gas.

The odour produced is down to the sulphur-containing defensive chemicals in all brassica vegetables which is designed as self-defence to stop animals eating their leaves, hence the strong and bitter flavours that some of us dislike. How much it affects people depends on their particular community of gut bacteria, some can tolerate Brussels sprouts more than others!

On a more positive note though, how often have you been told by your parents or grandparents to "eat up...they're good for you"? Well, they're absolutely right - they are packed full of nutrients! Not only are they low in calories, they are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals.

They contain:

  1. an abundant source of vitamin K which is essential for healthy bones and blood clotting

  2. a rich source of the antioxidant vitamin C which supports our immune system, tissue repair and also helps us to absorb iron (by approximately 65% in plant sources of iron which is harder to absorb in the body than animal-sourced iron)

  3. a high fibre content to support gut health and regular bowel movements

  4. small amounts of iron, potassium, magnesium, thiamine and phosphorus, as well as vitamin B6

  5. a rich plant source of ALA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid which has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels, brain function and dampen inflammation

Studies have shown that the antioxidant found in Brussels sprouts reduces oxidative stress which can cause damage to our body cells, they can dampen inflammation, support a healthy heart and may be protective against certain types of cancer.

As well as being good for maintaining regular bowels and healthy digestion, the fibre and nutrient content in Brussels sprouts is known to be associated with healthy blood sugar balance, decreased risk of heart disease along with anti-inflammatory properties and many other health benefits.

So, when you're faced with a Brussels sprout on your dinner plate on Christmas Day, whether you like the little guy or not, take a second to think of what an amazing and very modest vegetable the Brussels sprout is!

And remember..a Brussels sprout isn't just for Christmas! You can make delicious stir fries and salads all year round to enjoy the health benefits.

If you would like to learn how to eat healthily and receive support to optimise your digestion to absorb essential nutrients from from your food, book an appointment to discuss how nutritional therapy could help you. Contact Mel at foreshorenutrition@outlook.com or visit www.foreshorenutrition.co.uk to find out more.


  • Link, R. (2017) '10 Ways Brussels Sprouts Benefit Your Health', Healthline, available at: 10 Ways Brussels Sprouts Benefit Your Health (healthline.com)

  • Osiecki, H. (2014) 'The Nutrient Bible', 9th edn. AU: Orthoplex

  • Wieczorek, M. & Jeleń, H. (2019) 'Volatile Compounds of Selected Raw and Cooked Brassica Vegetables', Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(3), 391. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24030391