Broccoli vs. Brussels Sprouts

This is a close look at a plate of broccoli and Brussels sprout pieces.

One cannot gainsay the health benefits of vegetables, seeing that a vegetable-rich diet reduces the risk of stroke, some cancer types, heart disease, and more. Many different vegetables exist, but the cabbage family, including broccoli and Brussels sprouts, is more widely relied upon for essential vitamins. This piece compares broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Broccoli and Brussels sprouts go toe-to-toe on nutritional content, and any other differences are subtle. According to some estimates, Brussels sprouts are more affluent in food energy, protein, dietary fiber, and essential vitamins. However, both vegetables have the same phytochemical composition.

According to MyPlate, a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiative, vegetables are a flexible source of energy and nutrients. One can eat vegetables raw, cooked, or sautéed and still gain the same bang of nourishment.

For those who have had broccoli and Brussels sprouts on your diet before, you can agree that vegetables are rich in all the essential elements required for a healthy body. But the question is: which one wins when comparing the two?

Broccoli

This is a close look at a pile of small broccoli pieces.

Broccoli is no stranger to plates worldwide. The nutritional powerhouse is native to the Mediterranean climate, where people have been eating it for centuries. Moreover, you cannot miss to identify it as a vegetable even when it is new to you, thanks to the rich green stalk and flowering head.

Even though the plant is new to most parts of the world, especially North America, the cruciferous vegetable belongs to the cabbage family, a familiar vegetable group. Cabbages are more typical in parts of the world where mentioning broccoli would raise eyebrows.

But interestingly, few realize that cabbage is a broad term that includes similarly less popular vegetables like Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

Varieties Of Broccoli

Broccoli is easy to grow, and perhaps this explains why you won’t miss it in many home gardens. For those into fanciness, you could brag to your friends next time they come around that you have brassica oleracea in your garden – brassica oleracea is broccoli’s scientific name.

When you see the veggie in the produce section, you are likely looking at more than one type. For example, the most common broccoli varieties include belstar, destiny, and calabrese – mostly common in Europe and North America.

But there are other exotic varieties that you might not have seen yet. They include:  

  • Chinese broccoli – it tastes sweeter than regular broccoli and has broader kale-like leaves and a thicker stem. This variety is a popular part of Asian cuisine.
  • Broccolini – it appears slimmer than traditional varieties and is often confused with asparagus. Its stalks are thinner and longer, and the flower head is smaller. This variety is a crossbreed of regular and Chinese broccoli, which explains its sweeter than typical taste.
  • Broccoli rabe – it sometimes goes by the name rapini or broccoli raab. Instead of a familiar central flower head, this variety sprouts multiple side-shoots that, when sauteed, take a deep green hue. In addition, its flavor is more alien when compared to the types mentioned earlier because it is a little earthy and bitter.
  • Romanesco broccoli – this is a specialty variety with spiraled green heads and exotic-looking flower buds. In fact, its physical features appear as a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. This variety is more bitter than regular broccoli but crunchier, healthier, and more wonderfully and delicately flavored.

Broccoli’s Nutritional Facts

This is a nutrition facts table for broccoli.

Like all cabbages, broccoli is crunchy and crisp, especially when fresh, but it has water content higher than Brussels sprouts, kales, and cauliflower. According to this analysis, 100 grams of veggie holds a water content 3.84% higher than Brussels sprouts.

Moreover, broccoli contains fewer sugars and fructose per 100g, while the calcium content is 11.9% higher. Also, broccoli contains a substantial amount of maltose, an essential sugar necessary for optimum digestion, while Brussels sprouts have only trace amounts.

The USDA’s MyPlate identifies broccoli as an excellent source of minerals and vitamins too. According to its guidelines, one cup of broccoli packs 43 mg of calcium, 288 mg of potassium, 92 micrograms of vitamin K, and substantial amounts of vitamin C, E, B6, and A.

Brussels Sprouts

This is a close look at a pile of small Brussels sprouts pieces.

Brussels Sprout’s physical appearance is closer to regular cabbage than broccoli. In fact, take a cursory glance at the plant, and you’d think it is regular cabbage that refused to grow.

Also known by its scientific name, Brassica oleracea but of variety gemmifera, the cabbage is widely produced in Europe (specifically Belgium) and North America. However, historical accounts trace its early beginnings in Ancient Rome.

The plant obtains its name from Brussels because of the immense popularity it commands in Belgium. Farmers cultivate the vegetable similarly to other cabbage family members but only focus on the edible buds, also called sprouts, hence the name Brussels sprouts.

Varieties Of Brussels Sprouts

  • Catskill – it is the variety we are most familiar with. The slow-growing plant folds its leaves into an orb balanced on a tall upright stem with an unmistakable rich green color. Its appearance is strikingly similar to regular cabbage, although one might think it is stunted. A healthy and well-cared-for plant reaches about 3 feet and bears multiple edible orbs.
  • Churchill – this variety takes a darker green hue at maturity and grows faster than Catskill. It is a hybrid plant that thrives in a relatively warmer climate, although too much heat makes it miserable.
  • ‘Red Rubine’ Brussels sprouts – this variety grows faster than Churchill and is more widespread in the United Kingdom. It is an heirloom variety whose purple-red color is the primary attraction. Its sprouts are smaller, though, usually no larger than walnuts.
  • ‘Jade Cross E’ Brussels sprouts – it often goes by the more familiar name, diablo. It is a hybrid plant that grows to around 28 inches tall and produces smooth, medium-sized orbs. The orbs have a delicious taste. On the downside, the plant requires more care than other varieties and takes longer to mature.

Brussels Sprouts’ Nutritional Facts

This is a nutrition facts table for Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts boast more food energy than broccoli and most of the other cabbages – 43 kcals per 100g, which is 26.5% more energy than broccoli. Also, its protein, dietary fiber, vitamin A and E, potassium, iron, and magnesium content surpass broccoli’s.

Which Is Healthier?

We have already seen that both veggies perform convincingly nutrition-wise. Their composition of essential minerals and vitamins is almost similar. Also, the case is no different when evaluating the disease-fighting capabilities of both plants.

For example, both plants contain substantial amounts of sulforaphane, an antioxidant believed to be an anticancer. However, some estimates find broccoli to contain higher amounts of the substance. Moreover, a research paper by Polish scientists published in 2014 suggested that broccoli sprouts have significant chemo-preventive properties that can prevent stomach cancer.

Additionally, both broccoli and Brussels sprouts contain glucosinolates, which are compounds known for their anti-inflammatory capabilities.

They also have substantial amounts of quercetin, a bioflavonoid known for boosting the disease-fighting strength of the immune system. The substance is also a potent antioxidant and helps to treat allergies. Various analyses show the quercetin content in broccoli being higher than in Brussels sprouts.

On the other hand, Brussels sprouts’ dietary fiber is higher, meaning it performs better when it comes to lowering cholesterol levels in your body.

Conclusion

Some people cannot stand the taste of either broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Thankfully, continued research is producing sweeter varieties while retaining most of the nutritional punch.

Also, the plants have various cooking options, ranging from boiling, sauté, or eat raw vegetables salads. You could also steam or grill them, especially Brussels sprouts.

Even better, the vegetables are widely available for cheap, although this depends on your location. However, when choosing between broccoli and Brussels sprouts, you shouldn’t have to agonize much over the selection because, as we have seen, they match in almost all spheres of comparison.

Sources:

Harvard HSPH: Fruits and Vegetables

Versus: Broccoli vs. Brussels Sprouts

My Plate: Eat healthy Vegetables

Penn State Extension: Broccoli Production

Food Print: Brussels Sprouts

Nutrizonia: Which is Healthier, Brussels Sprouts or Broccoli

Express News: Could broccoli fight cancer? The vegetable’s chemical used in a NEW pill to treat patients

NIH National Library of Medicine: Anticancer and antioxidant activity of bread enriched with broccoli sprouts

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