Brussel sprouts are a highly nutritious vegetable that may offer some benefits for people with diabetes. As a cruciferous vegetable, brussel sprouts contain compounds that may help regulate blood sugar and reduce inflammation. They are also low in calories and carbohydrates, making them a diabetes-friendly food. This article will explore the research on brussel sprouts and diabetes, looking at their nutritional profile, potential benefits, and how to incorporate them into a healthy diabetes diet.
Nutrition facts of brussel sprouts
Brussel sprouts are packed with nutrients and minimal calories. One cup (156g) of cooked brussel sprouts contains (1):
|Vitamin C||110% DV|
|Vitamin K||250% DV|
Key nutrients in brussel sprouts:
– Fiber: Brussel sprouts contain 4 grams of fiber per cup. Fiber slows digestion, which can help regulate blood sugar spikes after meals (2).
– Vitamin C: With 110% DV per cup, brussel sprouts are an excellent source of immune-boosting vitamin C.
– Vitamin K: Brussel sprouts provide 250% DV for vitamin K per cup. This vitamin plays a role in blood clotting.
– Folate: Important for cell function and tissue growth, brussel sprouts contain 24% DV for folate per cup.
– Potassium: This mineral is necessary for nerve signaling and muscle contractions. Brussel sprouts provide 12% DV per cup.
Brussel sprouts are also very low in calories and carbohydrates, with only 56 calories and 12 grams of carbs per cup. For people with diabetes watching their carb intake, brussel sprouts are an ideal non-starchy vegetable choice.
Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects
Chronic inflammation can contribute to insulin resistance and complications in diabetes (3). The antioxidants and phytochemicals in brussel sprouts may help reduce inflammation in several ways.
Brussel sprouts are a source of sulforaphane, an antioxidant compound shown to have anti-inflammatory effects in the body. Sulforaphane may suppress pro-inflammatory cytokines and decrease oxidative stress (4).
Other antioxidants found in brussel sprouts like vitamin C, vitamin K, and beta-carotene can neutralize free radicals and oxidative damage related to chronic inflammation.
The kaempferol polyphenol in brussel sprouts has specifically demonstrated an ability to decrease inflammatory markers in human cell and animal studies (5).
By reducing systemic inflammation, the antioxidants in brussel sprouts may help protect against diabetes complications like cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and neuropathy.
Impact on blood sugar
Some research indicates brussel sprouts may directly improve blood sugar regulation in people with diabetes.
In one small human study, eating brussel sprouts daily for 12 weeks decreased fasting blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes (6).
Other studies demonstrate that extract from brussel sprouts may reduce the breakdown of starches into simple sugars, slowing digestion and preventing blood sugar spikes (7).
Animal studies similarly show that brussel sprout extracts can lower blood glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity (8).
The fiber and antioxidants in brussel sprouts likely contribute to these beneficial effects on blood sugar control. The sulforaphane compound may protect pancreatic beta cells and preserve insulin production as well (9).
More research is still needed, but current evidence indicates brussel sprouts may directly improve glycemic control in diabetes.
Weight management benefits
Maintaining a healthy body weight reduces diabetes risk and can improve management for those with diabetes. The low calorie, high fiber, and high water content of brussel sprouts make them a weight-friendly vegetable.
Brussel sprouts only contain about 56 calories per cup when cooked. And with 4 grams of dietary fiber per cup, they can help increase feelings of fullness and control appetite (10).
The high water and fiber content allows brussel sprouts to provide a large volume of food with minimal calories, which can aid in weight loss for overweight individuals with diabetes.
In one study, increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables like brussel sprouts was linked to less weight gain over time (11). Brussel sprouts may support weight management through their low energy density, fiber content, and ability to displace higher calorie foods.
Incorporating brussel sprouts into a diabetes diet
Here are some tips for adding brussel sprouts to your meal plan:
– Roast brussel sprouts in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper for a simple side dish
– Saute brussel sprout halves in a pan with garlic
– Shred brussel sprouts and add to slaws, salads, or Buddha bowls
– Puree cooked brussel sprouts and mix into dips, sauces, or soups
– Include brussel sprout leaves in a stir fry, curry, or stew
– Grill or char brussel sprout halves for extra flavor
– Substitute brussel sprouts for cabbage in recipes like egg rolls
– Roast and add brussel sprouts to tacos, flatbreads, pizza, pasta, or rice bowls
Aim for 1-2 cups of brussel sprouts 2-3 times per week as part of a vegetable-rich diabetes meal plan. Avoid overcooking brussel sprouts to preserve the vitamin and antioxidant content.
Potential side effects
Brussel sprouts are safe for most people with diabetes to consume. Some digestive side effects may occur:
– Gas or bloating: The fiber and raffinose sugars can cause gas. Introduce brussel sprouts gradually.
– Thyroid issues: Very high intakes may impact thyroid function for those with existing thyroid problems. Stick to 1-2 cups daily.
– Blood thinners: Large amounts may enhance the effects of blood thinning medications. Monitor your blood closely with your doctor.
– Advance kidney disease: Patients with kidney disease should check with their doctor about potassium restrictions.
– Allergies: Brussel sprouts allergy is rare but possible. Discontinue use if any signs of an allergic reaction develop.
When consumed in normal food amounts, brussel sprouts are generally well tolerated and safe. Let your healthcare provider know about any side effects.
Brussel sprouts are packed with nutrition and offer several potential benefits for people with diabetes. Their low carb, high fiber, and antioxidant content can help manage blood sugar, reduce inflammation, aid weight control, and protect against diabetes complications. Incorporate roasted, sauteed, or pureed brussel sprouts into your diet 2-3 times weekly. Pair with healthy fats and protein for satiety. Brussel sprouts are a diabetes-friendly vegetable that can add taste and nutrition to your meal plan.
1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/
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