Brussel sprouts are a nutritious vegetable that can be a great addition to a healthy diet, especially for people with diabetes or prediabetes. However, there are some things to keep in mind regarding brussel sprouts and their potential effects on blood sugar.
The carbohydrate content of brussel sprouts
One important factor when considering the effects of any food on blood sugar is the carbohydrate content. Brussel sprouts are relatively low in carbohydrates compared to other vegetables.
Here is an overview of the carbohydrate content of brussel sprouts:
|1 cup raw (88g)
|1 cup cooked (156g)
As you can see, one cup of raw brussel sprouts contains 8 grams of total carbohydrates and 5 grams of net digestible carbs. When cooked, the carb content increases slightly to 12 grams of total carbs and 9 grams of digestible carbs.
Glycemic index and glycemic load of brussel sprouts
In addition to total carb content, the glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) can provide further insights into how a food may impact blood sugar.
The GI is a measure of how quickly a food causes blood sugar to rise compared to pure glucose. Foods are classified as low, medium or high GI.
GL takes into account the GI as well as the carb content in a typical serving size. GL is a more accurate representation of a food’s effect on blood sugar than GI alone.
Brussel sprouts have a low GI and GL. The GI of brussel sprouts is estimated to be around 15-20. And the GL is approximately 3-5 for a standard 1 cup serving.
This means brussel sprouts should only cause a gradual, gentle rise in blood sugar levels. They are considered a diabetes-friendly, low glycemic vegetable.
Fiber content helps slow carbohydrate absorption
One reason brussel sprouts have such a low impact on blood sugar is their high fiber content. Fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.
There are about 3-4 grams of dietary fiber in every cup of brussel sprouts. The fiber acts as a protective barrier, preventing sudden spikes in blood glucose.
Nutrients in brussel sprouts help regulate blood sugar
Beyond their carbohydrate, GI and fiber content, brussel sprouts contain beneficial vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can actively help regulate healthy blood sugar levels.
Some of the key nutrients in brussel sprouts and their blood sugar benefits include:
|Improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood sugar
|Increases insulin production and secretion
|Enhances insulin function and glucose metabolism
|Lowers glucose levels and increases insulin sensitivity
|Aids insulin production and sensitivity
Low carb dietary approach
For people following a low carb or ketogenic diet, brussel sprouts can certainly be included without significantly impacting blood sugar or ketosis. A cup of brussel sprouts contains just 5-9 grams of digestible carbs, fitting well within a low carb meal plan.
Effects in people with diabetes or prediabetes
Due to their low carb, high fiber and nutrient profile, brussel sprouts are a smart choice for people with diabetes or prediabetes. However, as with any food, portion size and preparation method matter.
Here are some tips for enjoying brussel sprouts while optimizing blood sugar control:
- Stick to 1-2 cups portion size
- Avoid adding high carb ingredients like breadcrumbs, bacon, sugary sauces
- Select healthy cooking methods like roasting, sautéing in olive oil, or steaming
- Eat as part of a balanced plate with protein and healthy fats
Monitoring your blood glucose levels before and after meals can also help you understand your individual tolerance and response to brussel sprouts.
Whole food forms may be preferable
Emerging research shows that consuming brussel sprouts in their whole food form provides greater benefits than taking supplements:
- In one study, participants who ate 1 cup of brussel sprouts daily for 12 weeks had lower insulin resistance and better blood sugar regulation compared to those taking a supplement containing the equivalent nutrients found in brussel sprouts
- Whole brussel sprouts provide a natural matrix of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals that work synergistically to influence biomarkers in ways that isolated components do not
For this reason, it’s likely better to get brussel sprouts through your diet rather than relying on supplements.
Other benefits of brussel sprouts for diabetes
Beyond their mild impact on blood sugar levels, brussel sprouts offer additional benefits for people with diabetes or metabolic disease:
- Rich source of antioxidants to reduce oxidative damage and inflammation
- Contain compounds that improve lipid profile and lower cholesterol
- Fiber content enhances gut health and digestive function
- Provide vitamin K, vitamin C, folate and other nutrients
- Low in calories and carbohydrates for weight management
Risks and precautions
Brussel sprouts are safe for most people with diabetes. However, there are a few precautions to keep in mind:
- Those taking blood-thinning medication should avoid sudden increases in vitamin K intake from brussel sprouts
- Discuss with your healthcare provider if you have concerns about gastrointestinal side effects
- Some cooking methods like deep frying can increase calorie and fat content
The bottom line
Brussel sprouts are a diabetes-friendly vegetable that have minimal impact on blood sugar levels. When eaten in normal amounts as part of a healthy meal plan, brussel sprouts do not significantly spike blood glucose or insulin in either diabetic or non-diabetic individuals.
In fact, brussel sprouts provide a host of nutrition and health benefits. People with diabetes can safely include this vegetable as part of their diet to take advantage of the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and protective plant compounds it delivers.