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Why Are Brussel Sprouts Bitter? (And How to Reduce Bitterness)

Why Are Brussel Sprouts Bitter? (And How to Reduce Bitterness)
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Brussel sprouts are commonly used in a variety of different dishes, and people love to eat them for a number of reasons. However, there’s little doubt in the fact that Brussel sprouts definitely take some getting used to.

If you have tried them before, you might already know that the taste is quite bitter, and eating them without some condiments or other dishes is going to be difficult.

Some people like them, and some people don’t. While the opinions vary, you should know that Brussel sprouts are quite popular around the globe, and because of the many health benefits that they offer, it only makes sense to incorporate them into your diet.

But, have you ever wondered why Brussel sprouts are so bitter? They are served beside all other kinds of foods, and while they do look great alongside other more palatable dishes, you might have to eat them every now and then.

But, if you are going to eat Brussel sprouts, it might be a wise idea to understand just what makes them bitter, and more importantly, why they are so healthy.

What Makes Them Bitter?

The flavors that you notice in the Brussel sprouts actually come from a group of molecules that are known as glucosalinates. Glucosalinates all have a relatively similar structure.

This is known as the R- group and can be exchanged with other groups. One of the glucosinolates found in Brussel sprouts is sinigrin. While there are quite a few others, the major factor that contributes to the taste is sinigrin.

If you take a closer look at these vegetables, you will realize that they look quite similar to cabbages. They have to because they are a member of the cabbage family. It’s the same family in which other vegetables such as kale and broccoli, and even cauliflower, belong to.

Like many other plant systems and vegetables, the Brussel sprouts have also developed a system by which they are able to defend themselves against attacks or damage by other entities. For instance, they protect themselves from the outside world and elements such as pests and other plant eating animals.

The younger the plant, the more bitter it is likely to be. That’s just because its defense system works in a much better manner. Whenever a Brussel sprout is damaged, the defense system automatically activates and starts working.

An enzyme, known as myrosinase is released, and it comes into contact with glucosinolates. This catalyzes and creates a hydrolysis reaction.

Ultimately, the glucose molecule is split from the entire structure.

How Best to Prepare the Brussel Sprouts?

You already know just why Brussel sprouts tend to taste this way. However, you should know that there are ways to make them taste less bitter.

If you want to get rid of the glucosinolates and the components that actually make the Brussel sprouts taste bitter, you will have to make sure that you do it before the enzymes are released.

To do this, one of the best things that you can do is make sure that you cook the sprouts in lots of water. Or, you might want to soak the freshly cut sprouts in a bowl of water.

But, you should know that the glucosalinates carry quite a few benefits for your health, so you are going to have to give that benefit up.

Another thing that you can do is quickly put the Brussel sprouts in a wok, or you might want to consider sauteing them. This might reduce the bitter taste, but it’s also going to preserve some more glucosinolates.

One of the best ways to cook Brussel sprouts is to make sure that you put them on a high heat.

This is going to prevent them from transforming into the more pungent enzymes, as they will be deactivated due to the excessive heat. However, you should know that the jury is still out there about what happens to the molecules when you start cooking them.

Therefore, it’s best to cook them in whatever way you like.

How to Cook the Brussel Sprouts

When it comes to cooking Brussel sprouts, there are plenty of different methods and ways that you can try. At the end of the day, it’s easy to say that every household cooks the Brussel sprouts in a different manner, so it all depends on what works for you.

If you want to get more specific, the first thing that you need to do is always focus on buying smaller Brussel sprouts.

As mentioned above, smaller ones just taste a bit better, especially when you are able to get the glucosalinates out or neutralize the taste. Once you have the Brussel sprouts, the next step is to de-leaf them.

You need to pay attention and make sure that you get rid of all the wilting and the yellowing leaves on the Brussel sprouts. It is also important that you remove the protruding part of the stalk as well.

Then, place a pot of water on your stove and set it to boil. You have to make sure that the water begins to boil before you decide to add the sprouts.

By letting the water boil first before pouring in the Brussel sprouts, you will significantly improve the presentation and the quality of the sprouts themselves. Remember, these sprouts contain a whole bunch of enzymes that will cause deviations in the flavor, and the color is likely to change as well.

By putting the sprouts in the boiling water, you will be able to deactivate the enzymes. This is also a great way to remove any bad flavors from your Brussel sprouts.

Then, you also need to cook the sprouts until they turn completely soft. You should also test this with a knife before deciding to bring them out on a plate.

Some people like the sprouts when they are slightly firm because that’s when they tend to have a stronger flavor too. It might be a wise idea to test them with a knife. Some people like to eat them with mustard as that neutralizes the taste a bit.

Now that you know how to cook the Brussel sprouts in the right way, it might be a wise idea to talk about the many health benefits that they offer.

High in Nutrients

One of the biggest advantages that you get for adding Brussel sprouts into your diet is that they are very high in nutrients.

These sprouts contain very little calories, but they are also high in protein, Vitamins K, A, and C. The amount of carbs in Brussel sprouts is really less as well, so they are an excellent addition to any diet plan.

If you want to eat healthy, you simply cannot ignore Brussel sprouts. You have to add them to your diet, and they also offer other advantages.

For instance, they significantly improve bone health, and on top of that, the vitamin K found in Brussel sprouts also reduces the chances of blood clots.

Rich in Antioxidants

You need antioxidants in your body to keep yourself healthy and clean. Antioxidants are basically compounds that reduce the amount of oxidative stress, and also reduces the chances of chronic diseases.

There have been several studies that have shown that those who consumed a cup of Brussel sprouts on a daily basis reduced the amount of oxidative stress by 28%.

These vegetables contain kaempferol, which is a powerful antioxidant that not only eases inflammation, but it also improves the health of your heart.

Contains Higher Amounts of Fiber

Another reason why you should integrate Brussel sprouts into your diet is because they contain significantly high amounts of fiber. It is recommended that you consume a decent amount of fiber on a daily basis to keep your metabolism going.

Eating a healthy amount of fiber on a regular basis can significantly improve your overall health as well.

However, you should know that simply consuming Brussel sprouts is not enough. You also need to add other healthy items into your diet such as fruits and vegetables.

On top of that, you should also add whole grains into your diet, as they are going to help you meet your overall fiber intake requirements.

Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

There are studies that indicate consuming a decent amount of Brussel sprouts can also help you in maintaining the blood sugar levels in a healthy range.

That’s simply because Brussel sprouts contain a denser amount of fiber, so this helps regulate the levels of blood sugar significantly.

You need to make sure that you consume Brussel sprouts at least once a day. Like most other vegetables, Brussel sprouts contain a wide variety of nutrients and they can be cooked in a variety of fun ways.

Therefore, you should definitely make them a part of your diet. It might take a bit of getting used to, but once you adjust to the taste, Brussel sprouts can be incredibly fun!