Skip to main content

Are Brussels Sprouts Baby Cabbages?

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

If you've wondered whether Brussels sprouts are miniature cabbages, you're in good company. When you look at a Brussels sprout, it looks like a smaller version of a fresh cabbage.

These two vegetables are often grouped together—and indeed, they are closely related. Both are members of the Brassica oleracea species, which includes other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale. However, there are key differences between the two.

For example, Brussels sprouts grow on a stalk and have buds, whereas cabbage heads contain loose leaves. Let's look more closely at why Brussels sprouts are not baby cabbages and what their similarities and differences are.

They Taste Different

Brussels sprouts have a more bitter taste than cabbage. Brussels sprouts get their bitterness from a compound called glucosinolate. Glucosinolate is a sulfur-containing compound that's found in other bitter-tasting vegetables in the cruciferous vegetable family. Cabbage contains glucosinolates too, although not as much as Brussels sprouts.

When you eat Brussels sprouts, the glucosinolate break down into isothiocyanate. Isothiocyanate, including one called sulforaphane, is responsible for the bitter, pungent taste that you get when you bite into Brussels sprouts. It also accounts for the "spicy" flavor of mustard and wasabi.

Laboratory studies show isothiocyanates have potent anti-cancer properties in laboratory studies. They work by stimulating the production of enzymes that detoxify carcinogens and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. However, it’s too early to say that isothiocyanates prevent cancer in humans. It's an area that needs more research.

Which You Prefer Depends on Your Taste Buds

If you're looking for a vegetable with a milder flavor, cabbage is probably your best bet. But if you're looking for something with a little more punch, Brussels sprouts are the way to go. Just remember to cook them properly to mask the bitter taste.

Cooking Brussels sprouts in certain ways reduces their bitterness. Roasting brussels sprouts is one way to enhance the flavor or Brussels sprouts. The high heat of roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in the sprouts, making them sweeter and more flavorful.

There are some downsides nutritionally to roasting Brussels sprouts. Roasting can reduce the level of some nutrients, including vitamin C. While roasted brussels sprouts may be a tastier option, it is important to be aware of the potential nutrient loss.

They Have Nutritional Differences

In terms of nutrition, both Brussels sprouts and cabbage are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals.

  • Brussels sprouts are an exceptional source of vitamins A, B, C, K, and folate, along with minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium. They also contain a decent amount of plant-based protein, carbohydrates, and fiber.For nutrient density, Brussels sprouts are a standout choice.
  • Cabbage is a leafy vegetable that is often overlooked but it is packed with nutrients that can benefit your health. Just one cup of raw green cabbage contains over 80% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C. It is also a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6.

Calorie Content

Both vegetables are low in calories. Neither is likely to expand your waistline, unless you eat cooked in heavy sauces or butter.

  • One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains only 42 calories, yet is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Cabbage has around 25 calories per 100 grams.

Final Word

Brussels sprouts and cabbages are not the same thing.They’re related to each other, but they are not the same. However, you can enjoy both as part of a healthy diet and a tasty addition to the dinner table.

Brussels sprouts stand out for their exceptional nutrient density but enjoying a bowl of cabbage or adding cabbage to a salad is a fantastic way to boost the vitamins and mineral content. In contrast, Brussels sprouts are tastiest cooked rather than raw. Why not enjoy both?

References

  • "Cabbage, raw nutrition facts, and analysis." https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Cabbage%2C_raw_nutritional_value.html.
  • "Brussels sprouts, raw nutrition facts, and analysis.." https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Brussels_sprouts%2C_raw_nutritional_value.html.
  • "Sulforaphane: Benefits, Side Effects, and Food Sources - Healthline." 26 Feb. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sulforaphane.
  • Liang J, Jahraus B, Balta E, Ziegler JD, Hübner K, Blank N, Niesler B, Wabnitz GH, Samstag Y. Sulforaphane Inhibits Inflammatory Responses of Primary Human T-Cells by Increasing ROS and Depleting Glutathione. Front Immunol. 2018 Nov 14;9:2584. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02584. PMID: 30487791; PMCID: PMC6246742.
  • Cheng YM, Tsai CC, Hsu YC. Sulforaphane, a Dietary Isothiocyanate, Induces G₂/M Arrest in Cervical Cancer Cells through CyclinB1 Downregulation and GADD45β/CDC2 Association. Int J Mol Sci. 2016 Sep 12;17(9):1530. doi: 10.3390/ijms17091530. PMID: 27626412; PMCID: PMC5037805.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.