Dietribes

Broccoli vs. Kale vs. Brussels Sprouts


The health benefits of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and cabbage are well-documented in the literature, particularly reduced risk of cancer development and recurrence (1). Once the top pick for health-conscious Canadians, broccoli contributes more vitamin C to the diet than any other vegetable (2), but seems to be losing ground to the increasing popularity of “super food” kale.

So, we’re checking in to see which cruciferous vegetable packs the most punch, throwing the detested Brussels sprout in for fun! Who comes out on top in this cruciferous showdown: tried and true broccoli, attention-grabbing kale or reviled Brussels sprouts?

Broccoli (100 g)
VS Kale (100 g)
VS Brussels Sprouts (100 g)
Ancient Rome origin Ancient Greece origin 13th c. Belgium
Italica cultivar Acephala cultivar Gemmifera
$0.46 cost* $0.81 cost* $0.73
34 calories 50 calories 43
1,510 μmol TE ORAC** 1,770 μmol TE ORAC** 980     μmol TE
2.4 g fibre 2.4 g fibre 4.1 g
316 mg potassium 447 mg potassium 389 mg
89 mg vitamin C
120 mg vitamin C
85 mg
361 μg β-carotene 9,226 μg β-carotene 450 μg
1,403 μg lutein & zeaxanthin
39,550 μg lutein & zeaxanthin 1,590 μg
63 μg folate 29 μg folate 61 μg
47 mg calcium 135 mg calcium 42 mg

No Baloney’s results? This might be a controversial one, but we think broccoli offers the most bang for your buck. Based on nutrients per penny, broccoli trumps kale and Brussels sprouts in potassium, vitamin C, folate and antioxidant capacity (ORAC). While kale definitely dominates the carotenoids, providing over 10 times as much beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin per penny as broccoli, the similarities in overall antioxidant capacity show that broccoli is no slouch.

But why choose? We certainly are not suggesting that you toss kale in favour of broccoli – the more the merrier in terms of variety! All members of the Brassica family of vegetables are abundant in nutrients and phytochemicals such as glucosinolates, which have been linked to reduced risk of prostate, colon and bladder cancer, as well as reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence (3-6). Carotenoid powerhouses lutein and zeaxanthin, the most abundant in the North American diet, are also implicated in reduced risk of macular degeneration (7).

Here are some of our favourite ways to enjoy cruciferous veggies – aim for at least 3 servings (~ 1.5 cups total) per week:

  • Simple and easy. Steamed broccoli tossed with lemon juice, cracked pepper and Parmesan cheese.
  • Crispy chips. Give kale chips a try – we like ours seasoned with paprika or dill.
  • Some like it raw. Shredded Brussels sprouts (raw), sliced apples and pecans tossed with an apple cider vinaigrette.
  • Baked and cheesy. Jill’s cauliflower with hemp hearts and walnuts casserole.
  • Spicy side dish. Sliced cabbage stir-fried with ginger, garlic and chilies, topped with toasted sesame seeds.

Do you have a favourite recipe? Leave it in the comments!

Nutrition information from the Canadian Nutrient File: “broccoli, raw” and “kale, raw”, “Brussels sprouts, raw”

*Costs were determined based on a grocery store visit on April 23, 2012. Cost per 100 g edible portion was determined from estimated refuse Canadian Nutrient File (2010): Brussels sprouts = 10% refuse, kale = 39% refuse, broccoli = 39% refuse.

**ORAC = Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a measure of the antioxidant potential of foods. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2010.

References:

  1. Gullett NP, et al. Cancer prevention with natural compounds. Semin Oncol 2010; 37:258-81.
  2. Garriguet D. The effect of supplement use on vitamin C intake. Statistics Canada; 2010.
  3. Liu B, Mao Q, Lin Y, Zhou F, Xie L. The association of cruciferous vegetables intake and risk of bladder cancer: a meta-analysis. World J Urol. 2012 Mar 6. [Epub ahead of print]
  4. Liu B, Mao Q, Cao M, Xie L. Cruciferous vegetables intake and risk of prostate cancer: a meta-analysis. Int J Urol 2012; 19:134-41.
  5. Bosetti C, et al. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk in a network of case-control studies. Ann Oncol 2012; [Epub ahead of print]
  6. Thomson CA, et al. Vegetable intake is associated with reduced breast cancer recurrence in tamoxifen users: a secondary analysis from the Women’s Healthy Eating and Living Study. Breast Cancer Res Treat 2011; 125:519-27.
  7. Ma L, et al. Lutein and zeaxanthin intake and the risk of age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Nutr 2012; 107:350-9.

7 thoughts on “Broccoli vs. Kale vs. Brussels Sprouts

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  5. Thanks to the article! I eat all three, but I didn’t know about the huge amounts of beta carotene and calcium in kale compared with the other two. I never ate (or was forced to eat) any of these as a kid, so maybe I was more willing to give these a go as an adult.

    There’s no mention of the cancer fighting properties of cruciferous vegetables here, but eating these every day can make a dramatic difference in preventing and even reversing cancer. I’m a cancer survivor. Changing my diet has been a major factor in overcoming this diagnosis. I now see it as a chronic condition I can live with rather than a terminal illness that I am helpless to change.

    • Hi Ellen,

      We are happy you liked the post! Nutrition as empowerment – we love it!

      All members of the cruciferous family are abundant in nutrients, particularly glucosinolates, which have been linked to reduced risk of prostate, colon and bladder cancer, as well as reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence. For more info on the cancer-fighting properties of cruciferous veggies and the current evidence, this National Cancer Institute fact sheet is great: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/diet/cruciferous-vegetables

  6. Pingback: Eat This! Leafy Winter Greens | No Baloney

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