Brussels sprouts are quickly becoming one of the most popular vegetables in America today.1 Plenty of studies have been published regarding its benefits for human health, such as fighting oxidative stress,2 lowering the risk of cancer3 and managing inflammation.4 With all these amazing things being said about this vegetable, can your pet munch on this healthy food as well?
The answer is, yes — Brussels sprouts are a great treat for pets! Healthy "extras" like Brussels sprouts can be a great complement to your pet's healthy diet. A single sprout, which weighs around 19 grams, contains an assortment of nutrients that may support your pet's health.5 In fact, it's one of the safe veggies that I highly recommend for dogs and cats (if they'll eat them).
Sulforaphane: The Powerful Secret of Brussels Sprouts
A unique property of cruciferous vegetables, which includes Brussels sprouts, is the presence of sulforaphane. It is a compound that has been shown to possess chemopreventive properties, according to one animal study.6 It may protect memory aptitude as well, as shown in one research conducted with diabetic rats.7 In another study, animal models showed that sulforaphane helped manage conditions such as hepatic encephalopathy, epilepsy and spinal cord injury, as well as protection from toxins.8
Sulforaphane also activates a protein called Nrf2 in animals' bodies. When this happens, it stimulates over 200 genes and hundreds of beneficial reactions occur — from controlling inflammation to encouraging detoxification, and even stimulating the body's natural antioxidant production.9
The Nutrients of Brussels Sprouts Are Varied and Beneficial
Brussels sprouts may help support your pet's health in various ways. Vitamin C is important for maintaining a healthy immune response by boosting neutrophil functions, as well as functioning as an antioxidant. Furthermore, vitamin C is a crucial cofactor for enzymes that synthesize collagen.10 A single sprout can give your pet 16.2 milligrams of this antioxidant.11
Vitamin K has been shown to help lower the risk of excess bleeding, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine,12 while magnesium is considered to be an important contributor to animal functions, such as bone mineralization and muscle contraction.13 There are 33.6 micrograms of vitamin K and 4.37 milligrams of magnesium in one Brussels sprout.14
Brussels Sprouts Can Be Good for Your Pet's Eyesight
Brussels sprouts contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidants crucial for healthy eyesight among humans,15 and these two can be a boon for your pet as well. Your pet can get 302 micrograms of these antioxidants in every Brussels sprout.16
In a study that tested the effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on healthy dogs, researchers noted that the two nutrients had a positive effect on the eyesight of the test subjects.17
Beta-Carotene Provides Vitamin A for Your Pet
One Brussels sprouts can give your pet 85.5 milligrams of beta-carotene,18 which is the precursor to vitamin A, an important nutrient with a wide range of roles for both animals and humans. Once it gets converted in the body, the resulting vitamin A helps with functions such as reproduction, eyesight and immune response.19
However, note that carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds.20 If you want to get the most out of Brussels sprouts' beta-carotene, you can chop this vegetable and use it as food toppers to your pet's meal containing healthy dietary fats.
How to Prepare Brussels Sprouts Treats for Your Pet
The best place to buy Brussels sprouts is your local farmers market. Look for fresh, organic sprouts still attached to the stalk, with their heads heavy and firm, and the leaves packed closely. Avoid produce that shows signs of damage, such as yellow leaves or black spots.21
According to licensed nutritionist Monica Reinagel, Brussels sprouts are not included in the "Clean Fifteen" and "Dirty Dozen" lists of the Environmental Working Group's 2020 Shoppers' Guide to Pesticides in Produce.22 Reinagel states that since broccoli (which has very low pesticide levels) is similarly grown to Brussels sprouts, conventionally grown varieties of this vegetable may be safe to eat.23 But of course, organic or spray-free sprouts are still your top option.
As a snack, Brussels sprouts are best served raw. In a study published in 2019, researchers noted that sulforaphane action diminished when cruciferous vegetables are cooked before consumption.24 Cooked brussels are also safe, as long as you've not added any sauces. Take note, however, of your pet's size. If you own a small dog or cat, it's best to cut up the sprouts so they can chew this food easier.