Skip to Content

Is brussel sprouts high in iron?

Brussels sprouts are a nutritious vegetable that is a good source of many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One of the minerals that Brussels sprouts contain is iron. Iron is an essential mineral that plays a key role in many bodily functions. Many people wonder if Brussels sprouts are high in iron or not. In this article, we will examine the iron content of Brussels sprouts and compare it to other foods to determine if Brussels sprouts are a high iron food.

Iron Content of Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts contain a moderate amount of iron. One cup (156g) of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 2.2 mg of iron (1). This provides 12% of the recommended daily intake for iron for men and 15% for women (2).

While Brussels sprouts do contain a decent amount of iron, they are not exceptionally high in this mineral compared to other foods. Here are some examples of the iron content in 1 cup of some other foods (1):

– Lentils: 6.6 mg
– Spinach: 6.4 mg
– Beef liver: 5.2 mg
– Quinoa: 2.8 mg
– Chicken liver: 2.6 mg
– Tofu: 3.4 mg
– White beans: 3.9 mg
– Chickpeas: 2.4 mg

As you can see, foods like lentils, spinach, and liver contain at least 3 times as much iron as Brussels sprouts. Therefore, Brussels sprouts are a moderate source of iron but not an exceptionally high source.

Recommended Intake for Iron

To understand if Brussels sprouts are high in iron, it helps to look at the recommended daily intake for this mineral (3):

– Men age 19+: 8 mg
– Women age 19-50: 18 mg
– Women age 51+: 8 mg

So while the 2.2 mg of iron in 1 cup of Brussels sprouts provides a good chunk of the recommended intake, it falls well below the full recommended amount. Most health professionals recommend getting the majority of your daily iron from high iron foods like meat, seafood, beans, lentils, spinach, and fortified cereals (4).

Absorption of Iron from Brussels Sprouts

In addition to looking at the iron content of Brussels sprouts, it’s also important to consider how well the body absorbs iron from this vegetable. Iron is available in two forms: heme and non-heme iron. Plants only contain non-heme iron, which is not absorbed as efficiently as the heme iron found in animal products (5).

The iron from plant-based foods like Brussels sprouts is estimated to have an absorption rate of 2–20%, compared to 15–35% from animal sources of iron (6).

So even though Brussels sprouts contain a moderate amount of iron, a smaller percentage of that iron will be absorbed and used by the body compared to iron from meat and seafood.

Ways to Increase Iron Absorption from Brussels Sprouts

While the iron in Brussels sprouts may not be highly bioavailable, there are ways you can increase absorption:

– Combine Brussels sprouts with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, or tomatoes. Vitamin C significantly increases iron absorption (7).

– Avoid drinking coffee or tea with meals containing Brussels sprouts, as they can inhibit iron absorption (8).

– Consider cooking Brussels sprouts with small amounts of animal products like beef or chicken, which can enhance non-heme iron absorption.

– Soak Brussels sprouts in an acid medium like lemon juice prior to cooking, as an acidic environment increases iron bioavailability (9).

– Use cooking methods like steaming or sautéing instead of boiling, which can decrease soluble iron content in vegetables (10).

Populations at Risk for Iron Deficiency

While Brussels sprouts can provide a moderate iron boost, they may not be enough on their own to meet iron needs for those at risk of deficiency. Groups at higher risk for iron deficiency include (11):

– Women of childbearing age due to blood loss from menstruation

– Pregnant women due to increased iron needs

– Young children when transitioning from iron-fortified formula to solid foods

– Vegetarians and vegans due to lack of heme iron sources

Those at risk of iron deficiency may benefit from including a few servings of Brussels sprouts as part of an overall iron-rich diet with focus on good sources of heme iron like meat, seafood, and poultry.

Signs of Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency can cause the following symptoms (12):

– Fatigue and weakness
– Pale skin
– Shortness of breath
– Dizziness
– Swollen tongue
– Fast heartbeat
– Brittle nails
– Headaches
– Impaired immune function

If you experience these symptoms, you may want to get tested for iron deficiency anemia. This would involve a complete blood count test and potentially an iron panel or ferritin test.

Benefits of Brussels Sprouts for Iron Levels

While Brussels sprouts are not very high in iron, they still offer benefits for maintaining healthy iron levels:

– Provide a moderate amount of non-heme iron to help meet daily needs
– Contains vitamin C to enhance iron absorption from other foods
– Offers a non-animal source of iron for vegetarians/vegans
– Part of a balanced diet to prevent iron deficiency

Including Brussels sprouts as part of an overall healthy diet containing a variety of iron-rich foods can help support optimal iron status. Their vitamin C content also makes them a great addition to meals to boost iron absorption.

Other Important Nutrients in Brussels Sprouts

In addition to their iron content, Brussels sprouts contain a variety of other beneficial nutrients (1):

– Vitamin K: 137% DV. Important for blood clotting.

– Vitamin C: 97% DV. Boosts iron absorption and acts as an antioxidant.

– Folate: 14% DV. Important for red blood cell production and DNA synthesis.

– Manganese: 9% DV. A trace mineral that assists with metabolism, bone health, and antioxidant defenses.

– Vitamin B6: 7% DV. Plays roles in energy metabolism and immune function.

– Potassium: 6% DV. An electrolyte mineral that regulates fluid balance, nerve transmission, and blood pressure.

– Phosphorus: 6% DV. Key mineral for bone formation, cell membranes, and energy production.

– Copper: 6% DV. Trace mineral that helps form red blood cells, connective tissue, and neurotransmitters.

– Choline: 5% DV. An essential nutrient involved in cell membrane structure, neurotransmission, lipid metabolism, and other key functions.

Brussels sprouts also contain antioxidants like kaempferol and quercetin, which provide anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties (13).

Health Benefits of Brussels Sprouts

Some research shows that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts may offer various health benefits:

– May reduce risk of certain cancers: Brussels sprouts are high in glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds that may inhibit tumor growth and stimulate detoxification (14).

– Support heart health: The antioxidants in Brussels sprouts may reduce inflammation and oxidative stress involved in heart disease development (15).

– Improve detoxification: Compounds like glucosinolates and antioxidants may enhance the body’s natural detoxification processes (16).

– Boost immunity: Containing vitamins C, A, and E, Brussels sprouts provide antioxidants to combat oxidative stress from free radicals and support immune defense (17).

– Maintain vision: The carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin found in Brussels sprouts promote eye health and prevent macular degeneration (18).

– Support digestive health: Brussels sprouts provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants involved in optimal digestive function (19).

– Regulate blood sugar: The fiber and antioxidants in Brussels sprouts may help reduce insulin resistance and decrease diabetes risk (20).

How Many Brussels Sprouts Should You Eat Per Day?

Most nutrition experts recommend getting at least 2-3 servings of cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts per week as part of a healthy diet. A serving is considered 1⁄2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw Brussels sprouts (21).

Somewhere within the range of 1-2 servings (1⁄2 -1 cup cooked) of Brussels sprouts 3-5 times per week is a great target. This provides a good amount of nutrients without overdoing it on one particular vegetable.

When determining your optimal intake of Brussels sprouts, consider your individual calorie needs and diet preferences as well. If you follow a balanced, vegetable-rich diet, getting 2-3 servings of Brussels sprouts or other cruciferous veggies several times a week should be sufficient.

Risks of Eating Too Many Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts contain goitrogens, compounds that may interfere with thyroid function by blocking iodine absorption when consumed in excess (22). However, eating normal servings of Brussels sprouts a few times weekly is not associated with thyroid issues in most healthy individuals.

Some people are more sensitive to goitrogens and may prefer to limit intake of Brussels sprouts and other cruciferous veggies. This includes those with thyroid disorders, iodine deficiency, or autoimmune conditions affecting the thyroid.

Cooking Brussels sprouts may help reduce goitrogen content. Avoiding overcooking is important as well, as this leads to a loss of key nutrients. Consuming Brussels sprouts raw appears to have less impact on thyroid function compared to cooking (23).

As with any vegetable, moderation is key. Eating 1-2 cups of cooked Brussels sprouts or a few servings per week is unlikely to negatively impact thyroid health in most people. But excessive intake on a daily basis may be problematic, especially for those with existing thyroid issues.

How to Select, Store, and Cook Brussels Sprouts

Here are some tips for selecting, storing, and cooking Brussels sprouts (24, 25):

– Selection: Choose bright green sprouts that are firm with tightly packed leaves. Avoid yellow or puffy looking sprouts. Opt for small to medium sized sprouts for best texture and flavor.

– Storage: Place unwashed sprouts in a plastic bag in the fridge for 3-5 days. Do not wash before storing, as moisture speeds up spoilage. For longer storage, blanch and freeze for 9-12 months.

– Preparation: Cut off the brown stems and remove any discolored outer leaves before cooking. Rinse well and pat dry. Cut an “X” in the core for even cooking.

– Cooking: Best cooking methods include roasting, sautéing, baking, or steaming. Cook until tender but still bright green. Overcooking increases risk of bitterness, sulfur smell, and nutrient loss.

– Flavor Pairings: Complementary flavors include olive oil, garlic, onion, shallots, lemon, parsley, thyme, mustard, walnuts, bacon, parmesan cheese.

Brussels Sprout Recipes

Here are some nutritious and delicious recipes featuring Brussels sprouts:

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

– Ingredients: Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder
– Directions: Toss halved sprouts with oil, salt, pepper, garlic. Roast at 400°F for 20-25 min until browned and tender.

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

– Ingredients: Shredded sprouts, shredded apple, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, walnuts, feta cheese
– Directions: Toss sprouts, apple, parsley with lemon juice and oil. Top with walnuts and feta.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

– Ingredients: Halved sprouts, diced bacon, minced shallots, chicken broth, Dijon mustard
– Directions: Cook bacon until crispy. Saute shallots then add sprouts and broth. Cook 5 min until sprouts are tender. Stir in Dijon mustard and serve.

Cheesy Baked Brussels Sprouts

– Ingredients: Trimmed sprouts, olive oil, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese
– Directions: Toss sprouts in oil, then bread crumbs and parmesan. Bake at 375°F for 20 minutes.


Brussels sprouts contain a moderate amount of iron, providing about 12-15% of the recommended daily intake per serving. While they supply a decent iron boost, they are not as high in this mineral as other iron-rich foods like meat, seafood, lentils, and spinach.

However, Brussels sprouts offer benefits for maintaining healthy iron levels thanks to their vitamin C content, which enhances absorption of non-heme iron from plant foods. Enjoying Brussels sprouts as part of a varied, iron-rich diet can promote optimal iron status.

In addition to iron, Brussels sprouts provide a variety of other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and compounds that offer health benefits. Adding 1-2 servings of Brussels sprouts several times per week as part of a vegetable-rich diet can help maintain overall health and prevent iron deficiency.