Have a cup of broccoli, and you have had most of the nutrients you require for the day. Notorious for having been shoved down your throat (almost) by your mom, broccoli is what we can call the super mini tree. And here, we discuss what it can do for you – the excellent broccoli benefits. Read on.
Table Of Contents
A green plant from the cabbage family, broccoli is a superfood. It is one of the healthiest cruciferous vegetables, whose large flowering head is often eaten for its nutritional properties. It is often consumed boiled or steamed, but can also be eaten raw.
Broccoli comes in different varieties, and the most popular ones are:
Calabrese broccoli, named after Calabria in Italy. This type has large green heads and thick stalks. And it is a cool season annual crop.
Sprouting broccoli, which has a large number of heads with several thin stalks.
Broccoflower, which is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. The taste is mild and more like cauliflower than broccoli.
Broccoli rabe (also called broccoli rob in certain places), which is a different cruciferous species and is also called rapini. Its yellow flowers are edible.
Gai-lan, which is also known as Chinese broccoli. It is longer and leafier and more pungent/bitter than the normal green broccoli.
Purple cauliflower is another popular type of broccoli grown in North America and Europe. This one has a head shaped like a cauliflower and has tiny flower buds.
There is also broccolini, which people confuse with the other types. Well, not exactly – broccolini is just a lanky vegetable that is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli, and not a separate variety in itself.
Of course, it is! This vegetable is extremely rich in vitamin C (has twice the amount as in orange), calcium (contains as much as in whole milk), and selenium (nutrient important for preventing cancer).
Eating broccoli also detoxifies your body after exposure to food or airborne carcinogens and other oxidants. This activity can be attributed to sulforaphane, an important phytochemical in broccoli. In fact, one study proved that ingesting cruciferous veggies like broccoli can protect cells from DNA damage.
There are many other reasons broccoli can be amazing for you (which we will discuss in detail in a little while). But before that, let’s get into a bit of history.
This was a popular food amongst the Romans. And it once grew like crazy on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Sources say its origins lie in Italy (about 2,000 years ago), and then, it spread to France and England in the 1700s. In the US, broccoli saw its commercial growth in the 1920s. At some point in time, broccoli was also called the Italian Asparagus.
That’s just a bit about the history. But did you know that there is a lot of other interesting stuff about this vegetable?
That’s a bit about the facts. But the real deal about this vegetable lies in its nutrient profile – and that’s something we will look at now.
|Nutrition Facts Serving Size 91 g|
|Amount Per Serving|
|Calories 31||Calories from Fat 3|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||1%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||0.7mg||4%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
One cup of broccoli (cooked) has the following important nutrients:
And one stalk of broccoli contains just about 45 calories.
And now, let’s head to the benefits.
The antioxidants in broccoli play a major role in preventing inflammatory diseases like cancer and diabetes. Broccoli also improves liver health and aids body detoxification. Find out about the potential broccoli benefits for your overall health.
The National Cancer Institute has spoken about the link between cruciferous vegetables (especially broccoli) and cancer in great detail. These vegetables contain glucosinolates, chemicals that have sulfur. During cooking, chewing, and digestion, these glucosinolates are broken down to form biologically active compounds – one of them being indole-3-carbinol, a compound with potent anticancer properties (1).
And yes, there is research that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can help prevent various forms of cancer – notably, cancers of the prostate, lungs, breast, and colon.
Another compound in broccoli bagging the credit for cancer prevention is sulforaphane, or naturally occurring organic sulfur. Sulforaphane supports normal cell function and division and even promotes apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. Research says that just 3 servings of broccoli a week can cut cancer risk by 60 percent.
Broccoli also contains decent amounts of fiber, which enhances immunity and fights inflammatory diseases like cancer (2).
Often called the dynamic trio, glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin, and glucobrassicin in broccoli neutralize and eliminate the unwanted chemicals from your body.
The sulforaphane in broccoli sprout protects the aerobic cells from damage by inducing a network of detoxification enzymes. In addition, it also suppresses the inflammatory responses (3). In another study, individuals who consumed broccoli sprout tea were found to have higher levels of detoxification (4). These individuals saw their blood levels of benzene and acrolein decrease post the 8-week long experiment. Benzene and acrolein are products of chemical combustion commonly found in highly polluted areas. Simply put, broccoli helps eliminate the pollutants that we unknowingly inhale on a daily basis.
Do you have bone issues or know anyone who does? Well, we can understand what a pain it can be. You can’t just move around. And that’s terrible. But you sure might find some solace in broccoli. Being an excellent source of vitamin K, calcium, potassium, and magnesium – broccoli plays a role in maintaining bone mineral density (it contains good levels of iron too).
Certain experts say vitamin K builds bones better than calcium. And a cup of broccoli contains 270 percent of the vitamin K you need in a day. This vitamin, along with calcium, also helps maintain your teeth.
This basically means broccoli can help fight osteoporosis (5). Plain and simple.
Broccoli keeps the blood vessels strong, which is one of the ways it improves heart health. The sulforaphane in the vegetable can prevent and even reverse damage to blood vessel linings caused by chronic sugar issues.
One study found that broccoli intake could improve your heart’s blood-pumping ability. It also reduces damage to the heart during oxygen deprivation (6). Numerous other studies have also associated broccoli consumption with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. The vegetable can reduce inflammation and oxidation of the arteries in stroke-prone individuals (7).
Studies have also shown that the very same sulforaphane in broccoli can also improve blood pressure levels (8). And broccoli contains no cholesterol. Moreover, given it has fiber, it also regulates cholesterol levels and prevents heart attacks.
Broccoli reduces inflammation in the colon and helps prevent colon cancer. The vegetable is broken down in the stomach into certain compounds, one of them being indolocarbazole (or ICZ). This ICZ activates another compound called aryl hydrocarbon receptor (or AHR), which maintains the gut barrier function and treats related issues like leaky gut. Leaky gut occurs when the intestinal barrier is compromised and opens up to attack by toxins and microbes, leading to poorer absorption of nutrients.
Broccoli also contains other distinctive compounds that can be utilized by the gut bacteria and improve the overall gut health (9).
Broccoli has been found to prevent liver cancer and even aid in its treatment (10).
Broccoli sprouts can raise the levels of detoxification enzymes and protect the liver from damage. The vegetable might also prevent liver failure. Eating 4 servings of broccoli a week can do wonders to your liver health.
Dietary broccoli has also been found to prevent fatty liver disease, as per another study (11).
Research has found that taking broccoli just for 3 days can lead to a 200 percent increase in the production of proteins that generate antioxidants in the nasal cells. And this can help cure allergies.
According to another study, broccoli sprout attenuates nasal allergic response. It also reduces the effects of particulate pollution on allergic disease and asthma (12). Broccoli is also rich in quercetin and kaempferol, polyphenols known for their anti-allergic immune response. Quercetin is so potent in treating allergies that it is one of the main ingredients in most anti-allergic drugs (13).
Broccoli can even help treat other allergic (and respiratory) conditions like asthma. The sulforaphane in the veggie triggers the release of antioxidant enzymes in the human airways – this offers protection from the free radicals and other pollutants that we breathe in every day (14).
Broccoli is low in calories, and hence can be an ideal addition to a weight loss diet. And yes, broccoli is a good source of fiber – it keeps you full for a long period and discourages binging. This could simply make your path to weight loss a little smoother.
You might want to turn to broccoli if you have any kind of eye problem that has been bothering you for quite a while. Because studies show that broccoli might prevent blindness. And this effect, again, is attributed to the humble sulforaphane in broccoli – the naturally occurring antioxidant that protects the eyes from ultraviolet radiation. Research says that the more sulforaphane your eye cells get, the more protection they receive (15).
Green and yellow fruits and vegetables are also found to be loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin – antioxidants crucial for the human eyes. These super-antioxidants help prevent other serious eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. Just about 100 grams of boiled broccoli contains 1,080 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin (16).
Broccoli is also rich in vitamin C, another nutrient essential for better vision (17).
If the fiber in broccoli forms one part of the equation, sulforaphane forms the other. The latter prevents damage to blood vessels caused by diabetes. Sulforaphane activates certain enzymes that limit this type of damage.
In lab experiments, sulforaphane was also found to lower glucose levels and reduce the harmful effects of sugar.
But there is something about broccoli that needs your attention – and this has to do with your nutritional type (values derived from a scientific method of customized nutrition, which basically studies your body’s major control systems) (18). Please check with your doctor on this. If you are a protein type, you might have to reduce your broccoli intake.
Eating broccoli post a meal can help slow down the rise in blood pressure (thanks to its fiber content).
The two crucial nutrients in broccoli that improve brain health are vitamin K and choline. While the former enhances cognitive abilities, the latter improves memory. And more importantly, broccoli contains a decent amount of folic acid that helps prevent Alzheimer’s and depression (19).
Other studies state that dietary broccoli might improve neuroinflammation to a certain extent (20). And the sulforaphane in broccoli had shown to improve spatial memory, especially after a traumatic injury. Hence, this compound is widely considered a potential therapeutic option for treating brain injury in patients (21).
According to a report by the Harvard Medical School, broccoli is also rich in beta-carotene and can prevent cognitive decline.
The calcium and vitamin C in broccoli, together, can boost metabolism. And the fiber in broccoli increases TEF (also called the Thermic Effect of Food, or your metabolic rate after eating).
The fiber in broccoli is also responsible for healthy metabolism and maintenance of the major body functions (22).
The number one reason broccoli works best for the immune system is its vitamin C content. And studies have found that broccoli can also boost the aging immune system. The sulforaphane in the vegetable interacts with Nrf2, a protein that regulates the body’s overall antioxidant response. This protein can switch on hundreds of antioxidant and rejuvenating enzymes and genes (23).
Sulforaphane has also been found to reverse the decline of immune function of cells that might otherwise accelerate with age. And broccoli also contains another compound glutathione – which also is called the master antioxidant. This antioxidant also fortifies immune health. Studies say that eating broccoli raw can maximize its immune-boosting effects. And these effects have also shown to promote wound healing.
Proper nutrition is more important during pregnancy than any other period in a woman’s life. And broccoli, being a powerhouse of nutrients, can offer just that.
While the calcium in broccoli helps prevent osteoporosis in pregnant women (as they are more prone to the disease during this phase, given their bones are more vulnerable), folate ensures a healthy pregnancy – it eliminates neurological defects in the baby (24).
And the fiber in broccoli helps prevent gestational diabetes, a disease pregnant women are more often prone to. Supplementation with broccoli sprout also prevents brain injury in the newborn, as per a Canadian study (25).
Men need to thank the folate here. According to a Spanish study, an increased intake of folate can enhance semen production, leading to stronger orgasms and improved fertility. And the vitamin A in this veggie can enhance the sperm count.
Broccoli has also been found to prevent bladder cancer, which is three times more common in men than women (26).
Broccoli, like most vegetables (and fruits), is an alkaline food and helps balance the body’s pH levels.
The same antioxidants improve skin health and help slow down aging. Vitamin C in the vegetable aids collagen production, ultimately making the skin look younger.
Broccoli contains a substance called glucoraphanin that gets converted into sulforaphane, aiding skin repair and resulting in healthy skin. Thus, eating broccoli renews your skin more quickly and gives your complexion a beautiful natural glow.
Studies show that extracts of broccoli sprouts protect against skin damage and cancer caused by UV radiation (27).
The vitamins A and C in broccoli also contribute to skin health.
One compound in broccoli, called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), has been found to offer anti-aging benefits. NMN produces another compound important for energy metabolism – this compound fuels energy in our bodies, potentially eliminating some of the signs associated with aging (28).
And the vitamin C in the veggie fights free radicals that otherwise tend to speed up the aging process. Vitamin C also contributes to collagen production, which improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles.
Broccoli is often considered better than sunscreen in protecting the skin against skin cancer. In fact, you could smear broccoli extract over your skin before bath. The sulforaphane in it works wonders on your skin.
The B vitamins and vitamin C make your hair stronger and strengthen the hair follicles. Vitamin C also combats free radicals that otherwise cause hair loss.
Dark green vegetables like broccoli are loaded with vitamins A and C that help produce sebum – a natural scalp oil that keeps the hair conditioned.
The vitamin C in this wonder veggie eliminates free radicals and helps make your hair thicker and healthier. It also is a good source of B vitamins, which reduce stress and in a way combat hair loss (29).
Broccoli seed oil contains a unique fatty acid composition that is similar to silicone found in shampoos, which is responsible for imparting shine to your hair. Also known as erucic acid, this omega-9 fatty acid gives your hair a smooth, natural sheen without leaving a residue of harmful detergents or chemicals in your hair follicles. Thus, it has an advantage over commercial shampoos and conditioners in this respect.
We saw the many broccoli benefits. But you also need to know about the selection process and storage.
Broccoli is available all the year round in supermarkets, so it is important to ensure that the variety you are buying is fresh.
While purchasing broccoli, ensure that the floret clusters are compact with firm stalks and healthy leaves.
Look for strong uniformly colored buds which are dark green, sage or purple-green depending on the variety with no sign of yellowing or bruises.
Yellowing florets or woody stalks with holes at the base or open bud clusters indicate that the vegetable is not fresh and hence should be avoided.
The stems and florets should be devoid of slimy spots and the leaves, if attached, should be vibrant in color and not wilted.
There should be no yellow flowers blossoming from the vegetable as it is a sign of over maturity.
Broccoli should be kept unwashed in a plastic bag, removing as much air from the bag as possible.
It should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Do not wash it before storing as it might get spoilt due to exposure to water.
Where whole broccoli has not been used, partial heads should be kept in a well-sealed container or plastic bag and refrigerated as it starts losing vitamin C quickly once it has been cut. Thus, it is advisable to use it within a few days.
Blanched broccoli can be frozen and refrigerated for up to a year.
Cooked broccoli should be kept in a tightly covered container and stored in a refrigerator for a few days.
There are numerous ways you can use broccoli for cooking. Let us help you with a few of them.
Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables that can be eaten in both cooked and raw forms. Raw broccoli contains more sulforaphane than the cooked one and is a suitable addition to salads.
Whether eaten raw or cooked, this vegetable provides your body with a plethora of nutrients and vitamins that protect you from various diseases. If you are wondering how to cook broccoli, we have something for you.
Before proceeding to cook broccoli, it should be washed and rinsed in cold running water. Cut the florets into quarters for uniform cooking. The stems and florets are the edible portions. So, the stem should be peeled and cut into slices.
To obtain the maximum nutrition from broccoli, it is advisable to let it sit for a few minutes before cooking. Broccoli can be cooked in many ways and can easily form part of many recipes to increase their nutrition quotient. Given below are some of the methods of cooking broccoli.
Steamed broccoli is best. It is low in calories too (½ cup contains just about 31 calories). But overcooking should be avoided as it enhances its strong flavor, wipes out the color and leaches the nutrients. Broccoli should be cooked for a short duration until it becomes tender but remains crisp.
Broccoli can be steamed either in a microwave or on a stove top. In case of the former method, place the broccoli florets in a dish and pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of water on the top. Cover the dish and microwave it at a high temperature for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the lid and check if it is tender. Microwave it for an additional minute if required.
For steaming it on the stove top, fill a pot with a few inches of water and place a steamer basket on top, such that the water does not touch the bottom of the steamer basket. Simmer over medium to high heat and add the broccoli florets and stems. Cover the pot and steam for 4 to 5 minutes until they become tender. Steamed broccoli can be enjoyed with olive oil, seasonings, salads, casseroles, and soups.
This is another method to make the broccoli tender. For this purpose, fill a bowl with ice water and bring it next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of salt and broccoli florets. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ minutes until the florets turn tender and crisp. Allow the water to boil and cook the stems till they become tender for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Your broccoli is ready and can be served as vegetable platters.
If you want to freeze broccoli, blanching is the way to go about it. Freezing broccoli raw can make it bitter and leave it with shriveled stems. But blanching preserves the bright color and flavor.
Rinse the broccoli properly to ensure that it is completely dry. Heat some oil in a skillet at medium to high heat. Add the florets along with salt and toss to coat with oil. Add the stems after a minute. Continue to cook and stir till the broccoli is bright green and tender.
Your broccoli should be as dry as possible. Heat the oven to 425oF. Coat the broccoli florets and stem with a few tablespoons of oil and half a teaspoon of salt. Make a layer by spreading the broccoli in a thin layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast it for 20 to 25 minutes until it becomes crunchy and shows deep caramelized brown spots. It should be served immediately and can be used as a side dish or pizza topping.
Eating (How To Incorporate More Broccoli Into Your Diet)
There are multiple ways of cooking and serving broccoli. It can be added to pastas, pizzas, and salads or made into soups to make them more interesting and nutritious.
You saw how to use broccoli in various ways. What if those ways take you to some wonderful delicacies?
Let us tell you – the recipes are great. They taste wonderful and are superbly nutritious. But in case you are wondering where to procure broccoli from…
We saw all that is good and glorious about broccoli. But not everything is so about it. Like any food, broccoli also has its share of side effects.
Applying broccoli to the skin can cause rashes in hypersensitive people. Stop its use if you notice any such effects.
Broccoli (and other cruciferous veggies) are said to contain goitrogens that can interfere with thyroid functioning. If you are on thyroid medication, the vegetable can interfere with its absorption. Hence, avoid its use in such a case.
In normal amounts, it is safe. But we don’t know what happens if broccoli is taken in excess. Hence, limit your intake.
Since it contains fiber, overeating broccoli can upset your stomach.
We have stated that it’s a nutritional powerhouse. It might taste bitter. But that doesn’t matter. Make this a part of your daily diet. Because remember, it’s a nutritional powerhouse. Oh yes, now you know why your mom insisted on downing this veggie down your throat. Time to say sorry to her, probably?
And tell us how you liked this post on amazing broccoli benefits. Do comment in the box below.
Do broccoli stems have any nutritious value?
Yes, they are just as nutritious. They contain calcium, iron, and vitamin C.
How does a broccoli grow?
Broccoli needs cool weather, sun, water, and rich soil. Ensure you plant the seed where it gets at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. The soil must be fertile, well-drained, and moist – with abundant organic matter.
Why is broccoli green?
The same reason most other plants are green – because of chlorophyll, the green pigment.