Here are 12 health benefits of eating broccoli. First, I’m sure you know what broccoli looks like – it’s the green, bushy, tree-like vegetable that is frequently seen being pushed off of children’s dinner plates. There is more to this plant than that, though – it was once considered the healthiest food available. With the recent popularity of super-foods like goji berries and spirulina, broccoli has lost some of its reputation. This doesn’t mean that broccoli isn’t still an incredibly powerful vegetable that everyone should include in their diet.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, that is jam-packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Its benefits span a wide range, from preventing cancer and heart disease to promoting energy production and metabolism. It’s not uncommon to hear tales of people who have lost weight and regained a healthy BMI by switching out unhealthy foods for lots of broccoli. It can even stop your eyesight from degrading. It’s a very powerful vegetable!
Broccoli’s birth was in ancient Rome, where it was bred from cabbage. It didn’t spread until nearly two thousand years later, when Europeans adopted the plant in the 16th century. Since then, the plant has gained widespread popularity and reverence across the world.
How healthy can broccoli be?
Broccoli has a very impressive and extensive nutritional profile, which is why it’s famous for being able to fight and prevent so many different health problems. It’s loaded with antioxidants that prevent oxidation in the body, and has many phytonutrients that help humans develop as well.
A few of the nutrients broccoli contains include
- Vitamin K. Broccoli contains a whopping 245% of your daily need of vitamin K, making it the 9th densest source of vitamin K in the world – behind things such as kale, spinach, and the greens from various vegetables like chard and turnips. Vitamin K is primarily recognized for its ability to prevent and limit blood clotting, as well as helping the body maintain healthy bones.
- Vitamin C. Broccoli contains 135% of your daily need of vitamin C per serving, making it the third densest vegetable source available – beaten only by papaya and bell peppers. Vitamin C was used for years to treat scurvy, and modern science has shown that it has a lot more benefits than that. It’s an antioxidant that fights against free radicals, preventing cancer. It produces collagen, keeping the skin healthy, and protects brain cells from oxidative damage preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.
- Chromium. Broccoli contains more chromium per serving than any other food, clocking in at 53% of your daily value. Chromium helps the body manage its blood sugar level, preventing glucose spikes. This can fight against diabetes.
- Folate. Containing 42% of your daily value of folate per serving, broccoli once again makes the top 10 list for vegetables high in a particular nutrient. Folate has proven difficult to study, but it’s shown to help the development of the brain and nervous system as well as helping your cardiovascular system function properly.
Broccoli also contains fairly significant amounts of pantothenic acid (19 percent of your daily value,) vitamin B6 (18 percent of your D.V.) vitamin E (15 percent) phosphorous, magnesium, choline, and vitamin B2 (all 15 percent of your D.V.) vitamin A and potassium (13 percent) and copper (11 percent.) It has trace amounts of vitamin B1, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, protein, zinc, iron, and calcium.
That’s a pretty impressive profile for a single vegetable. All these different vitamins and minerals will undoubtedly have a positive effect on all your body’s systems in some way. Here’s a list of the most powerful things broccoli can do to help your body.
Broccoli has great fiber content
Containing 21% of your recommended daily intake for fiber, broccoli is a good choice for those hoping to increase their fiber content. Fiber can help clean out the body of toxic substances, cholesterol, and unused or dead cells. Fiber slows down the digestive system, allowing for slower absorption of sugars which can lower blood sugar. It also helps you feel full faster, leading to weight loss – since it’s indigestible, it will swell in your stomach, preventing you from overeating.
Fiber is a substance that the human body can’t digest. It’s technically a carbohydrate, but since it’s indigestible, it doesn’t come with the risks of eating high carbohydrate diets. Despite that, it’s still incredibly useful. There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Both can only be obtained from eating plants, and most typically contain both.
Soluble fiber is generally found in the flesh of fruits and vegetables, as well as in nuts or oats. Insoluble fiber is often found in the skins and peels of different fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber is more renown for its effects on digestive health, whereas insoluble fiber helps with regulating your bowel movements and helping your body absorb and make use of sugars.
Conclusion: The high fiber content of broccoli makes it a great, tasty option for anyone hoping to increase the amount of fiber in their diet. The high fiber content helps the body with digestion, and can prevent a number of diseases.
2. Broccoli can help fight cancer
Broccoli is most famous for its ability to battle cancer. This is its most publicized health benefit. Most cruciferous vegetables have some ability to fight against cancer.
There are a number of chemicals in broccoli that are attributed to fighting cancer. Sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol are two, and they both help your body detox itself by producing more cleansing enzymes. They also act as antioxidants, preventing the stress of oxidation from causing disease and creating free radicals.
Free radicals are closely linked to cancer. A free radical is an atom that’s missing an electron in its outer shell, and will compensate by stealing one from a nearby atom. This creates a chain reaction of damaged cells that can lead to cancer.
Conclusion: Broccoli contains a number of antioxidants and nutrients that make the body more effective at fighting cancer.
3. Broccoli is extremely low in calories
Broccoli only has 34 calories per hundred grams. That’s incredible! That means you get all the vitamins and minerals listed above at a low calorie cost. Broccoli is actually considered a negative food, that burns more calories during its digestion than it offers your body.
This makes broccoli ideal for those trying to lose weight. Its fiber content will help you feel full, and the low calorie count will ensure that your body doesn’t have any extra calories to store as fat. This leads into our next topic.
Conclusion: Broccoli has a whole lot of nutrients and not a lot of calories. This makes it ideal for people looking to develop a low calorie diet plan.
4. Broccoli is very useful for those looking to lose weight.
Aside from making you feel full by having a high fiber content, broccoli has a few other tricks up its sleeve for those hoping to lose weight .
Broccoli is very effective at reducing cholesterol, which means that your veins and arteries won’t clog up as easily. This means that your blood will be able to transport nutrients easier, and your metabolism and digestion in general will function better.
Broccoli has no fat, making it ideal to take the place of high-fat foods in those looking to limit fat consumption.
Broccoli’s antioxidants can fight against blood sugar spikes and some of sugar’s other detrimental effects. Excessive sugar consumption gradually damages blood vessels, making it easier for cholesterol to build up. It also can help the body absorb and use sugar more efficiently. This means that you are less likely to have an excess of sugar in your body that will just end up as stored fat..
Conclusion: Through a variety of different methods, broccoli can effectively prevent and work against weight loss. Its antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, combined with the low calorie and fat content, make it a very good dietary addition for those who want to lose weight.
5. Broccoli is a potent detoxification agent
Broccoli contains a number of components that are highly effective at helping your body cleanse itself of toxins. Of particular note are some of the phytochemicals available in broccoli: glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin, and glucobrassicin. The three of them work together to help the body cleanse itself by getting rid of toxic contamination, helping the body remove free radicals, and neutralizing damaging effects.
Broccoli sprouts are shown to be particularly effective at detoxifying the body. They contain higher amounts of the nutrients responsible for helping your body produce enzymes for detoxification. These enzymes also help fight against carcinogens (these are a certain type of mutagens that cause structural damage to DNA, eventually leading to cancer and increased cell death.)
Conclusion: Broccoli – particularly its sprouts – is effective at helping the body rid itself of toxins. By helping the body produce enzymes that are useful in the detoxification process, regular consumption of broccoli will help keep you healthy.
6. Broccoli is good at lowering LDL cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol – LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high density lipoproteins.) LDL is the ‘bad’ cholesterol, which is highly responsive to oxidation and can build up in the bloodstream, leading to heart disease, clogged arteries, and cancer.
HDL cholesterol helps the body remove LDL, the highly reactive ‘evil cousin.’ Since HDL is high density, it can swim through the bloodstream and scrape LDL cholesterol off the veins and arteries. HDL cholesterol also maintains and repairs damage to cell walls in the bloodstream, preventing things like arteriosclerosis.
Broccoli aids cholesterol mostly with its large fiber content. Soluble fiber helps the body become more efficient at excreting LDL cholesterol, and also helps regulate bile production and excretion. Without enough fiber, your body will begin recycling it. This allows the bile to build up more and more toxins, leading to inflammatory diseases. This matters because cholesterol helps with the production of bile. However, if you have too much cholesterol, it can crystallize in your bile and turn into gallstones – a painful symptom that can block your bile ducts, preventing its production entirely.
Conclusion: Broccoli helps the body reduce LDL cholesterol by increasing the amount of available fiber. This helps HDL cholesterol scrape LDL off the walls of veins and arteries, and helps avoid the unpleasant situation of excess cholesterol hardening in bile.
7. Broccoli supports eye function and visual health
Eating broccoli on a regular basis can help combat the natural degeneration of eyesight that comes along with aging. It contains two particular compounds, lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein is the compound responsible for carrots having a good reputation for helping maintain vision – they’re full of lutein. These two carotenoids are shown to prevent ocular disorders, such as cataracts or an irreversible form of eyesight loss known as macular degeneration.
Vitamin A deficiency is also linked to degenerative effects on eyesight. Broccoli contains enough vitamin A to help combat this. It’s high in beta-carotene, which is metabolized into vitamin A during digestion. Other minerals that are known to help improve eyesight are phosphorous, the B complex, vitamin C, and vitamin E – and broccoli contains all of these vitamins.
Furthermore, a number of these vitamins and minerals have been studied for their effects on reducing or reversing damage caused by ultraviolet radiation – so, if you’ve been staring at the sun for too long, you might want to start eating broccoli.
Conclusion: Broccoli contains lutein – the same nutrient responsible for carrots helping maintain eyesight – and zeaxanthin, two compounds which work together to help maintain eyesight and ward off ocular disease.
8. Broccoli is good at fighting and reversing damage from diabetes
Broccoli has a number of interesting applications that are useful for fighting diabetes. Some of its antioxidants and phytonutrients can prevent damaged blood vessels that were strained by diabetes.
A class of compounds known as sulforaphane are present in broccoli. These nutrients help the body develop and produce protective enzymes, which can inhibit or even prevent diabetic cellular damage.
Considering broccoli is low in sugar and high in fiber, it’s very useful for those who want to watch their blood sugar. It will keep you full, preventing overeating and indulging, and helps sugars be absorbed slowly and evenly, allowing for a more consistent source of energy.
Conclusion: Broccoli does a few things to help fight to prevent diabetes, and to reduce damage done by diabetes for those who already have the disease. It protects and repairs cell walls, and can lower the chance of having blood sugar spikes that can lead to heart disease.
9. Broccoli aids with digestion and fights gut disease
Broccoli’s high fiber content is largely responsible for many of the benefits it provides your digestive tract. In addition to fiber, broccoli’s sulforaphanes have a positive effect on your stomach lining and limits the proliferation of bacteria in your stomach. Again – due to their higher concentration of sulforaphanes – broccoli sprouts are more effective in regard to this particular health benefit.
Many diseases of the gastrointestinal tract are caused by constipation. Fiber is well-known for preventing constipation, and thus can put a stop to these particular diseases.
Magnesium, available in broccoli, helps the body maintain a proper pH level. If the body becomes too acidic (low pH) this can offset its equilibrium, leading to many diseases.
The sulforaphanes in broccoli prevent a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori from flourishing. H. pylori is a spiral shaped bacteria that tend to attack the stomach. They are the cause of most ulcers. H. pylori is well-adapted to live in the harsh conditions of the stomach, by manipulating or changing the acidity of their environment to suit them. Broccoli was shown to reduce the levels of H. Pylori in rats by up to forty percent!
Conclusion: With its high fiber content and dense sulforaphanes, broccoli can help eliminate and prevent gastrointestinal disease. It can eliminate strains of bacteria from the stomach, and ensure that your body has a regular schedule of bowel movements to excrete toxins.
10. Broccoli is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent
Broccoli is a great combatant that can help your body fight off inflammation. Inflammation is present in a huge number of diseases, and the direct cause of many serious ones including osteoarthritis.
Broccoli is particularly useful in fighting arthritis – again, because of its sulforaphane content. Sulforaphanes prevent the enzymes responsible for joint inflammation from being produced. They do this by prevent the movement of a molecule that causes inflammation.
As well as having a good sulforaphane content, broccoli contains isothiocyanates and omega-3 fats. These two compounds further help limit inflammation. It also contains kaempferol, a nutrient known for its ability to fight allergens and recently proven to fight inflammation. Eliminating allergens can help the body avoid recurring inflammation.
Conclusion: Broccoli has a good array of nutrients that can battle inflammation in all areas of the body. It can even eliminate or prevent damage done by inflammatory diseases like arthritis.
11. Broccoli keeps your skin looking young and healthy
Broccoli contains a number of nutrients that have an effect on the skin.
- Folate helps protect from the development of skin cancer. UV rays drain the folate out of the skin, which can lead to an imbalance and eventually lead to cancer. Restoring the amount of folate present in your skin and body can help prevent skin cancer.
- Vitamin E fights free radicals. Free radicals play a huge part in the process of aging skin. They cause wrinkles, blotching, liver spots… a number of degenerative skin conditions. Vitamin E is a potent enough antioxidant that supplementation with it can ward off the symptoms of aging skin, keeping you young and fresh.
- Vitamin C is another antioxidant that can fight off free radicals. Vitamin C also directly promotes the development of collagen, one of the most crucial components in the skin. Collagen is the most prominent protein that makes up the structure of skin. It’s used in a purified form during cosmetic surgery because it’s so potent at keeping skin looking young and healthy.
- Beta carotene is used as an ingredient in many skin-care products because of its effects on preventing skin damage. It helps protect against UV ray damage. It helps balance skin tone and texture, making for an evenly balanced appearance. Furthermore, it can prevent things like skin blotching by lightening areas that have too much pigment.
- Vitamin B3 improves the skin’s ability to retain moisture. This leads to less dehydration, which can cause skin flaking and itching. Vitamin B3 helps your skin stay soft and smooth, and can even hinder the development of wrinkles.
- Vitamin K is effective at reducing bruising. It helps skin heal faster, and has proven in clinical studies to speed up the healing of bruises. It also improves the elasticity of skin, making it more durable and less sensitive to damage.
On top of all this, broccoli’s other health benefits improve upon the transportation of nutrients to and from the skin. It hinders a lot of diseases that can take a toll on the epidermis.
Conclusion: Broccoli has a lot of different vitamins and minerals in it that can hinder the degradation of skin, preventing wrinkles, blotching, and even skin cancer. Before rushing to the pharmacy to buy skin creams, maybe consider adding broccoli into your diet plan.
12. Broccoli can help strengthen the immune system
Broccoli is host to a bunch of vitamins and minerals that strengthen the immune system and help your body fight off pathogens.
- Beta carotene is suggested to help prevent cancer by strengthening the cells that compose the immune system. The nutrient improves immune responses in cells – strangely, more so in the elderly.
- Copper deficiency leads to declined immune function. Broccoli contains enough copper to counter these effects, which can include more frequent infections and a higher chance of death. The methods by which copper affects the immune system are unclear.
- Phosphorous can positively affect the proliferation of healthy bacteria in your gut, which offers more protection against disease. It provides support against fighting pathogens.
Conclusion: Broccoli has a number of nutrients that contribute to the development of a healthy immune system. Consuming broccoli as a regular part of your diet can help your body ward off disease and infections.
Incorporating broccoli into your diet
Now that you’ve learned a bit about broccoli’s nutritional profile, I’m sure you’re hankering to start implementing it into your meal plan. There are tons of different culinary uses for broccoli. It makes a great steamed accompaniment, can be the base for entrees, and makes some wicked appetizers.
Before you go and buy all the broccoli from your grocery store, there’s a few things you should take care of first.
How to select and store broccoli
Ensuring your broccoli is stored properly will make it stay healthy for longer.
Broccoli is available year-round. The best broccoli is bought in late summer or early fall, because this is its peak harvest season. This makes your broccoli more nutritious and flavourful.
You want broccoli with green leaves and heads, and thin stems. Too thick of a stem means your broccoli has ripened too much and may have lost some nutrients or flavour. If the head is more yellow than green, your grocer hasn’t been storing the broccoli properly or has let the broccoli mature too much. Make sure the leaves are not wilted.
Storing broccoli is fairly simple. For the best results, put it in a plastic bag and push out as much air as you can. It should be stored in the fridge, and not kept for more than ten days. Some of broccoli’s nutrients – particularly vitamin B6 and vitamin C – are very susceptible to heat, and their degradation will be slowed by refrigeration. Vitamin C can also be damaged by cutting, so make sure not to pre-slice your broccoli for storage.
Don’t wash your broccoli until immediately prior to cooking. Being exposed to water will make the broccoli go bad faster.
The benefits of eating raw broccoli
Some people enjoy the flavour of broccoli on its own, or served with a dipping sauce or hummus. There is evidence that raw broccoli provides special benefit to your digestive system, and since you aren’t cooking it, there’s no chance of damaging the nutritional value.
Another suggestion is to eat raw broccoli sprouts – the immature broccolis that have a higher concentration of nutrients and fight off cancer. Raw sprouts provide the stomach with a better defense against bacteria.
Make sure you chew your raw broccoli for a while – since it’s uncooked, it will need to be broken down by your teeth before you swallow. Your stomach won’t be able to fully break down and absorb all the nutrients if you don’t give it a helping hand!
How to prepare broccoli for cooking
Proper preparation is key to ensuring you get the most nutrition from your broccoli.
Rinse your broccoli under cold water immediately before preparation. Don’t toss out your stems – they can balance out the taste, and contain a good chunk of broccoli’s nutritional value. Stems can be peeled and cut into slices. The leaves are also edible, and make a great addition to salads. They contain the highest concentration of nutrients in broccoli.
Stems take a bit longer to cook, and can be prepared separately. They can also be added a couple minutes before you add the broccoli florets to your meal. If the stems are absolutely unsuitable for your meal, save them in the freezer – they can be used later to make a soup stock.
Depending on your method of cooking, the broccoli will retain or lose different nutrients. For example, broccoli boiled for a short time retains its kaempferol and quercetin, but damages the vitamin C. Pressure cooking is the best way to retain vitamin C in broccoli.
The length of time you cook broccoli also has a huge impact on nutritional damage – even the difference of a single minute. One minute of steaming will save a lot more nutrients than two minutes of steaming – however, extended steaming can help broccoli’s antioxidants be more effective.
World’s Healthiest Foods recommends a quick steaming as the healthiest method of cooking broccoli. It provided the best balance of taste, consistency, and nutrition. Antioxidants are preserved, vitamins take minimal damage, and the end result is delicious.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. You can cook for your preferred choice of flavour and texture, or you can cook in relation to what type of nutrients you want to preserve.
Quick serving suggestions
If you’re looking for a quick-fix of broccoli, check out these ideas.
- Broccoli florets can be thrown into a pasta sauce for extra nutrition and flavour
- Raw broccoli florets can be eaten with hummus or another healthy dipping sauce for a health-bolstering snack
- Making a puree out of broccoli and cauliflower (and your other favourite vegetables) can make a great, simple soup if you add some water and spices.
- Tossing some broccoli in with your omelettes adds a great health kick.