Broccoli has a variety of health benefits, including its ability to help prevent cancer-causing agents, improve digestion, lower cholesterol levels, and maximize vitamin and mineral uptake. It can also help prevent allergic reactions, boosts the immune system, protects the skin, aid in preventing birth defects, lowers , reduces inflammation, and improves vision as well as ocular health.
What is Broccoli?
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, which belongs to the Italica cultivar group of Brassicaceae oleracea like cabbage and cauliflower. The most commonly eaten parts of it are the green or purple flowering heads, which are shaped like a tree, coming off a thick and edible stalk.
There are many types of broccoli, which are popular in different parts of the world. The three main varieties are as follows.
- Calabrese broccoli: It is the most common type, named after Calabria (Italy) and is simply called broccoli.
- Sprouting broccoli: This variety has many heads and thin stalks.
- Purple cauliflower: It is shaped like cauliflower and consists of tiny flower buds.
- The other types include broccoli Rabe, Chinese broccoli, and broccoflower.
Watch Video: 8 Wonderful Benefits Of Broccoli
What Does Broccoli Taste Like?
Raw broccoli generally has a mildly bitter taste like a cabbage. People with a particular receptor gene are sensitive to some flavors and find it extremely bitter and unpleasant. This taste is because of the presence of natural compounds called glucosinolates.
|Serving Size :|
|Total lipid (fat) [g]||0.37|
|Carbohydrate, by difference [g]||6.64|
|Fiber, total dietary [g]||2.6|
|Sugars, total [g]||1.7|
|Calcium, Ca [mg]||47|
|Iron, Fe [mg]||0.73|
|Magnesium, Mg [mg]||21|
|Phosphorus, P [mg]||66|
|Potassium, K [mg]||316|
|Sodium, Na [mg]||33|
|Zinc, Zn [mg]||0.41|
|Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]||89.2|
|Vitamin B-6 [mg]||0.18|
|Folate, DFE [µg]||63|
|Vitamin B-12 [µg]||0|
|Vitamin A, RAE [µg]||31|
|Vitamin A, IU [IU]||623|
|Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) [mg]||0.78|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3) [µg]||0|
|Vitamin D [IU]||0|
|Vitamin K (phylloquinone) [µg]||101.6|
|Fatty acids, total saturated [g]||0.11|
|Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]||0.03|
|Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]||0.11|
|Fatty acids, total trans [g]||0|
|Sources include : USDA|
In terms of unique organic compounds, it is a rich source of glucosinolates, , flavonoids like kaempferol, and various other antioxidant compounds that positively boost our health!
A 100 gm serving of broccoli has approximately 34 calories, making it an excellent choice to add to meal when trying to induce weight loss. Broccoli can help promote satiety due to its fiber content thus keeping you fuller for longer periods.
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable include the following:
Aids in Digestion
Research on broccoli published in Elsevier’s Journal of Functional Foods revealed the results of an animal study conducted to check if broccoli is helpful in maintaining gut health. As part of the study, a group of mice was administered the green vegetable as part of their regular diet and it was seen that they were better able to tolerate their digestive issues such as colitis and leaky gut in comparison to those that were not given the green vegetable. It was thus concluded that the fiber content played a vital role in regulating digestion. Along with kaempferol, fiber also tends to keep the stomach lining healthy and helps maintain healthy bacteria levels in the intestines.
Prevents Chronic Diseases
Broccoli contains certain phenolic compounds that help keep chronic diseases at bay. This lowers your chances of developing diabetes, asthma, heart disorders, and many other lethal diseases, thereby, decreasing mortality. Broccoli is most effective when consumed with other healthy, disease-preventing foods that are not processed.
A 2016 report published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that broccoli can help to keep your liver functioning at its optimal level.
Boosts Brain Health
Broccoli helps boost cognition and memory because it is rich in vitamin K and choline. In addition to this, sulforaphane in it can also help aid in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s and many diseases.
Nutrients, found in broccoli, like vitamins A and C are great for keeping your hair shiny, thick, and healthy. These vitamins also counter dry hair by regulating sebum production on the scalp to naturally moisturize hair. This leads to less brittle and fragile hair and reduces hair loss.
A 2014 study published in the Preventive Nutrition and Food Science Journal suggests that broccoli florets have potent antioxidant and anti- effects. It has antioxidants like vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, sulforaphane, kaempferol, and many others, which makes this cruciferous vegetable good for relieving inflammation.
Broccoli combats the aging process with the help of a compound called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN) present in it. NMN promotes the production of a compound which triggers metabolism and hence prevents genetic changes that lead to premature aging. Antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, and collagen also play a key role in delaying aging.
A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, suggests that broccoli sprouts may improve insulin resistance in type 2 diabetic patients. To elaborate, it suggests that sulforaphane and kaempferol in this cruciferous food might have the ability to lower blood sugar levels in those who have Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus diabetics, thereby helping control it. Broccoli in addition to a heart-healthy, -controlled diet is always encouraged for the best results when it comes to blood glucose control.
Nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, folate, and vitamin A in broccoli assist in boosting the body’s metabolism. Fiber, especially, shows a TEF (thermic effect of food) and can increase your metabolic rate after eating. It also promotes satiety by having a good amount of dietary fiber.
Improves Sexual Libido
Broccoli can boost blood circulation to the organs of the body and help in improving libido. It contains folate and vitamin C, which can improve fertility.
Broccoli has anti-cancer potential and it is particularly beneficial for breast cancer and uterine cancer. Dr. Jay Fowke, University of Massachusetts, as part of his dissertation, “A Dietary Strategy to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk,” revealed that it could help produce a positive shift to the metabolites of estrogen called 2 hydroxyestrone ie. 2-OHE1 in post-menopausal women. Daily consumption of 500 grams or merely an over a pound of broccoli, twice a day, helped bring down the estrogen levels in the body. Additionally, it demonstrated that it may be an important component of a strategy to reduce breast cancer risk. However, it is not realistic to expect people to eat this amount every day and further studies are required to study the potential of an extract.
Senior researcher, Jed W Fahey, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in his report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, stated that broccoli has the presence of strong anti- compounds like sulforaphane, glucoraphanin, diindolylmethane, isothiocyanates, beta-carotene, and selenium in it. Other nutrients which act as anti-cancer agents are vitamin C, A, and E, zinc, potassium and certain amino acids.
Detoxifies the Body
The presence of vitamin C, sulfur, and amino acids make broccoli a good detoxifier. It helps remove free radicals and toxins like uric acid from the body, thereby purifying the blood and keeping away toxin-related problems such as boils, itches, rashes, gout, arthritis, rheumatism, renal calculi, skin diseases like eczema, and hardening of the skin. It is also an alkaline vegetable and can help balance the body’s pH levels.
Broccoli aids in skin care and gives you a glowing, healthy, and radiant appearance. The antioxidants like beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, amino acids, and folate, present in it, do this magic.
Protects from UV Rays
Glucoraphanin, a phytonutrient found in significant amounts in broccoli, has been connected with reversing the negative effects of sun exposure.
Relief from Stomach Disorders
Broccoli is very rich in fiber or roughage, which helps relieve constipation since that is the root cause of almost all the stomach disorders. Fiber adds to the bulkiness of the food, retains water, and stimulates healthy bowel movements. The magnesium and vitamins present in it reduce acidity, facilitate proper digestion, and aid in the absorption of nutrients from the other foods. It might also soothe the stomach by reducing inflammation. It is recommended that those who suffer from Irritable Bowel Disease (Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis) as well as diverticulitis, avoid roughage as this can cause flare-ups.
Prevents Heart Disease
Along with the antioxidant glucoraphanin, the high-fiber content in broccoli helps reduce LDL or bad cholesterol levels and keep the heart functioning properly. Also, reducing bile has a strong impact on cholesterol levels, thereby helping your heart health. Studies have shown that the fiber combines better with bile, making it much easier and efficient to excrete. Kaempferol is a flavonoid that also aids in keeping the heart healthy owing to its anti-inflammatory properties.
Carotenoids like zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and phosphorus, and other vitamins such as vitamin A, B complex, C, and E found in broccoli are very good for ocular health. These substances protect eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts, while also repairing the damage caused by radiation.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
A Harvard Medical research paper suggests that broccoli is rich in beta-carotene, which when consumed causes nearly a 25 percent less risk of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Plus, it contains omega 3 fatty acids, which also helps in preventing ALS. Recent research suggests that intake of diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce or delay the onset of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Broccoli derives its purple and green color from antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene, selenium, copper, choline zinc, and phosphorus. These compounds present are really great immune system boosters and they can protect you from numerous infections. In addition to eating a balanced diet, it is encouraged to get adequate sleep and manage stress to see the best results.
Improves Bone and Teeth Health
Broccoli keeps the bones and teeth strong as it is rich in vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus. Eating the vegetable can be very beneficial, particularly for children, elderly people, and/or pregnant or lactating women. Child and older adults are very prone to osteoporosis, weakening of bones and teeth, and calcium deficiency. Moreover, vitamin K is essential for the formation of osteocalcin, which is a protein, only found in bones.
Helps Fetal Development During Pregnancy
Broccoli is full of nutrients essential for pregnant women. It contains proteins, calcium, vitamins, antioxidants, iron, and phosphorus. Being rich in fiber, it also eliminates , which is very common during pregnancy. The folate content in these vegetables helps to ensure that there are no birth defects such as neural tube defects, which is a major problem for pregnant women who have a folic acid deficiency in their diet. It is still recommended that women take prenatal vitamins or take what is instructed by their OB/GYN.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Chromium, found abundantly in broccoli, helps to regulate blood pressure. Also, the nutritious amount of potassium in broccoli can act as a vasodilator. More specifically, potassium helps improve blood flow and oxygenation of essential organs by relaxing tension and stress of veins and blood vessels. Magnesium and calcium also aid in regulating blood pressure and can help keep the heart protected from diseases like strokes or heart attack.
The vegetable is rich in iron and protein and hence, forms an excellent remedy against anemia. Copper is also another essential mineral in the production of red blood cells, along with iron. So include this green vegetable in your diet and help prevent iron-deficiency anemia.
How to Select Broccoli?
Look for one that has bright green heads, compact clusters of florets, and firm stalks. Make sure the fragrance is peppery and not unpleasant.
How to Store Broccoli?
Storing it will require you to mist its unwashed heads and wrap it in paper towels. You can refrigerate it for maximum 2-3 days. However, it is best to use fresh vegetables in your food preparation.
Uses of Broccoli
- It can be eaten cooked or raw.
- You can also steam it for a healthy meal.
- Include sautéed broccoli and olive oil in your salad to give it a nutrient boost.
- Add it as a healthy addition to soups and stews.
- Cheesy roasted broccoli: Roast broccoli, sprinkle salt and cheese, and garnish with a lemon slice to enjoy a healthy savory first course.
- Pizza: Topping your pizza with raw or steamed broccoli will give you a great flavor along with many health benefits.
- Pasta: Sauté it in olive oil and add it to your pasta.
Although this amazing vegetable has a wealth of health benefits associated with it, there is always room for caution. The common side effects are as follows:
Blood-thinning: Vitamin K in broccoli can inhibit yourmedication. So be cautious while eating it if you are already administering warfarin or any other blood thinners. It is recommended that if you do not currently eat a lot of broccoli and you are taking Coumadin (Warfarin), do not increase your broccoli intake without discussing with your doctor or dietitian.
Hypothyroidism: The green vegetable can worsen thyroid condition if eaten in excess.
To be safe, it is best to talk to a doctor before adding it to your diet in large quantities. Other than that, eat it in moderation and start enjoying the health benefits right away!
History and Origin
It has been a part of their cultural history dating back to the 6th century BC. Broccoli was eventually spread throughout Europe and was widely cultivated. It didn’t make a significant appearance in the Americas until the early 20th century. The largest cultivator of this vegetable in the world is China, followed by India. It is very common all over the world, particularly in Europe, America, and Australia, but not as much in Africa. It can also be found in some South Asian cuisines like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.