Broccoli has a wide variety of health benefits, including its ability to prevent cancer, improve digestion, lower cholesterol levels, detoxify the body, and maximize vitamin and mineral uptake. It also prevents allergic reactions, boosts the immune system, protects the skin, prevents birth defects, lowers blood pressure, eliminates inflammation, and improves vision and ocular health.
What is Broccoli?
Broccoli is a green 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 has a shape like a cauliflower and consists of tiny flower buds.
- The other types include broccoli Rabe, Chinese broccoli, and broccoflower.
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 hence, find it extremely bitter and unpleasant. This taste is actually because of the presence of natural compounds called glucosinolates.
Broccoli is highly rich in dietary fiber and proteins like tryptophan. It also consists of vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein zeaxanthin, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Along with that, it contains vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B1, and vitamin K. Minerals in it include calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, selenium, chromium, choline, manganese, and phosphorus. It also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
In terms of unique organic compounds, broccoli is a rich source of phytonutrient glucosinolates, isothiocyanate, flavonoids like kaempferol, and various other antioxidant compounds that boost our health in a major way!
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable include the following:
Aids in Digestion
The fiber content in broccoli is amazing for keeping your digestion regulated. Along with kaempferol, it also keeps 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 suffering from cancer, diabetes, asthma, heart disorders and many other lethal diseases, thereby, decreasing mortality.
Broccoli can keep your liver functioning at its optimal level. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is linked to excess fat and can lead to liver cancer and cirrhosis. By adding this cruciferous vegetable to your diet, you can drive away the possibilities of liver-affecting conditions.
Boosts Brain Health
Rich in vitamin K and choline, broccoli helps boost cognition and memory. In addition to this, sulforaphane in it also aids in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s and many neurodegenerative diseases.
Nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin C, found in broccoli, are great for your 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. Aside from that, including broccoli in your diet also gives you lustrous hair.
Vitamin C-rich broccoli is great for reducing allergy symptoms. It is known to lessen the effects of pollution and keep you free of allergic reactions.
Antioxidants like vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, sulforaphane, kaempferol, and many others are present in abundant quantities in broccoli. They make this cruciferous vegetable good for relieving inflammation and reducing your chances of cancer and heart attack.
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.
The extract of broccoli, even the raw vegetable, can be used to control blood glucose levels. Sulforaphane and kaempferol in this cruciferous food have the ability to lower blood sugar levels in diabetics, thereby helping control it.
Nutrients such as fiber, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin K, folate, and vitamin A in broccoli assist in boosting the body metabolism. Fiber, especially, shows a TEF (thermic effect of food) and increases your metabolic rate after eating.
Improves Sexual Performance
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 and enhance the sperm count.
Broccoli is wonderful for many types of cancer, including breast cancer, cancer of the uterus, prostate cancer, and cancers of organs like the lungs, colon, liver, bladder, kidneys, and the intestines. It is particularly beneficial for breast cancer and uterine cancer since it removes extra estrogen from the body. All this is due to the presence of strong anti-carcinogenic 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 very 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 an alkaline vegetable that helps balance 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, omega 3 fatty acids, 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. You can turn back the clock on your skin by eating plenty of this beneficial vegetable.
Treats Stomach Disorders
Broccoli is very rich in fiber or roughage, which helps cure 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 cure acidity, facilitate proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from the food and soothe the stomach by reducing inflammation.
Prevents Heart Diseases
Along with 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
Broccoli is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which help prevent amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (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.
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 it can be very beneficial, particularly for children, old people, and pregnant or lactating women. That’s because these are the people most 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 in 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 constipation, which is very common during pregnancy. The folate content in these vegetables ensures 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.
Regulates Blood Pressure
Chromium, found abundantly in broccoli, helps in the proper functioning of insulin and regulates blood sugar, thereby regulating blood pressure as well. Also, potassium, found in it, is a vasodilator. It helps boost 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 keep the heart protected from cardiovascular diseases like strokes or heart attack.
Broccoli 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 prevent anemia.
How to Select Broccoli?
Look for a broccoli 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 broccoli 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
- Broccoli can be eaten cooked or raw.
- You can also steam it for a healthy meal.
- Include sautéed broccoli and olive oil in your salad and make it colorful.
- Add it to soups and stews for a healthy appetizer.
- 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 some broccoli in olive oil and add it to your pasta.
Broccoli Side Effects
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:
- Bowel irritation
- Allergic reactions
- Skin rashes
Blood-thinning: Vitamin K in broccoli can inhibit your anticoagulant medication. So be cautious while eating it if you are already administering warfarin or any other blood thinners.
Hypothyroidism: Broccoli can worsen thyroid condition if eaten in excess.
To be safe, it is best to talk to a doctor before adding broccoli 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.