You know that broccoli is good for you. It’s probably one of the top foods that come to mind when you think about healthy eating. But you may not be aware of just how beneficial this cruciferous vegetable is for your health, or the various (and delicious) ways you can incorporate it into meals, snacks, and yes, even drinks. Here’s a summary of this superfood’s perks, and easy ways to eat more of it every week.
One medium stalk of raw broccoli contains just 45 calories, 8 grams of carbohydrates, 0.5 grams of fat, and 4 grams of protein. Even so, broccoli is chock full of nutrients. One stalk provides 200% of the daily target for vitamin C, which helps your immune system and is needed for bone health.
Broccoli also provides your body with:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Folic acid
One cup of broccoli provides about 2 grams of fiber, which supports digestive health, protects your heart by lowering cholesterol levels, and keeps you feeling full. And regularly consuming enough fiber helps support blood sugar and insulin regulation for steady, even energy.
One cup of raw broccoli is about 70% water. You need water to keep the cells and organs in your body healthy. Staying hydrated also regulates the temperature of your body, provides lubrication for your joints, and prevents constipation by moving food through the digestive tract.
In addition, fruits and vegetables that have a high fiber and water content which adds volume to your diet. Adding volume to your diet will boost feelings of fullness and that will lead to healthy weight management.
Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous veggie family, which also includes cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and collard greens.
Research found that this group of plants contains natural compounds linked to cancer prevention—thanks to their ability to neutralize carcinogens and prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading. Cruciferous veggies also support apoptosis, or the self-destruct sequence the body uses to kill off dysfunctional cells.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Research found that cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, protect the heart by reducing the damage to arteries that leads to hardening, which is often a precursor to a heart attack or stroke.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments that are found in broccoli. These pigments have many benefits, including ones related to brain health. These pigments have been linked to healthy brain and nervous tissue function, plus protection against age-related cognitive decline.
Broccoli contains several nutrients essential for bone formation and the prevention of bone density loss. These include:
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- B vitamins
These nutrients are known to work in synergy to promote bone mass and bone strength.
In addition to helping to fend off premature aging, the anti-inflammatory power of broccoli is tied to a reduced risk of chronic diseases. A study found that a higher intake of cruciferous veggies helped lower levels of pro-inflammatory markers circulating in the blood. Chronic inflammation is tied to a number of diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
Naturally occurring compounds in broccoli also act like detoxifiers, meaning they help to deactivate potentially damaging chemicals or shuttle them out of the body more quickly.
Protective antioxidant compounds have been shown to counter skin damage caused by UV radiation. According to a 2022 review in the journal Nutrients, the vegetables’s lutein and zeaxanthin pigments protect the retina and eye lens, and both have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye disorders.
Enjoy raw broccoli by dipping it in hummus, seasoned tahini, or guacamole. Or finely chop or shred it and add it to garden salads or slaw. To retain the most nutrients in cooked broccoli, steam it—a method that preserves the most vitamin C. Then drizzle with dairy-free extra virgin olive oil-based pesto, olive tapenade, or a savory nut butter sauce.
You can also lightly saute broccoli in extra virgin olive oil, oven roast it in avocado oil, and add it to any number of dishes, including stir fry, soups, stews, frittata, fajitas, and more.
Blend raw or frozen broccoli into smoothies, add finely chopped or pureed broccoli into baked goods, homemade pesto, and other sauces. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try mixing powdered broccoli with ground coffee to make broccoli coffee.
Broccoli provides benefits related to your brain, heart, bone, and overall health. However you incorporate it, eating more of this wonder veg is a smart way to upgrade your nutrient intake and help safeguard your health.