Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable like kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Broccoli is known not only for its taste but for its many health benefits.
Broccoli is rich in insoluble fiber and has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits. It may also contain compounds that protect against certain kinds of cancer.
This article provides an overview of the health benefits of broccoli, as well as the tastiest ways to prepare it.
Broccoli Vitamins, Minerals, and Compounds
Broccoli is known for its variety of health benefits. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in fiber and very low in calories. Broccoli is full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients, including:
- Vitamins: Vitamins A, C, E, and K have several health benefits, including improved immune function and bone health.
- Minerals: Calcium, iron, and potassium aid bone development and muscle health.
- Antioxidants: Vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and flavonoids protect cells from damage.
- Bioactive compounds: Glucosinolates, sulforaphane, and indole-3-carbinol have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects.
- Fiber: Insoluble fiber aids in digestion.
Nutrition Facts for Single Serving of Broccoli
A single serving of raw broccoli (about 1 cup) contains:
- 24 calories
- 2 grams (g) of protein
- 2 g of fiber
- 0 g of fat
- 35 milligrams (mg) of calcium
- 0.5 mg of iron
- 230 mg of potassium
- 16 mg of magnesium
- 40 mg of vitamin C
- 49 mg of folate
- 78 mg of vitamin K
What Are the Benefits of Eating Raw Broccoli?
There are several health benefits of adding broccoli to your diet. Raw broccoli is packed with healthy nutrients to protect against infection, chronic conditions, certain types of cancer, and heart disease.
Broccoli contains antioxidants, which neutralize cell damage in the body. This helps to lower inflammation and protect against chronic illness.
The antioxidants found in broccoli may also lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
Improves Heart Health
Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, broccoli can improve your heart health. The fiber and potassium in broccoli have been found to lower the risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol and improving cardiovascular function.
A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli may lower the risk of atherosclerosis, which causes plaque buildup in the lining of the arteries, making them stiff. This can lead to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Boosts Bone Health
Broccoli is rich in calcium, which is necessary for strong bones. It is also rich in vitamin K, which is needed to help your bones absorb and use calcium. A diet rich in calcium and vitamin K can help to lower the risk of osteoporosis (a decrease in bone mineral density and mass).
Broccoli is an excellent source of fiber. A fiber-rich diet has been found to promote regularity and prevent constipation. The insoluble fiber in broccoli may also lower the risk of colon cancer.
Regulates Blood Sugar
In addition to improved digestion, a fiber-rich diet can reduce blood sugar levels and lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. One study found that people who took a regular broccoli supplement also experienced decreased levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (considered “bad” cholesterol).
Slows Mental Decline
The bioactive compounds in broccoli and other green vegetables have been linked to improved cognitive health. Eating a diet rich in these vegetables may slow mental decline and support nervous system function.
Improved Oral Health
Broccoli is rich in calcium and vitamin C. These nutrients are necessary for good oral health and can lower the risk of periodontal disease. The bioactive compounds in broccoli may also reduce the risk of oral cancer.
Broccoli is a good source of folate, a necessary vitamin for pregnant people. A folate deficiency is linked with an increased risk of spinal cord malformations in babies. Eating a diet rich in folate may protect against developmental delays as well.
In addition to improving your health and preventing disease, broccoli may also add a glow to your skin. It is rich in vitamin C, which is necessary to produce collagen, a protein that is the building block of skin cells. It can prevent skin damage and improve the appearance of wrinkles.
Does Cooking Broccoli Change Its Nutrient Profile?
Cooking broccoli may alter its nutrient composition and lower the health benefits. For example, cooking broccoli reduces the amount of vitamin C. To get the most nutrients from broccoli, eat it raw or lightly cooked.
Research shows that steaming broccoli has the least harmful effect on its nutrient composition. The cooking method that removes the most nutrients from broccoli is boiling. When boiled, the water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and folate are lost.
Ways to cook broccoli include:
If you don’t love the taste of broccoli, you’re in luck. There are several ways to season it and adjust the flavor. Seasonings that complement broccoli include:
- Salt and pepper
- Lemon juice
Who Should Be Careful With Broccoli?
Broccoli is a healthy choice for most people, but some may need to limit or avoid it. Broccoli may affect:
- Blood-thinning medications: Broccoli is rich in vitamin K, which may interfere with blood thinning medications like Jantoven (warfarin).
- Thyroid health: Broccoli contains compounds called goitrogens that may affect thyroid function.
- Allergy: An allergic reaction to broccoli is rare but possible.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is packed with healthy nutrients. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Adding broccoli to your diet may lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
To get the most nutrients out of it, enjoy your broccoli raw or steamed. To pump up the flavor, try tossing it with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
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