Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large flowering head, stalk, and small associated leaves are eaten as a vegetable. Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea.
Broccoli is a green vegetable that vaguely resembles a miniature tree. It’s closely related to cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cauliflower — all edible plants collectively referred to as cruciferous vegetables.
The word broccoli comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, which means “the flowering crest of a cabbage“, and is the diminutive form of brocco, meaning “small nail” or “sprout”. Broccoli originated in Italy more than 2000 years ago.
Broccoli is a good source of fiber and protein and contains iron, potassium, calcium, selenium, and magnesium as well as the vitamins A, C, E, K, and a good array of B vitamins including folic acid.
3 Varieties of Broccoli
There are three commonly grown types of broccoli.
It is the most familiar broccoli and is often referred to simply as “broccoli”, named after Calabria in Italy. It has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks. It is a cool-season annual crop.
2. Sprouting broccoli
It (white or purple) has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks.
3. Purple Cauliflower or Violet Cauliflower
It is a type of broccoli grown in Europe and North America. It has a head shaped like cauliflower, but consisting of many tiny flower buds. It sometimes, but not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds. Purple cauliflower may also be white, red, green, or other colors.
Other popular cultivars include Belstar, Blue Wind, Coronado Crown, Destiny, DiCicco, Green Goliath, Green Magic, Purple Sprouting, Romanesco, Sun King, and Waltham 29.
Nutritional Benefits of Broccoli
1. Packed With Vitamins, Minerals, and Bioactive Compounds
One of the broccoli’s biggest advantages is its nutrient content. It’s loaded with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other bioactive compounds.
One cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli packs (1):
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Protein: 2.6 gram
- Fat: 0.3 grams
- Fiber: 2.4 grams
- Vitamin C: 135% of the RDI
- Vitamin A: 11% of the RDI
- Vitamin K: 116% of the RDI
- Vitamin B9 (Folate): 14% of the RDI
- Potassium: 8% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 6% of the RDI
- Selenium: 3% of the RDI
Broccoli can be eaten cooked or raw — both are perfectly healthy but provide different nutrient profiles.
Different cooking methods, such as boiling, microwaving, stir-frying, and steaming, alter the vegetable’s nutrient composition, particularly reducing vitamin C, as well as soluble protein and sugar. Steaming appears to have the fewest negative effects
Still, raw or cooked, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C. Just half a cup (78 grams) of cooked broccoli provides 84% of the reference daily intake (RDI) — more than one-half orange can offer.
2. Contains Potent and Powerful Antioxidants That Offer Health-Protective Effects
Broccoli contains antioxidants that can help the body in a variety of ways. The antioxidant content of broccoli may be one of its main boons for human health.
Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit or neutralize cell damage caused by free radicals. This can lead to reduced inflammation and an overall health-protective effect.
Broccoli has high levels of glucoraphanin, a compound that is converted into a potent antioxidant called sulforaphane during digestion.
Test-tube and animal studies indicate that sulforaphane may offer multiple health benefits, including reduced blood sugar, cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, and chronic disease development. However, more research is needed to understand its role in humans.
Broccoli is deeply concentrated with vitamin C, making it great for immunity. Other than this, broccoli also contains flavonoids which help recycle the vitamin C efficiently.
It is also enriched with carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, and other power-packed antioxidants which may prevent oxidative stress and cellular damage in your eyes.
Broccoli contains various bioactive compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation in your body’s tissues
It’s theorized that multiple compounds work synergistically to support this effect, though some seem to work individually as well.
Broccoli even has significant amounts of omega 3 fatty acids, which are well-known as anti-inflammatory. Along with this, broccoli can also help people suffering from arthritis as broccoli contains sulforaphane, a chemical that blocks the enzymes that can cause joint destruction and hence lead to inflammation.
A small human study in tobacco smokers also revealed that eating broccoli led to a significant reduction in markers of inflammation.
While these results are promising, more research is needed to better understand how broccoli consumption affects inflammation in humans.
4. May Protect Against Certain Types of Cancer
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, contain various bioactive compounds that may reduce cell damage caused by certain chronic diseases.
Broccoli shares cancer-fighting and immune-boosting properties with other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Broccoli contains properties that deplete estrogen which usually cause cancer in the body.
Multiple small studies have shown that eating cruciferous vegetables may protect against certain types of cancer, namely:
Though this data is encouraging, it isn’t strong enough to make definitive health claims regarding broccoli’s role in cancer treatment or prevention.
Ultimately, more human research is needed to determine the relationship between cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention.
5. Antioxidants and Fiber May Aid Blood Sugar Control
Eating broccoli may support better blood sugar control in people with diabetes. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, it may be related to broccoli’s antioxidant content.
One human study showed significantly decreased insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes who consumed broccoli sprouts daily for one month.
Interestingly, an animal study revealed decreased blood sugar in addition to reduced pancreatic cell damage in diabetic rats fed broccoli extract.
6. Cholesterol Reduction:
Like many whole foods, broccoli is packed with soluble fiber that draws cholesterol out of your body. This is because the fiber in broccoli helps bind with bile acids in the digestive tract.
This makes excreting cholesterol out of our body easy. According to research by the Institute of Food Research, a particular variety of broccoli can help reduce the blood LDL-cholesterol levels by 6 percent.
One study noticed significantly reduced triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as increased “good” HDL cholesterol levels in people who were treated with a powdered broccoli sprout supplement.
Several studies indicate that broccoli may support heart health in a variety of ways.
Elevated “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels are known to be major risk factors for heart disease. Broccoli may play a role in improving these markers.
Broccoli is great for heart health as it contains fibers, fatty acids, and vitamins that help to regulate blood pressure in the body. This also helps in reducing bad cholesterol, hence leading to a healthy heart.
Broccoli helps to protect blood vessels from damage as well. Some research also supports the notion that specific antioxidants in broccoli may reduce your overall risk of a heart attack.
The anti-inflammatory properties of sulforaphane, one of the isothiocyanates (ITC’s) in broccoli, may be able to prevent (or even reverse) some of the damage to blood vessel linings that can be caused by inflammation due to chronic blood sugar problems.
A study in mice fed broccoli sprouts revealed a potentially protective effect against cell death and oxidative stress in heart tissue following a cardiac arrest.
Additionally, a higher intake of fiber-rich foods like broccoli is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.
8. Promotes Healthy Digestion and Reduced Constipation
Broccoli is rich in fiber and antioxidants — both of which may support healthy bowel function and digestive health.
Bowel regularity and a strong community of healthy bacteria within your colon are two vital components to digestive health. Eating fiber- and antioxidant-rich foods like broccoli may play a role in maintaining healthy gut function.
A study in mice on a broccoli diet found reduced levels of inflammation in the colon, as well as favorable changes in gut bacteria.
A recent human study indicated that people who ate broccoli were able to defecate more easily than individuals in the control group.
Though these results are promising, more human research is needed to better understand how broccoli affects digestive health.
9. May Slow Mental Decline and Support Healthy Brain Function
Some of the nutrients and bioactive compounds in broccoli may slow mental decline and support healthy brain and nervous tissue function.
A study in 960 older adults revealed that one serving per day of dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, may help resist the mental decline associated with aging.
Additionally, an animal study showed that mice treated with kaempferol — a compound in broccoli — had lowered incidence of brain injury and reduced inflammation of neural tissue following a stroke-like event.
Sulforaphane is another potent bioactive compound present in broccoli with the potential to support brain function after an event of reduced oxygenation to the brain.
Most current research evaluating the effect of bioactive compounds found in broccoli on brain health is restricted to animal studies. More research is needed to determine how these compounds support neurological function in humans.
The process of aging is largely attributed to oxidative stress and reduced metabolic function over the course of your lifespan.
Though aging is an unavoidable natural process, diet quality is thought to be a major player in determining genetic expression and the development of age-related diseases.
Since broccoli is enriched with vitamin C, which has numerous antioxidant properties, it is great for anti-aging. This is because antioxidants help fight the free radicals responsible for aging.
These free radicals often damage the skin. Eating broccoli regularly helps in reducing fine lines, wrinkles, skin issues like acne, and even pigmentation.
Research shows that sulforaphane, a key bioactive compound in broccoli, may have the capacity to slow the biochemical process of aging by increasing the expression of antioxidant genes.
Still, more human research is needed to determine a cause-and-effect relationship between dietary intake of broccoli and its effect on the aging process.
11. Vitamin C Content Supports a Healthy Immune System
The human immune system is complex and requires a multitude of nutrients to function properly.
Vitamin C is arguably the most essential nutrient for immune function — and broccoli is loaded with it.
Research indicates that vitamin C plays a role in both the prevention and treatment of various illnesses. A daily intake of 100–200 mg of vitamin C seems to be sufficient to prevent certain infections.
Typically, vitamin C is associated with oranges or strawberries, but broccoli definitely deserves credit — a half-cup (78-gram) serving of cooked broccoli boasts 84% of the RDI for this vitamin.
Broccoli contains a wide array of nutrients, some of which are known to support oral health and prevent dental diseases.
Broccoli is a good source of vitamin C and calcium, two nutrients associated with a decreased risk of periodontal disease. Kaempferol, a flavonoid found in broccoli, may also play a role in preventing periodontitis.
Additional research indicates that the sulforaphane found in broccoli may reduce your risk of oral cancers.
Some sources claim that eating raw broccoli can help manually remove plaque and whiten your teeth. However, no rigorous scientific data exists to support this.
13. Great for Detoxification
Since broccoli is rich in fiber, it can help get rid of toxins through the digestive tract. Other than this, broccoli is also full of antioxidants that help in the overall detoxification of the body.
Broccoli includes special phytonutrients that help in the body’s detox process. This means that the body gets rids of unwanted contaminants. Broccoli also contains isothiocyanates, which help in the detox process at the genetic level.
Broccoli contains beta-carotene, vitamin A, phosphorous and other vitamins such as B complex, vitamin C, and E.
All these rich nutrients are great for eye health as these help in protecting the eyes against macular degeneration, cataract, and even repairs damage done by harmful radiations we go through by being constantly on our phones or being in front of a screen.
Many of the nutrients found in broccoli are known to support healthy bones and may prevent bone-related disorders.
It also contains phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins A and C, which are necessary for healthy bones as well.
A test-tube study indicates that the sulforaphane found in broccoli may aid in preventing osteoarthritis. However, more research is needed to draw definitive conclusions on its role in humans.
Your body requires a multitude of vitamins, minerals, and protein during pregnancy to support both the baby and mother.
Broccoli is a good source of B vitamins — namely B9, also known as folate.
Folate is an essential nutrient for the development of the fetal brain and spinal cord. Regular consumption of folate-rich foods like broccoli can help ensure healthy pregnancy outcomes.
More research is needed to better understand how broccoli and its bioactive compounds may support healthier pregnancy outcomes.
Broccoli is a good carb and is high in fiber, which aids in digestion, prevents constipation, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.
Along with this, broccoli is also great for weight loss because it is rich in fiber. It is an ideal green vegetable to include in your salads and completing your five colored vegetables every day.
In addition to this, broccoli also contains proteins, making it suitable for vegetarians that are otherwise not able to complete their protein requirement.
18. May Protect Your Skin From Sun Damage
Skincare not only includes glow but also its immunity. Since broccoli is a powerhouse of antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin C and minerals such as copper and zinc, broccoli helps in maintaining healthy skin.
This means it also protects the skin from getting infections as well as keeps the natural glow of your skin. Broccoli is full of vitamin K, amino acids, and folates, making it ideal for maintaining healthy skin immunity.
Skin cancer is on the rise due in part to a damaged ozone layer and increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Research indicates that bioactive compounds in broccoli may protect against UV radiation damage which leads to skin cancer.
Small human studies have achieved similar results, revealing a significant protective effect of broccoli extract against skin damage and cancer development after sun exposure.
Ultimately, more research is needed to understand how broccoli and its bioactive components may protect skin from sun damage.
19. Prevents and Fights Pollution and Toxins
Broccoli is a nutrient-rich vegetable with a number of helpful vitamins, minerals. What makes it an effective anti-pollution food is its ability to act down on certain pollutants. It’s not the sprouts themselves but the components found in the stub which are good for the body.
In fact, a study conducted in China found out that broccoli sprouts were particularly helpful in fighting and detoxing away the air pollutants from the root.
When you eat broccoli, the phytochemical present in it, called glucoraphanin initiates a chemical reaction that attaches itself to the harmful benzene compound, breaks it down, and recharges the body to excrete it faster, before it gets the time to do the damage on the cellular level.
The same mechanism has also been found helpful to get rid of toxins associated with pollution and cigarette smoke. Hence, detoxifying the body by consuming a simple vegetable like fresh broccoli juice or smoothie as soon as you hit home can alleviate some of the health risks at the ground level.
The people in the new study who drank a concentrated tea made with broccoli spouts excreted 61 percent more benzene and 23 percent more acrolein, a lung irritant, as compared with a group who drank a placebo beverage.
Broccoli is a nutrient-rich vegetable that may enhance your health in a variety of ways, such as by reducing inflammation, improving blood sugar control, boosting immunity, promoting heart health, eye health, bone health, and even skincare for a glowing and youthful appearance.
However, keep in mind that good health doesn’t come from any single food. Broccoli is merely one of the numerous healthy foods that can contribute to optimal health.
Our Creator had surrounded us with all these health-giving life food so we cannot only survive or live but most of all to thrive while we are here on this wonderful, abundant world.
Thus, including this nutritious vegetable in your healthy, balanced diet may help you achieve your health goals more easily.
Please leave us your comments below:
- What is your experience with eating broccoli?
- How has the broccoli helped you in any way?
- Have you got a chance to eat all the types of broccoli?
- If so, which one is your favorite?
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