We will admit that broccoli seems a little boring and because of that, it doesn’t really get a whole lot of attention these days. It’s not trendy like kale or other veggies touted as “superfoods”. Maybe broccoli was a vegetable that you were forced to eat as a kid, so you have written it off since then.
But, even if it is forgotten or uncool, it is a superfood, just as much as some of it’s more popular cousins. Broccoli is a green leafy cruciferous vegetable in the same family as Brussel’s sprouts, cabbage, or even kale called Brassica oleracea. This means it is loaded with just as many vitamins and minerals as some of those other vegetables.
So, what kinds of vitamins does broccoli have? We will take deep dive into broccoli nutrition to get your taste buds tempted and then we will share some of our favorite easy recipes for you to get some broccoli in your diet today.
Nutrition Benefits of Broccoli
For being such an overlooked vegetable, there are some incredible vitamins and minerals in broccoli. Here is the nutritional breakdown of broccoli for one cup of raw broccoli:
Protein: 3 grams
Fat: 0 grams
Carbohydrates: 6.5 grams
Fiber: 2.5 grams
Broccoli is low in calories but does have more protein than the average vegetable. It shouldn’t be used as a primary protein source, but this may still contribute to some its satiating effects.
It is also a great source of fiber, helping you stay full longer and improving digestive health. Broccoli is high in several micronutrients, particularly vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, iron, and potassium. It provides almost 70% of your daily vitamin C needs (1).
In addition to these vitamins and minerals, broccoli is loaded with antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds. These include compounds called glucosinolates, isothiocyanate, carotenoids, sulforaphane, and quercetin, just to name a few. Several of these antioxidants and plant compounds have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, protect against chronic disease, and be incredibly beneficial for your health (2,3 ).
To benefit the most from the nutrients found in broccoli, research has shown that it should be eaten lightly steamed (4). We know this isn’t the tastiest way to eat it so we will give you a few ideas to jazz it up. But, it’s important to know that overcooking, particularly boiling in a pot of water, can cause the delicate vitamins and minerals to be leached out into the water, removing a lot of the benefit.
Broccoli it can be eaten raw as well, but some of the nutrients need to be cooked lightly for proper absorption. But, be aware if you want to eat it raw some people do have issues with digesting raw broccoli, it can lead to a lot of gas, so go slow. We will give you a few recipes below to eat it in a variety of ways, but first, let’s dive into the benefits.
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Due to its nutrient content, broccoli has some amazing health benefits. Here are a few highlights of what has been discovered about broccoli:
Helps Prevent Cancer
As we mentioned, broccoli is loaded with antioxidants and plant compounds many of which are believed to have protective effects against developing cancer. Research has linked the glucosinolates found in many cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, to a lower risk of lung and colon cancer. They are also able to change the action of certain sex-hormones, such as estrogen, which may reduce the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast or prostate (5).
Protects Eye Health
Broccoli is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that have been shown to decrease the risk of age-related vision loss (6). It is also high in beta-carotene, the plant version of vitamin A that works as a powerful antioxidant and is necessary for healthy vision.
Helps Lower Cholesterol
Cholesterol-lowering medications are one of the most commonly prescribed in the United States. But, what if cholesterol could be lowered naturally? Broccoli contains substances that binds to bile acids in the digestive tract, which are made from cholesterol. When the bile acids are bound to these substances from broccoli, they are excreted, and more bile acids need to be made. Making more uses up blood cholesterol, lowering overall levels (7).
Exactly how much cholesterol will go down by eating broccoli is unknown. But, we do know that the most benefit comes from steamed broccoli. This cooking method seems to bind bile acids more effectively, lowering cholesterol, and in turn helping reduce the risk of heart disease (8).
Promotes Weight Loss
Broccoli is low in calories, but high in fiber making it a great food for weight loss. A high fiber diet has been proven to help lower overall calorie intake due to an increased feeling of fullness. Eating fewer calories will eventually lead to weight loss (9).
Managing inflammation is the key to decreasing your risk of chronic disease and even helping you lose weight. Broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) has been shown to lower markers of inflammation due to the powerful plant-compounds and antioxidants (10).
Helps Manage Blood Sugar
The fiber content in broccoli may help control blood sugar. Fiber helps slow the absorption of carbohydrates from food, preventing blood sugar spikes after meals. This may help improve your energy levels and also lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
Improves Symptoms of Depression
Depression symptoms are strongly correlated to high levels of inflammation. One of the compounds in broccoli, called sulforaphane, may help improve symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory abilities (11).
These are just a few of the research highlights of what broccoli can do for your health and well-being. See why it isn’t so boring after all?
Easy, Healthy Broccoli Recipes
Now that you have heard about all the benefits of broccoli, you probably want to eat some broccoli, right? Well, first you have to go get some at the store. When you are choosing your stem, look for closed, tightly packed florets that are a deep green color or have a purple tint. Once you bring it home, store it in the fridge in a plastic bag. To get the most benefit, try to eat it within 4-5 days as the nutrient content will start to fade the longer it stays in there.
Although the most nutritional benefit comes from eating steamed broccoli, there is no reason to limit yourself to just eating it steamed because that can get boring fast. Many of these recipes work best with fresh broccoli, but if frozen is all you have that’s fine too. Here are some of our favorite broccoli recipes for you to try:
As we mentioned, the healthiest way to eat broccoli is to steam it lightly. This gives three different methods to steam broccoli to get the best results, even if you don’t have a vegetable steamer on hand.
Raw broccoli can be a great base for a salad. This one uses bacon, sunflower seeds, and cranberries to add flavor. You can also try an Asian-inspired broccoli salad with mandarin oranges and Asian-style dressing. The combinations are endless.
Broccoli really tastes great roasted. The lemon and garlic help counterbalance some of the natural bitterness of this healthy vegetable.
Here is another option for roasting broccoli, parmesan cheese really compliments the flavor and a little goes a long way, helping keep the dish low calorie. This particular recipe also uses breadcrumbs, to give the broccoli a crunchy texture, but you can always omit them if you want to keep it gluten-free.
If you don’t have time to roast your broccoli, you can have a similarly flavored dish by making it in a pan in about 10 minutes. This method brings out the natural sweetness, cutting out some of the bitter flavors.
This is a version of a heartier salad made with broccoli and rice. It could be a great side dish to a heavier meat dish to load up the nutrients. Plus, you get your starch and veggie all in one dish.
Yes, traditional broccoli cheddar soup isn’t exactly a health food. But, we found this lightened up version that still packs a ton of flavor by using low fat milk and not adding quite as much cheese.
If you don’t want to have milk in your soup, then try this version of potato broccoli soup. It is lower in calories and fat than the broccoli cheddar, but still quite filling and comforting.
These are just a few of our favorite suggestions of how to eat broccoli, but it is pretty versatile and can be snuck in into any dish. Add it to soups, salads, pasta dishes, or casseroles to help add a ton of nutrition and lower the calories.