We will admit that broccoli seems a little boring, and because of that, it doesn’t get a whole lot of attention. It’s not trendy like kale or other veggies touted as “super foods.” Maybe broccoli was a vegetable you were forced to eat as a kid, so you wrote it off? We urge you to reconsider. Touted for its anti-cancer and alkaline benefits, healthy broccoli recipes are an absolute MUST!
Nutrition Benefits of Broccoli
The nutritional breakdown 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 contain more protein than the average vegetable. It shouldn’t be used as a primary protein source, but it’s extra satiating for this reason.
A great source of fiber, it helps you stay full longer and improves 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 shows that it should be eaten lightly steamed (4). We know this isn’t the tastiest way to eat it, so we offer ways to jazz it up below. 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
Broccoli is loaded with antioxidants and plant compounds, many of which protect against developing cancer. Research links 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 like 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 (and why we use it in weight loss meal plans). A high fiber diet helps lower overall calorie intake due to an increased feeling of fullness. Eating fewer calories eventually leads to weight loss in some cases (9).
Managing inflammation is the key to decreasing your risk of chronic disease and even helping you lose weight. Broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) 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 strongly correlate 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 choose your stem, look for closed, tightly packed florets deeply green or purple tinted in color. 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 before nutrients fade.
Although the most nutritional benefit comes from eating steamed broccoli, don’t limit yourself to just eating it steamed; that gets boring fast. Our fave broccoli recipes are in the 131 online program! To see them, you’ve gotta be a member. Here are few others we recommend…
Just like mom used to make, but with CLEAN ingredients!
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.
Broccoli really tastes great roasted. The lemon and garlic help counterbalance some of the natural bitterness of this healthy vegetable.
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.
Check out this hearty salad made with broccoli and rice.