Broccoli has a bounty of nutrients
The humble broccoli is proof that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on obscure superfoods to eat a balanced and healthy diet. Cheap, readily available and simple to prepare, this tasty little vegetable is just what the doctor ordered.
Broccoli is known as a ‘nutrient-dense’ food, meaning it is low in calories but high in essential vitamins and minerals, meaning you get more nutrients per calorie. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, one cup (76g) of broccoli contains just 24 calories and a little under 5g of carbs, which is also a relatively low amount. It also has around 2g of dietary fibre, accounting for between 5-7% of your daily adult requirement. Not bad for a little vegetable.
By contrast, the same portion size provides an impressive 77.5mcg of Vitamin K, which is between 65-86% of your daily adult allowance, depending on age and sex. Our cup of broccoli also provides between 45-54% of your daily adult allowance of Vitamin C, 12% of your folate requirement, 7% for phosphorus, 5% for potassium, and 3% for calcium. It is rich in beneficial plant compounds, including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and contains small amounts of Vitamins A and E.
Reduce the risk of diabetes
Broccoli may also help improve blood sugar control in patients with type 2 diabetes. It is not yet known exactly why this happens, but there is some evidence that the antioxidant effects of sulforaphane can help lower blood sugar. Broccoli is also a good source of fibre, which has also been linked to lower blood sugar and improved diabetic control.
Help your heart
There is evidence that broccoli may be good for your heart in many ways. One study shows that powdered broccoli sprout supplements can help lower ‘bad’ cholesterol while raising ‘good’ cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of high blood pressure, leading to heart attacks and strokes.
Studies in mice suggest that broccoli sprout supplements may also help prevent heart tissue damage after a heart attack.
The fact that broccoli is high in fibre may also be beneficial, as studies suggest that a high-fibre diet can help protect against heart disease.
Broccoli contains various anti-inflammatory plant compounds, which can work individually or synergistically to protect your cells from inflammation. One of these compounds, a flavonoid called kaempferol, has been shown to be particularly effective in protecting against inflammation. Evidence has mainly been gathered from animal and test tube studies; however, more human studies are needed to better understand the anti-inflammatory properties of broccoli.
Boost brain health
Animal studies suggest that some of the plant compounds found in broccoli can help slow age-related mental decline and help maintain healthy brain tissue. An experiment where mice were treated with kaempferol showed a decrease in brain injury and inflammation of brain tissue following a stroke-like event. Other experiments, where rats were given sulforaphane, show reduced inflammation and even cell tissue recovery after a brain injury.
More human studies are required to understand broccoli’s effect on brain health, although one research has shown that eating green vegetables can help slow mental decline in older humans.
Help in keeping your bones strong
Test tube studies suggest that the sulforaphane present in broccoli may help prevent osteoarthritis by protecting the chondrocyte cells that control the cartilage in your joints. This research is still in the early stages, however, and more research is needed.
Broccoli is a deliciously versatile veggie, and tastes great as the star of your favourite vegetarian dish, or as a fresh healthy side to that perfectly-cooked steak.
To get the benefits of all those vitamins and minerals, try take on a healthy green smoothie made with a blend of broccoli, avocado, grape and bok choi.
If you’re in a hurry, try a quick and tasty stir-fried beef with carrots and broccoli.
The ultimate veggie comfort food, are cauliflower and broccoli casserole pairs tender broccoli and cauliflower florets with a creamy béchamel sauce.
For these and other recipes, check out our collection of 8 brilliant broccoli recipes.
For a dish that makes vegetables the star, try a vegetable curry with coconut milk and rice. Perfectly cooked spring vegetables with sweet coconut milk, aromatic curry paste and a touch of chilli.
A tasty appetiser that offers bold flavours with zero animal products, a broccoli miso soup with oyster mushrooms is the perfect beginning to any meal.
For these recipes and more broccoli inspiration take a look at these 5 exciting ways of cooking fresh broccoli.
If you find you have lots of stems left over after using the tender florets in your favourite broccoli dish, try this crunchy and delicious recipe for easy broccoli stem slaw.