by Jenny Hills: Broccoli is a healthy green cruciferous vegetable that is high in vitamins, minerals and fiber but low in calories…
Many people class broccoli as a superfood because of its many health benefits. Broccoli is good for your digestion, your cardiovascular health, keeping your liver healthy, and lowering blood glucose levels.
There are many ways you can add broccoli to your diet to take advantage of this delicious vegetable that contains no fat.
You can eat broccoli raw, blanche broccoli florets, steam it, cook it, add chopped broccoli to stir-fries, or put broccoli stems in your smoothies. To retain as much nutritional content of broccoli as possible, you should cook it for as little as possible. This will also keep the crispy, crunchy texture of this delicious vegetable.
In this article, you will learn about scientific studies that show why it is so good to eat more broccoli. You will also find if there are reasons to think that broccoli might be bad for you.
What is Broccoli and What Makes It a Superfood?
Broccoli is an edible vegetable in the same family as cabbage, Brassica oleracea. Vegetables in the Brassica oleracea family like cabbage, kale, broccoli, and bok choy are also called cruciferous vegetables. (1)
Broccoli is usually green with a thick stalk with a flowering head containing small green florets.
There are 3 main types of broccoli:
- Calabrese broccoli is the type of broccoli we usually think off. This type of broccoli looks like a small tree that some people say tastes like raw cabbage with a peppery taste.
- Sprouting broccoli has a number of thin stalks with small heads consisting of florets. Sprouting broccoli has a milder taste than calabrese broccoli.
- Purple cauliflower is actually a type of broccoli but looks like a cauliflower. Purple cauliflower contains anthocyanin – a powerful antioxidant that is found in many anti-inflammatory foods.
Broccoli Nutrition Facts (Calories, Protein, Fiber, Carbs, Vitamins)
Broccoli is a low-calorie vegetable that is packed with nutrients that are very good for your overall health.
Broccoli is a good vegetable to consume if you want to lose weight because one serving of raw or steamed broccoli (148 grams) contains 52 calories. One cup of chopped broccoli (91 g) contains 2.6 grams of protein (5% RDI). (2)
A whole head of broccoli contains 207 calories, 15 grams of fiber, as well as meeting many of your daily vitamin and mineral needs.
Another reason why broccoli is extremely good for keeping you healthy is that broccoli is a storehouse of vitamins and minerals. 100 grams of broccoli contains 89 mg of vitamin C which is 149% of your recommended daily intake (RDI). The same serving size of broccoli also gives you 102 mcg of vitamin K which is 127% of your daily needs.
One cup of chopped broccoli contains 567 IU vitamin A (11% RDI), 0.7 mg vitamin E (4% RDI), and many of the B-group vitamins.
Regularly consuming broccoli is good for keeping your bones healthy and helping to prevent hypertension due to its mineral content. Broccoli contains most of the important minerals that you need every day.
A 148 gram-serving of broccoli gives you 0.3 mg manganese (16% RDI), 98 mg phosphorus (10% RDI), 468 mg potassium (13% RDI), 70 mg calcium (7% RDI), and 1.1 mg iron (6% RDI). There are also trace minerals like copper, zinc, and selenium in broccoli. (24)
It is also important to remember the broccoli stalk is just as good for your health as the broccoli head. Researchers say that broccoli stalk contains just as much fiber, vitamins, and minerals as broccoli florets.
Cooking reduces the nutritional value of broccoli. Steaming broccoli only has a small impact on its on nutritional value. However, boiling broccoli greatly reduces its levels of vitamins and minerals. For example, eating 100 g of raw broccoli spears from sprouting broccoli gives you 89 mg of vitamin C. However, 100 g of boiled broccoli spears only contains nearly 65 mg of vitamin C. (24)
Because broccoli is a low-carb food with a low glycemic index, you can consume broccoli on a keto diet. Half a cup of chopped or diced broccoli contains 2.9 grams of carbohydrates and has a GI rating of 1. Some people like to roast broccoli to make a tasty snack on a keto diet.
Broccoli is extremely healthy and packed with antioxidants
One of the main reasons why consuming broccoli is good for your immune system and health is that it is full of antioxidants.
The nutritional content of broccoli with its high levels of vitamins C and K, as well as potassium and magnesium, show its antioxidant potential.
Broccoli is also a good source of powerful antioxidant enzymes that help reduce inflammation and can protect against cancer.
The journal Frontiers in Genetics reports that broccoli contains high levels of glucosinolates. These natural components help to form an enzyme called glucoraphanin that has antioxidant potential. Along with vitamins A, C, and E, glucosinolates kill off free radicals that can cause oxidative damage. (3)
Sulforaphane is another powerful antioxidant found in broccoli that has been linked to cancer prevention. Researchers found that consuming raw broccoli or steaming it for one minute helped to preserve sulforaphane compounds. In fact, raw broccoli has 10 times more antioxidants than broccoli steamed for more than 3 minutes. (4)
Other studies have confirmed that broccoli sprouts are good for your immune system because they are a rich source of antioxidants. (5)
Why Broccoli Can Be Bad for You
In general, broccoli is very good for boosting your health, keeping your digestion working properly, and strengthening your immunity.
Even though broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat raw or steamed, some people are concerned that broccoli can be bad for you.
Broccoli is certainly not poisonous or dangerous. However, the two main reasons for concern why broccoli could impact on your health is that it causes gas and may affect thyroid function.
Broccoli can cause a lot of gas
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable and, like most cruciferous veges, can cause excess flatulence and possible digestive discomfort for some people.
One study found that increasing the number of cruciferous vegetables in the diet such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and allium veges such as garlic, onions, and leeks also increases the number of gas evacuations. These types of foods can alter the gut’s microbiota and increase fermentation that results in a lot of gas. (6)
If you tend to suffer from excessive gas, find out ways you can naturally reduce excessive flatulence.
Broccoli can affect thyroid function
Scientific research has revealed that broccoli contains compounds that may be bad for people with a thyroid disorder.
The Journal of Clinical & Clinical Research says that broccoli is a goitrogenic food. Goitrogens can affect how the body absorbs the thyroid hormone T4. This means that broccoli could potentially negatively affect people with hypothyroidism. (7)
The study mentions that various procedures like boiling and cooking can help in reducing the goitrogenic potency of these foods. The researchers advise that patients suffering from hypothyroidism should avoid consumption of raw cruciferous vegetables.
Can Eating Too Much Broccoli be Dangerous?
Eating broccoli in reasonable food amounts is not dangerous and is generally safe for most people.
Scientists report that even in cases of hypothyroidism, consuming steamed or boiled broccoli in moderate amounts should not pose a health risk. The recommendation in the Journal of Clinical & Clinical Research is that people with a thyroid disorder should avoid eating too much raw broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables. (7)
Also doctors generally advise against consuming large amounts of vitamin K rich vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, and chard if you take blood-thinning drugs like warfarin. This is because the high levels of vitamin K can interact with anticoagulant medications. (40)
It is good to remember, that consuming lightly steamed broccoli is very good for helping to keep you healthy. The advantages of consuming broccoli far outweigh any perceived risks of eating broccoli.
Why Broccoli Can Be Really Good for You: Health Benefits of Broccoli
Let’s look in more detail at how eating broccoli is good for your heart, managing diabetes, reducing painful inflammation, and protecting your eye health.
Broccoli Is Good for Reducing Inflammation
Broccoli stems, shoots, and florets have anti-inflammatory properties that can help to prevent inflammatory-related diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that chronic, long-term inflammation is linked to diseases such as cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. (8)
Scientists have found that glucosinolates, flavonoids (plant-based antioxidants), vitamins, and minerals in broccoli are good for preventing inflammation. Also, the compound sulforaphane is anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous. (9)
Broccoli floret extracts help to reduce enzymes in the body that can cause chronic inflammation. (33)
Find out about more foods that have an anti-inflammatory effect and can help cope with chronic pain and fatigue.
Broccoli Is Good If You Have Diabetes Because It Helps Lower Blood Glucose Levels
If you suffer from diabetes, then consuming more broccoli in your diet can help manage your symptoms. Broccoli contains many nutrients and glucose-reducing compounds that can really help if you are diabetic.
According to research carried out on rats, broccoli extracts can help to lower glucose levels in the blood. The compounds in broccoli have a hyperglycemia effect and protect some internal organs from DNA damage. (10)
Scientists have found that the reason broccoli is good for fighting diabetes is due to the compound sulforaphane.
One clinical trial involving over 80 people found that taking 10 grams of broccoli powder a day helped to improve symptoms of insulin resistance. After a 4-week treatment period, broccoli sprout powder had a positive effect on people with type 2 diabetes. (11)
Learn about other foods that can help manage symptoms of diabetes and how these foods can also prevent type 2 diabetes.
Broccoli Promotes Good Digestive Health
Eating broccoli is good if you want to keep your digestion working as it should and prevent digestive upset.
5 broccoli shoots contain 4 grams of fiber which is about 15% of your daily fiber needs. Doctors from WebMD say that fiber in vegetables such as broccoli helps to bulk up stool and make it pass through the intestines better. (12)
It is not just the fiber content in broccoli that is beneficial for your digestion. Research published in 2018 found that sulforaphane helps to protect the gastrointestinal tract from a microflora imbalance. People who consumed 20 grams of raw broccoli sprouts daily experienced improvement in their bowel movements. (13)
Other studies have shown that consuming portions of broccoli improve digestive health by reducing the number of sulfate-reducing bacteria and improve the gut’s microbiota. (14) Large numbers of sulfate-reducing bacteria are linked with various gastrointestinal disorders. (15)
One study on rats found that broccoli sprouts can also help protect against Helicobacter pylori infections. H. pylori bacteria in the gut can cause gastrointestinal inflammation that causes peptic ulcers or even cancer. (16)
As well as increasing the amount of broccoli you consume, you can also add some of these foods to your diet to get rid of an H. pylori infection.
Broccoli is a Superfood that Is Good for Your Heart Health
The high levels of antioxidants in broccoli like sulforaphane can help to improve your cardiovascular health.
The journal Nutrients reported that antioxidant-rich vegetables such as broccoli help to protect the heart against oxidative stress. Bio-active compounds in vegetables help to reduce inflammation, regulate blood pressure, prevent blood clots (antiplatelet), and reduce fat in blood. (17)
Learn about the other foods apart from broccoli that can help lower your risk of coronary heart disease.
Broccoli Contains Compounds that are Good for Lowering Cholesterol
One of the ways that broccoli is good for keeping your heart and vascular system healthy is that it can help lower cholesterol.
Scientific studies have shown that sulforaphane from broccoli works as an antioxidant to reduce inflammation in your arteries. Sulforaphane can help to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and reduce your risk of plaque forming in the arteries. (18)
Another compound found in broccoli, glucoraphanin, has also been shown to have cholesterol-lowering properties. In fact, some food producers are producing high-glucoraphanin broccoli to help lower “bad” cholesterol (LDL cholesterol). (19)
One study found that broccoli extract helps increase the number of protective enzymes that help lower cholesterol levels in the liver and prevent oxidative damage. (20)
You can also try some of the effective ways to lower cholesterol in this article.
Broccoli Contains Antimicrobial Compounds and is Good for Your Health
Broccoli contains high levels of vitamins and antioxidants that help to support good health. Broccoli extracts can also kill off certain strains of bacteria and fungi.
Research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that broccoli contains antimicrobial peptides. These broccoli compounds can protect against bacteria and yeast that can cause disease. (21)
Antimicrobial peptides are linked to a strong immune system that boosts the body’s defenses against disease. (22)
Learn about many natural herbs that can help to boost your immune system naturally.
Broccoli Can Help Manage Arthritis Symptoms
Joint inflammation is a common symptom of arthritis, and consuming broccoli could be good for preventing joint pain.
Scientists have found that glucosinolates and sulforaphane found in broccoli can help protect cartilage destruction in cells. A diet with sulforaphane-rich foods could help improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis. (23)
Broccoli is rich in vitamin K which is good for people suffering from knee osteoarthritis. (34) One cup of chopped raw broccoli contains 92 mg vitamin K which is more than enough for your daily needs. (24)
Scientists recommend that people with osteoarthritis increase their intake of green vegetables like broccoli that have high vitamin K levels. (25)
Some scientific research has found that sulforaphane from broccoli inhibits inflammation by acting as a COX-2 and PGE2 inhibitor. This is similar to how non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work. Scientists said that sulforaphane can help to treat symptoms of rheumatic arthritis. (26)
Learn about which foods you need to avoid to prevent inflammation that aggravates symptoms of arthritis.
Broccoli Can Protect Your Eye Health
Fresh broccoli and steamed broccoli contain many vitamins that are good for keeping your eyesight and vision healthy.
There are 81 mg of vitamin C in a cup of raw broccoli as well as B-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc – all of which are necessary for good eye health.
When discussing the best nutrients for the aging eye, the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging recommended consuming plenty of green vegetables such as broccoli. This is because, from a nutritional standpoint, broccoli has many of the nutrients necessary to help prevent age-related eye diseases. (27)
Learn about what else you can eat to help protect your eyesight naturally and preserve good vision.
Broccoli Helps Boost Liver Health
The antioxidant compounds in broccoli shoots such as sulforaphane are good for protecting the health of your liver.
Research in 2016 found that dietary broccoli helped to prevent liver damage and liver scarring in a 5-month period. Researchers noted that the levels of sulforaphane in broccoli help to protect against fatty liver disease. (28)
Another study found that sulforaphane in a broccoli sprout extracts helps to improve liver health by increasing the number of antioxidants in the liver. (29)
Broccoli Has Anticancer Properties
Regularly consuming antioxidant-rich green vegetables such as broccoli can help to prevent cancerous cells from developing in your body.
The journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling reported that consuming cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli sprouts help to prevent toxicity in human tissue. Sulforaphane in broccoli stems has a chemo-preventative effect because it is toxic to malignant cells. (30)
Other studies have shown that bread enriched with broccoli sprouts can help to prevent stomach cancer. (31)
Of course, there is no research showing that just one food alone can treat cancer. However, research into the anticancer properties of broccoli is showing promising results in both the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Why Broccoli Sprouts are Really Good For You
Broccoli is an excellent vegetable that is really good for you. However, broccoli sprouts are also good for you. Broccoli sprouts are a rich source of detoxifying compounds that can help to keep your liver and kidneys in good working order.
A medical study found that extracts from broccoli sprouts helped to lower the damaging effect of breathing in pollutants. The study found that broccoli sprouts helped to reduce the risk of lung cancer in people who lived in polluted environments. (39)
How to Consume Broccoli
Eat the broccoli stems
The stem is a much better source of fiber than the florets and has a delicious sweet flavor. To include it in your meal, peel off the outer layer and slice it into small cubes. It’ll need to be cooked a bit longer than the florets, so add it to the pot a few minutes earlier.
Eat the broccoli leaves
Broccoli leaves are the plants overlooked gem. They contain the most beta-carotene of all parts of the plant. This natural bright pigment has been recognized as a substance that can reduce the risk of breast cancer in pre-menopausal women, and it also decreases the chances of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Beta-carotene is also one of the top 9 antioxidants for great health.
Broccoli leaves also abound in vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, which plays an important role in the immune system function and protects your vision. Furthermore, they contain lots of vitamin C – another cancer fighter. 30 grams of leaves provides you with 43% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C.
Broccoli leaves can be used in a similar way to florets. Consider them just another leafy green vegetable to choose from. You can boil, sauté or steam them and enjoy their mild taste – but for the best cooking method, see below.
Steam the broccoli
Steaming broccoli is by far the best method of preparing it.
The Journal of Zhejiang University Science B published on 2009 a study that checked the effects of 5 cooking methods on the nutrients and health-promoting compounds of broccoli. The cooking methods that were investigated were steaming, microwaving, boiling, stir-frying and stir-frying followed by boiling. (35)
The scientists found that all cooking methods, except of steaming, caused significant losses of chlorophyll, vitamin C, glucosinolates, soluble proteins and soluble sugars. The study concluded that steaming appears to be the best cooking method in retaining the nutrients in cooking broccoli.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Chemistry showed that steaming broccoli is by far the best method of preparing it. It’s the only method that preserves, as well as increases its cancer-fighting potential. On the other hand, boiling and frying broccoli have been found the most damaging to the broccoli’s health effects. (36)
A research study from 2012 compared between regular cooking, microwave cooking and steaming broccoli and found that steaming broccoli for up to five minutes is the best way to preserve the enzyme myrosinase. (37)
The enzyme myrosinase, which is found in broccoli, is essential for the formation of sulforaphane. If you destroy this enzyme while over-cooking broccoli, you also damage the anti-cancer properties of this vegetable.
If you do like your greens prepared in other ways and would like a break from steaming, not all is lost. A medical study from 2010 revealed that adding some spice to your broccoli enhances the anti-cancer properties. To get this effect, spice up your broccoli with mustard, horseradish, wasabi or chilies. So don’t shy away from all those green and red chilies, and enjoy a hot meal that will preserve broccoli’s goodness. (38)
How to Select Broccoli
When selecting your broccoli, go for the veges with dark green, purplish-green or bluish-green florets. They contain more beta-carotene compared to their pale green or yellowish-green counterparts.