15 Health Benefits of Broccoli

Broccoli health benefits

Broccoli (Brassica oleracea italica) is a member of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family that includes other well-known members such as kale, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

Broccoli has a large green flower head arranged in a tree-like structure on branches sprouting from an edible stalk. It closely resembles the cauliflower, but a different cultivar, though broccoli is green rather than white like cauliflower.

The word broccoli is derived from the Italian word broccolo which means “the flowering top of a cabbage,” and the Latin brachium, meaning “arm” or “branch”. Broccoli is originated in Italy and has been cultivated since the 6th century B.C. by ancient Romans.

There are three main varieties of broccoli: Calabrese broccoli, Sprouting broccoli and Purple cauliflower.

The calabrese is the most common variety, which has large green heads and thick stalks. Sprouting broccoli has a larger number of heads with many thin stalks and Purple cauliflower has a head shaped like cauliflower, but consisting of tiny flower buds.

Other popular varieties include Romanesco, broccoli rabe (rapini), Chinese broccoli and Santee broccoli.

Broccoli varieties

All varieties can be eaten raw or cooked. Raw broccoli has a mild sweetness, cabbage-like flavor and the broccoli stalk is crunchy and slightly fibrous. When cooked, this sweetness lessens and the stalk becomes tender and turns bright green.

Broccoli Nutritional Value

Broccoli has long been touted as one of the healthiest vegetables because of its nutritional content and benefits. This superfood is an excellent source of vitamins C, K, as well as a good source of vitamin A, B6, folate, manganese and potassium.

Broccoli also contains high amounts of fiber and sulforaphane, a natural compound that has been shown to have anti-aging and anticancer properties. However, the nutritional benefits of broccoli are reduced if the vegetable is boiled.

According to the USDA Nutrient Database, one cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli contains about:

  • Calories: 31
  • Vitamin C: 81.2 mg
  • Vitamin K: 92.5 mcg
  • Folate: 57.3 mcg
  • Vitamin A: 567 IU
  • Manganese: 0.2 mg
  • Dietary Fiber: 2.4 g
  • Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg
  • Potassium: 288 mg
  • Riboflavin: 0.1 mg
  • Phosphorus: 60.1 mg

Health Benefits of Broccoli

1. Help protects against cancer

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals that gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter flavor and pungent aroma.

These chemicals have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs, including the breast, colon, prostate, and lung [1]. However, more studies are needed to determine the relationship between cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention.

2. Treat type 2 diabetes

Broccoli is a good source of fiber. Some research indicates that higher intake of dietary fiber is associated with lower blood sugar and improved diabetic control [2].

Moreover, findings from a new study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine suggest that the sulforaphane found in broccoli has shown suppressed glucose production in lab which might reduce some of the harmful effects of type 2 diabetes in obese adults [3].

3. Improve gut health

A new study published in the Journal of Functional Foods suggests that broccoli can also work wonders for your gut health [4].

In the study, Penn State researchers added broccoli to the normal diets of half of their mice. The mice who ate broccoli were able to tolerate symptoms similar to that of leaky gut and colitis better than mice that were not on a broccoli-supplemented diet. This finding could have huge implications for those who suffer from issues with their gut.

4. Slow down aging process

A new research shows that sulforaphane may have the capacity to slow the biochemical process of aging by increasing the expression of antioxidant genes [5]. 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.

5. Enhance brain function

Broccoli is a great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brain power.

Additionally, a 2015 study showed that glucosinolates found in broccoli can slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which we need for the central nervous system to perform properly and keep our memory sharp [6].

6. Lower bad cholesterol

The high-fiber content in broccoli can lower LDL or bad cholesterol levels by binding to bile acids in your small intestine, causing them to be excreted from the body.

Since cholesterol is needed to make bile acids to aid in the digestion of fats, additional cholesterol may be sequestered from your blood, thereby lowering your cholesterol levels.

In addition, higher intake of fiber-rich foods like broccoli is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease [7].

7. Support heart health

In addition to reducing cholesterol, broccoli can help support heart health by helping to keep blood vessels strong. Also, the sulforaphane in broccoli has an anti-inflammatory effect which may prevent damage to blood vessel linings caused by chronic blood sugar problems.

8. Reduce inflammation

Broccoli may also slow down the damage to joints associated with osteoarthritis due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

A 2013 study at the University of East Anglia found that broccoli’s sulforaphane may help people suffering from arthritis because this chemical blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction by stopping a key molecule known to cause inflammation [8].

9. Maintain bone health

Being rich in calcium, zinc, magnesium and phosphorus, broccoli can help in maintaining strong, healthy bones.

Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin K which is necessary for healthy bones as well. It improves bone health by improving calcium absorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium.

10. Boost immune system

Broccoli is a nutrient-packed powerhouse to support your immune system. Broccoli is rich in vitamin C which is essential for fighting against flu or a cold.

The veggie is also high in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron. Together, these vitamins and minerals help the immune system to function at its best.

11. Good for pregnant women

Broccoli is a good source of vitamin B9, also known as folate. This vitamin is essential for the development of the fetal brain and spinal cord. Regular consumption of folate-rich foods like broccoli can help ensure healthy pregnancy outcomes.

Moreover, a study on mice show that eating broccoli sprouts during pregnancy protects against brain injury in the newborn even after pregnancy complications such as placental insufficiency [9].

12. Aid in weight loss

In addition to being low in calories, broccoli also has a low glycemic load and a high fiber content. Consuming fiber-rich foods can help you stay full longer and thus prevent you from overeating.

An intriguing study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found that eating high-fiber, low glycemic load vegetables was associated with greater weight loss, compared with eating lower fiber, higher glycemic vegetables. The positive association was particularly strong for cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and Brussels sprout [10].

13. Improve skin health

Broccoli is rich in vitamin C which plays a vital role in the formation of collagen for the skin. The antioxidant vitamin C can also help to fight skin damage caused by sunlight, reduce wrinkles, and improve overall skin texture.

A study by researchers from Johns Hopkins showed that applying an extract of broccoli sprouts can protect skin against UV radiation, and the extract could also reduce the skin redness caused by UV rays [11].

14. Support liver health

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli sprout may increase the liver’s natural detoxification enzymes, helping in protecting liver from damage and improve blood levels of liver enzymes.

A recent study in men with fatty liver found that broccoli sprout extract, which is high in beneficial plant compounds, improved liver enzyme levels and decreased oxidative stress [12].

15. Prevent anemia

Broccoli is rich in iron and folic acid, making it one of the best foods for treating as well as preventing anemia. It can improve levels of hemoglobin, which is very beneficial to those experiencing iron deficiency.

Selection and Storage

When buying fresh broccoli, look for heads that are compact, firm and free of yellowing or slimy spots. If the stalk and leaves are attached, they should look fresh and firm too.

Broccoli should be stored unwashed in the refrigerator. They can be kept for 5 to 7 days in the refrigerator. But if they are kept in an airtight box, their lifespan can last up to 2 weeks. For cooked broccoli, they can be kept in the refrigerator for 7 to 9 days, but wrap it in food wrap, zip bag or airtight container.

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