Health Benefits of Broccoli

The vegetable offers disease-fighting nutrients that can decrease signs of aging, among other benefits.

Broccoli, or Brassica oleracea, is probably one of the top foods that come to mind when you think about healthy eating. You may not be aware of just how beneficial this cruciferous vegetable is for your health, as it can keep you hydrated, support brain health, and more.

There are also various (and delicious) ways you can incorporate it into meals, snacks, and even drinks. Here's a summary of this superfood's perks, including easy ways to eat more of it every week.

Benefits of Broccoli

Benefits of Broccoli

When it comes to broccoli, the vegetable packs quite a few benefits.

Provides Fiber

One cup of broccoli provides about 2 grams of fiber. Although fiber is typically known for supporting digestive health and keeping you full, it also offers other benefits. They include heart protection through lowering cholesterol levels and blood sugar and insulin regulation support for steady, even energy.

Keeps You Hydrated

There are also about 68 grams of water in a cup of raw broccoli. You need water to keep the cells and organs in your body healthy. Staying hydrated also regulates the temperature of your body, provides lubrication for your joints, and prevents constipation by moving food through the digestive tract.

In addition, fruits and vegetables that have high water content and fiber add volume to your diet. Adding volume to your diet will boost feelings of fullness and that will lead to healthy weight management.

May Help Prevent Cancer

Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous veggie family, which also includes vegetables such as:

  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Collard greens

Research found that this group of plants contains natural compounds linked to cancer prevention—thanks to their ability to neutralize carcinogens and prevent cancer cells from growing and spreading. Cruciferous veggies also support apoptosis, or the self-destruct sequence the body uses to kill off dysfunctional cells.

Protects Your Heart

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Research found that cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, protect the heart. They do so by reducing the damage to arteries that leads to hardening, which is often a precursor to a heart attack or stroke.

Enhances Brain Health

Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments that are found in broccoli. These pigments have many benefits, including ones related to brain health. They have been linked to healthy brain and nervous tissue function, plus protection against age-related cognitive decline.

Improves Bone Strength

Broccoli has the potential to benefit your bone strength. The vegetable contains several nutrients essential for bone formation and the prevention of bone density loss. These include:

  • Vitamin K
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium
  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin C

Fights Inflammation

The anti-inflammatory power of broccoli is tied to a reduced risk of chronic diseases. A study found that a higher intake of cruciferous veggies helped lower levels of pro-inflammatory markers circulating in the blood.

Provides Protective Antioxidants

Naturally occurring compounds in broccoli also act like detoxifiers. This means they help to deactivate potentially damaging chemicals or shuttle them out of the body more quickly.

Protective antioxidant compounds have been shown to counter skin damage caused by UV radiation. The vegetable's lutein and zeaxanthin pigments protect the retina and eye lens. Both have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, two common eye disorders.

Nutrition of Broccoli

One medium stalk of raw broccoli contains:

  • Calories: 45 calories
  • Fat: <1 gram
  • Sodium: 80 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams

Broccoli is chock full of nutrients. One stalk provides 220% of the daily value for vitamin C (which helps your immune system and is needed for bone health). It also contains 13% of the daily value for potassium (required for multiple body functions) at 460 milligrams.

Of note, because broccoli contains so much vitamin C, you'll want to make sure you're not getting too much of the vitamin. Consuming too much vitamin C (from foods, drinks, and supplements combined) could lead to digestive side effects (e.g., diarrhea or stomach cramps).

Broccoli also provides your body with:

  • Vitamin K
  • Folic acid
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Selenium

Risks of Broccoli

A broccoli food allergy could be a possibility when consuming the veggie—an allergic reaction can occur with any type of food. However, allergic reactions due to broccoli do not fall within the majority of food allergy reactions.

Additionally, broccoli can cause gas and bloating. They contain sugars that the stomach and small intestine have a hard time digesting. As your intestinal bacteria try to break down the sugars, it creates the gas that causes bloating and discomfort.

Tips for Consuming Broccoli

Below are ways to get the most out of having broccoli in your diet.

How To Store Broccoli

Most fruits and vegetables should be stored in the refrigerator, as there are few types of fruits and vegetables that don't require refrigeration. That means if you want to stretch out the shelf life of broccoli, you'll want to keep it cool.

Before storing your fresh broccoli, don't wash it; instead, put it in an open plastic bag. Place it in a crisper drawer or at the bottom level of the inside of a refrigerator. Use your fresh broccoli within one to two days after storing it.

How To Enjoy Broccoli

Broccoli can be used in just about any kind of meal or snack. Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Dip it in hummus, seasoned tahini, or guacamole
  • Finely chop or shred it and add it to garden salads or slaw
  • Steam it (to preserve the most nutrients, including vitamin C) then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil-based pesto, olive tapenade, or a savory nut butter sauce
  • Lightly sauté broccoli in extra virgin olive oil
  • Oven-roast it in avocado oil
  • Add it to any number of dishes (e.g., stir fry, soups, stews, frittata, fajitas, and more)
  • Blend raw or frozen broccoli into smoothies,
  • Add finely chopped or pureed broccoli into baked goods, homemade pesto, and other sauces
  • Try mixing powdered broccoli with ground coffee to make broccoli coffee

A Quick Review

Broccoli provides benefits related to your brain, heart, bone, and overall health—though eating it can have side effects like gas and bloating. In whatever way you incorporate it, eating more of this vegetable is a smart way to upgrade your nutrient intake and help safeguard your health.

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