If you are a strong believer in the goodness of greens, here are 14 more reasons to love your broccoli. And if you are one of those who aren’t keen on the plant-shaped goodness that is broccoli, we hope this will convert you.
Broccoli has a healthy dose of all nutrients, be it fiber, vitamins B9, C, E, and K, or the heart-healthy potassium, and bone-healthy calcium and magnesium.1 Plus, this cruciferous vegetable contains several important antioxidant, anticancer plant chemicals (hardly a surprise, given how it looks!) such as sulphorapane and the carotenoids – beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.2
Though most of the studies are focused on the benefits of florets of broccoli, the leaves and stems of broccoli have also been found to contain high levels of phenols which have high antioxidant and anticancer activities.3 Here are a few positive ways in which broccoli impacts your body.
1. Prevents Cancer
Broccoli should be an essential ingredient in your anti-cancer diet. Cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, which has anti-cancer properties.4 Broccoli sprouts have a bigger role to play as they contain a high concentration of cancer-protective sulforaphane. It is found that small quantities of crucifer sprouts may protect against the risk of cancer as effectively as much larger quantities of mature vegetables of the same variety.5 The association between the broccoli intake and the risk of cancer has been studied widely. Some research studies failed to find any positive result. Some case-control studies suggest that there is a lower risk of prostate cancer in people who ate greater amounts of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.6 It is also found that women who ate more cruciferous vegetables have a lower risk of colon cancer and lung cancer.
2. Maintains Heart Health
This dark green leafy vegetable provides an adequate amount of folate, that can promote your heart health. The presence of antioxidants in broccoli also helps in decreasing the risk of heart disease.7 A diet rich in polyphenol is known for strengthening the cardiovascular functions. Broccoli is a dietary source of quercetin, which is a polyphenol.8
3. Works Against Inflammation
Broccoli florets exert antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting nitric oxide, which plays a role in inflammatory responses.9 Sulforaphane, the natural isothiocyanate in broccoli also helps in fighting inflammation.10According to a research, in young male smokers, broccoli consumption may reduce the levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a blood test marker for inflammation.11 Broccoli can be included in your arthritis diet as vitamin-K in it reduces inflammatory markers in the blood.12
4. Regulates Blood Pressure And Blood Sugar
Low calcium is a factor that contributes to high blood pressure. By including calcium-rich food like broccoli in your menu, you can manage your blood pressure.13 Also, the chromium content in broccoli regulates your blood sugar. It increases insulin’s efficiency and thereby, increases glucose tolerance.14
5. Promotes Digestion
The high fiber content in broccoli is responsible for its digestive benefits. As the intake of dietary fiber increases, it positively impacts your gut health, facilitating better digestion.15
6. Provides Eye Health
As you age, your eyes are prone to many conditions such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Broccoli is recommended to prevent these diseases. It contains lutein and zeaxanthin, which are essential components for your ocular health.16 The dietary antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are significant in reducing the risk of age-related diseases. This makes broccoli a major player in protecting your eyes as it is rich in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant.17 Apart from this, broccoli has vitamin B2 (riboflavin), which is important for normal vision.18
7. Reduces Cholesterol
A new variety of broccoli reduces LDL cholesterol by around 6 %, according to a research by Institute of Food Research.19 This variety was bred to contain two to three times more of a naturally occurring compound glucoraphanin.
8. Fights Depression
Do you know the power of this crunchy veggie to battle depression? According to research, it can. The presence of sulforaphane gives this potential to the superfood. Sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprouts have deterrent effects on inflammation-related depressive symptoms.20
9. Keeps Your Bones Healthy
You may know the importance of calcium in maintaining your bone health. By adopting a nutritional diet, you can ensure that your body gets adequate calcium. The good news is that calcium in vegetables like broccoli is very well absorbed.21 Besides calcium, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K, which is essential for bones.22
10. Prevents Skin Damage
Looking for a way to fight the wrinkles on your skin? Fall in love with broccoli, which is rich in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C is also essential for the synthesis of collagen that keeps your skin looking firm.23 Even the topical application of broccoli sprouts could help you. According to a team of Johns Hopkins scientists, applying an extract of broccoli sprouts can protect your skin against the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.24 The extract could treat the skin redness caused by UV rays. This can, in turn, reduce the long-term risk of developing skin cancer.
11. Helps You Lose Weight
A nutrient-rich food loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber is a perfect fit for your fat-free diet. Then, go for broccoli, which is also low in calories. If you crave for snacks, pick up half a cup of broccoli. It has a mere 25 calories.25
12. Prevents Anemia
Many factors lead to anemia, making you feel tired. A lack of iron or other nutrients in the diet may prevent your body from producing enough red blood cells, causing anemia. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron and thus, broccoli rich in vitamin-c could save you from feeling anemic.26
13. Detoxifies Your Body
Sulforaphane, the protective phytochemical in broccoli takes care of the body’s defence mechanism against carcinogens. It induces detoxification enzymes, which help in deactivating carcinogens and free radicals.27 It is found that 3-day-old sprouts of broccoli have more detoxifying capacity than the mature plants.28
14. Keeps You Healthy During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant, you know how important is calcium during this period. It is vital to support the nervous and circulatory systems. Broccoli, as a calcium-rich food, can provide you adequate amount of calcium during your pregnancy period.29
Moreover, there is another good news about broccoli consumption. In animal studies, it is found that broccoli sprout supplementation during pregnancy prevents brain injury in the newborn even after pregnancy complications like placental insufficiency – where the placenta cannot support the baby with nutrients and oxygen.30
Choosing Between Raw And Cooked Broccoli
Cooking broccoli by microwaving, boiling, and stir-frying may lead to the loss of vitamin C and reduce the total soluble proteins and soluble sugars. However, steaming causes the lowest loss of nutrients in broccoli.31 Researchers at the University of Warwick have found that boiling broccoli will damage its anticancer properties.32 Thus, the antioxidant effect of broccoli is less when you cook it. So, eat it raw to reap the maximum benefits. The consumption of raw broccoli results in faster absorption of sulforaphane, compared to cooked broccoli.33
Broccoli is considered a safe food for all. However, there was a case of mugwort-mustard allergy syndrome (MMAS) reported after broccoli consumption.34 MMAS happens in individuals who are sensitized to mugwort. But, it is a relatively rare form of food allergy.