Whether you like them or not, the advantages of vegetables cannot be denied. For those looking for a veggie that packs the most health benefits per serving, broccoli is a top contender.
If you are already familiar with the yummy taste of broccoli or considering adding it to your meals, then this is the guide for you to learn all about it.
What is Broccoli and why is it so popular?
Broccoli (Brassica oleracea), a green plant from the cabbage family, is considered a super food due to its nutritional properties. This cruciferous vegetable has a large flowering head that can be consumed in a variety of ways, such as boiled, steamed, and even raw.
This vegetable hails from the Mediterranean, having been originally grown in Italy. It is a cruciferous variety, related to other flowering plants such as cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
Broccoli is a familiar face on many dinner plates, recognisable by its green stalk and flowering head. Even if you haven’t tried it before, you can spot it easily among other vegetables.
Nutritional Facts of Broccoli
According to Nutritionist Jillian Raw, broccoli has almost 90 per cent water, 7 per cent carbs, 3 per cent protein, and almost no fat.
Broccoli is very low in calories—one cup, or 90 grams (g), has only 35 calories.
Raw, who holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine, listed the nutrition facts for 1 cup (90g) of raw broccoli as follows:
- Calories: 35
- Protein: 2.3 g Carbs: 5.6 g
- Fiber: 2.2 g
- Fat: 0.3 g
- 91% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C.
- 77% of the DV for vitamin K
- 15% of the DV for Folate
She also says that there is a small bit of potassium, magnesium, iron, and calcium in each dose.
Raw said that the carbs in broccoli mostly come from fiber and sugars and that there are also small amounts of lactose and maltose, which are also sugars.
But the total carb amount is very low, with only 3.4 grams of digestible carbs per cup (90g), which is total carbs minus fiber.
It can help your gut stay healthy, lower your risk of getting sick, and help you lose weight. She disclosed this in a publication on the Healthline magazine.
Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Broccoli
Having learnt about the nutritional benefits of broccoli, let us explore how these nutrients, vitamins, and minerals can be beneficial to your body.
- Fights cancer
The benefits of eating broccoli have long been known, but recent research by Dr Thomas Urban Marron provides evidence that this superfood may have even greater health implications than previously thought. Dr Marron’s research suggests that consuming broccoli has a significant role in cancer prevention.
For years, health experts have encouraged people to eat more vegetables, particularly cruciferous ones such as broccoli, as they are filled with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help the body fight disease. He found that compounds in broccoli have the ability to activate enzymes that can help reduce cancer-causing substances in the body, guard against damage that could lead to cancer, and even kill some cancer cells.
In his research, he studied how a compound in broccoli called sulforaphane can affect the body. He and his team found that, when ingested, sulforaphane activates an enzyme that helps reduce the production of unwanted cell growths, DNA damage, and inflammation. All of these are linked to the development of cancer. Furthermore, the enzyme helps reduce and remove potential toxins from the body, which can significantly reduce the risk of cancer.
- Helps with Bone Health
A study conducted by Susanne Bügel and published in Research Gate, has led to a compelling conclusion that – eating broccoli has a positive impact on bone health.
Bügel, a professor of Nutritional Epidemiology at the National Research Centre for the Working Environment in Copenhagen, found that broccoli plays a vital role in reducing the risk of fracture due to its high amount of vitamin K and calcium.
Vitamin K is a key nutrient for strong bones because it helps the body absorb calcium, a mineral essential for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin K deficiency is linked with an increased risk of fracture, so a diet rich in foods with adequate amounts of vitamin K is important to maintain bone health. Broccoli contains vitamin K, which helps the body uptake calcium more efficiently and thus protects bones from weakening.
In addition to vitamin K, broccoli contains calcium, which is also required for strong bones and teeth. Whereas milk and dairy products are a primary source of calcium, broccoli also provides a considerable amount of calcium in a single serving. This makes broccoli an ideal food for those looking for an alternative way to get their daily dose of calcium without dairy.
- Aids Weight Loss
Broccoli is also an excellent food for weight loss, Bügel said, explaining that being low in calories, this fiber-rich food can help you stay full longer and may curb overeating. It can also improve digestion and help relieve constipation.
How much broccoli should you eat?
Consuming broccoli is an excellent way of getting many health benefits, and yet the amount that you need to eat may surprise you.
In an article published on the Eat Right Organisation website, Nutritionist Esther Ellis explains that to reap the rewards, adults only need to consume 2.5 cups of cooked vegetables per day.
“Fortunately, if you’re not a fan of most vegetables, you can get a lot of the way there by simply eating one cup of broccoli each day,” she said.
According to Ellis, the most obvious way to consume broccoli is to add it to your meals, or to snack on it in the form of raw florets.
“But you can also hide broccoli in other food groups to help increase your intake; adding it to pasta dishes, soups, sauces and even smoothies, can help to increase the nutritional value of your meals. For those really not keen on the taste of broccoli, you can also purchase broccoli powder, which can be added to various dishes without compromising the flavour,” she added.