What are the health benefits of eating broccoli? Why should you bother adding it to your meals?
In this post, we’ll help answer these. So let’s dive in right away.
What is broccoli?
Broccoli is a green, edible plant with a flower-like head attached to a thick stalk, greatly resembling a midget tree.
It is an Italica cultivar that belongs to the species Brassica oleracea and is mainly a product of China and India.
As a cruciferous vegetable, it is also closely related to cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and turnips.
There are three identified kinds of broccoli:
- Calabrese broccoli – the most common type
- Sprouting broccoli
- Purple cauliflower – still broccoli despite its name which accounts for its cauliflower-shaped head
While some people, especially kids, may tend to dislike this vegetable, many are still able to appreciate its superior nutritional benefits.
Let’s look at the health benefits of eating broccoli in more details.
1. Is rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional compounds
Broccoli is a low-calorie food loaded with fibers, protein, and various vitamins.
Its antioxidant and bioactive contents are deemed to have valuable anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenesis effects.
According to the FoodData Central of USDA, a 100-gram serving of fresh broccoli yields the following nutritional contents:
|Vitamin C||89.2 milligrams (119% of the RDI)|
|Vitamin K||101.6 micrograms (127% of the RDI)|
|Vitamin B9 (Folate)||63 micrograms (16% of the RDI)|
|Potassium||316 milligrams (9% of the RDI)|
|Selenium||2.5 micrograms (7% of the RDI)|
Broccoli is noticeably abundant in Vitamins C and K. These vitamins have potential therapeutic functions.
Its potassium and folate content is also important for the body’s normal cell function and growth.
Cruciferous vegetables are known to be rich in glucosinolates. Together with its derivatives like the isothiocyanates, they possess bio-protective functions.
These functions include antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and inflammation regulation.
But that’s not all.
Brassica vegetables provide significant polyphenols that are known to protect your body against cancer and have antioxidant properties.
Broccoli is indeed packed with a lot of good stuff for your body. And eating it raw is the best way for you to obtain its maximum nutrients.
But if you must have it cooked, steaming is the next best option.
Steaming doesn’t deplete the vegetable’s nutrients as much as boiling, microwaving, or stir-frying does.
The amounts of glucosinolate and Vitamin C, two of the most important bioactive compounds in broccoli, are especially affected by your cooking method.
You might want to consider this first before deciding how you’ll prepare your broccoli the next time.
2. Promotes healthy gut
Broccoli’s high amounts of dietary fibers, glucosinolates, and polyphenols are crucial for a healthy gut.
Consumption of these compounds is associated with an altered gastrointestinal microbiota.
And this, in turn, results in a better proportion of the good and the not-so-good microbes in your gut.
Broccoli sprouts can alleviate constipation. This is because it contains large amounts of sulforaphane.
Sulforaphane is a product of glucosinolate breakdown which improves antioxidant systems.
It guards the intestines against oxidative stress and improving intestinal motility.
3. Improves the body’s immune and anti-inflammatory response
Aside from promoting gut health and boosting the immune system, broccoli can help to fight against inflammation.
A study observed that the administration of this naturally occurring isothiacyanate induces the production of protective white blood cells.
But there’s even more.
It also increases the activity of macrophages which are the cells responsible for detecting, engulfing, and destroying pathogens.
Another scientific paper on broccoli florets also confirmed that the vegetable’s bioactive compounds exert potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.
As an excellent source of Vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood that’s good for your immune system.
Vitamin C works as an antioxidant that protects and stimulates the immune system against harmful free radicals.
4. Abundant in anti-carcinogenic compounds
All of these compounds possess potential anti-carcinogenic properties and antioxidant effects as well.
A diet that regularly includes broccoli may provide preventive and therapeutic effects against cancers including:
Further studies are needed to strengthen claims regarding broccoli’s potential against cancer but this information is promising.
Besides, you’ve got nothing to lose except the damaging consequences of free radicals, when you eat broccoli now and then.
5. Supports a healthy pregnancy
Pregnancy is very taxing for the mother’s body.
Taking in a greater deal of nutrients and minerals than the usual is needed to compensate for the increased nutritional demands of child-bearing.
Folate supplementation is especially crucial before and at the beginning of conception. This is because it prevents the formation of neural tube defects in the baby.
It also decreases the risk of your child having acute lymphoblastic leukemia which is a common type of cancer in childhood.
If you’re planning on having a baby soon, eating broccoli helps a lot.
It is a safe and cost-effective way for you to ensure the normal and healthy development of your baby.
6. May slow aging process and mental decline
Aging is a natural and inevitable fate of your body, but nutrition may help.
Studies show that the right nutrition can influence genetic expression related to aging. And it holds a major role in the rate and the course of the aging process.
Here’s the thing though:
The topic of aging is quite controversial.
But several studies point to changes in oxidative stress resistance as one of the major factors of aging, especially at the cellular and tissue levels.
With its load of sulforaphane that activates antioxidant genes, broccoli counters oxidative stress.
And it has the capability of moderating the progression of aging.
Moreover, research showed that daily dose of green leafy vegetables slows cognitive decline associated with aging.
True you can’t escape getting older. But the good news is that with a healthy diet of broccoli, there’s no stopping you from aging with grace.
7. Induces weight loss and protects skin from sun damage
Broccoli is low in calories but high in fibers. This makes it a remarkable diet food which can help control weight.
Moreover, the antioxidant stores of broccoli are proven to enhance insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes, helping patients control their blood sugar levels.
A rather unfamiliar health benefit of broccoli is its protective capacity for the skin against sun damage.
A study demonstrated the preventive prowess of topical sulforaphane-containing broccoli sprout extract from UV-induced skin tumor formation in mice.
We are all aware from the very beginning that this tree-like vegetable is good for the body.
But let this list of actual health benefits of eating broccoli motivate you. Add some more of it regularly in your diet.
From anti-carcinogenic to weight-loss functions, broccoli is certainly an all-around vegetable you won’t regret serving on your table.