Food Spotlight: Broccoli
Along with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and kale, broccoli belongs to the Brassica oleracea family. It is a branched, green vegetable that can have purple or green flower buds.
When buying broccoli, it should be tight and firm with green color. Store it unwashed or in a perforated bag in the vegetable drawer of the fridge. Wash it right under cold running water just before use.
Caloric and Nutritional Value
Broccoli has low caloric value of only around 20 kcal (96 kJ) for 80 g portion. It is rich in proteins, carbohydrates and fiber, and also contains carotene and vitamin C.
Its rich nutritional value is also because of the presence of vitamins A, K B9 (folate), as well as minerals potassium, phosphorus, and selenium. Broccoli has very little fats. Its exact nutritional values can be found here.
Broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked. Different cooking methods can impact its health benefits with boiling doing the greatest harm. However, it looks like steaming it has fewest side effects on changing the nutrient composition of its health-promoting compounds.
Health Benefits of Eating Broccoli
There are various health benefits of eating broccoli such as:
- Broccoli helps reduce the total amount of cholesterol in the body which lower the risk of developing a heart disease. People who consume broccoli regularly have decreased LDL and triglyceride levels, and increased HDL levels.
- The phytochemical sulforaphane that is found in broccoli and responsible for its bitter taste is reported to have anti-cancer role. Sulforaphane helps in enhanced detoxification of airborne toxins like cigarette smoke.
- Because of the presence of carotenoids as well as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, broccoli decreases the risk of eye-related diseases.
- Broccoli is rich in sulfur and therefore responsible for gut health. Namely, sulfur is involved in the production of glutathione which is a molecule responsible for maintaining the lining of the gut.
- There are indications that broccoli can help in maintaining normal blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
- There are indications that, because of the presence of vitamin C, broccoli can help in improving skin health and boost immunity.
Health Risks of Eating Broccoli
Besides the abovementioned health benefits, there are a few things you should consider when eating broccoli. It may not be good to eat a lot of broccoli if you have a thyroid problem as it can interfere with the absorption of iodine.
Since it is rich in fiber it can also cause gas or bloating which is not pleasant especially for people having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
If you are using blood thinners, be careful with the broccoli. Since it is rich in vitamin K that helps your blood clot, it can interfere with your medicine.
If you do not particularly enjoy the taste of broccoli, eat it with a hummus or avocado dip, or with a yogurt-based dressing. You can also eat it raw, cut in small pieces and put in salads or pasta. Another option is to put it in smoothies or homemade pesto. Otherwise, it is regularly eaten stir-fried with Asian food or in Mexican dishes such as fajitas.
In general broccoli is a safe and healthy option that should be often included in your diet. It can help improve blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. Still, for maximum effect, broccoli should be part of an overall healthy and diverse diet.
For more scientific reading: