Homer Simpson hated it, but when it comes to improving your health, broccoli punches well above its weight.
If nightmares of soggy, overcooked broccoli in your school dinners still haunt you – then trying steamed or even raw broccoli will give you a brand-new perspective. Benefits include better heart health, boosting your microbiome and even cancer protective qualities. Whether you are enjoying it with your evening meal, or as part of a healthy salad for lunch – this brassica vegetable is super-flexible.
This page takes a deep dive into the eye-opening health benefits of broccoli.
Broccoli is part of a vegetable family called ‘Brassica Vegetables.’
Other brassica vegetables include kale, cabbage, and cauliflower. While eating broccoli raw is not as common as boiling or steaming it – you’ll be surprised how well it goes with salad. There are multiple types. Here in the UK, most supermarkets stock Calabrese. Others include Belstar and Destiny. You can get broccolini or broccoli sprouts too. The latter is closer to cress.
If you count your ‘five a day,’ then 100g of broccoli will get you there comfortably.
Nutrients include vitamin C, carotene, and protein. There are small amounts of carbohydrates and fat – along with that gut-boosting fibre.
As you will see below, micronutrients found in this delicious vegetable have outsized benefits.
Some publications list 10, 15 or even more health benefits of broccoli.
This relies on ongoing research, much of which is still work in progress. I have stuck to the five big areas where benefits have been agreed on in multiple studies. Keep in mind that by eating brassica vegetables regularly, you get extra benefits on top of those listed below. Naturally, this is an informational overview and not medical advice, and all clinical research is work in progress.
Inflammation is our response to infection. It is the primary weapon of our immune system in keeping trouble at bay. That said, too much inflammation damages cells – at the extremes you get autoimmune diseases.
Broccoli supports the immune system in two ways. First, the antioxidant Glutathione protects cells from damage via inflammation. Alongside, broccoli contains sulphur. This boosts your gut microbiome, which in turn boosts your infection fighting capability.
There is plenty of research linking cholesterol to cardiovascular problems. ‘Bad Cholesterol’ was blamed for years, though research suggests this area is more nuanced than simply ‘good vs bad.’
Broccoli lowers the total amount of cholesterol in the blood. This is more than just a measurement – a direct link between increase brassica vegetable consumption and lower risk of heart disease has been demonstrated in formal clinical trials.
Unfortunately, munching on a head of broccoli is not enough to prevent or cure cancer.
What broccoli does have are antioxidant chemicals which can help detox our cells. By decreasing cellular damage from toxins, the conditions in which some cancers form are reduced. The key compound (which is currently exciting researchers) is Sulforaphane. While broccoli contains trace amounts, you get a far bigger amount from broccoli sprouts.
Hormone imbalances may be aided by brassica vegetables including broccoli.
The key hormone is oestrogen. This is often thought of as a women-only hormone, though is found in both men and women. The key compound in broccoli is indole-3-carbinol. Clinical trials have found this reduces the risk of certain cancers, with research into the area ongoing.
Everyone knows that carrots are linked to better vision – though broccoli is just as good.
Beta Carotene boosts night vision, which is compromised when someone becomes deficient in vitamin A. Other links to vision come from two lesser-known carotenoids. Zeaxanthin and lutein demonstrably reduce eye conditions including macular degeneration and cataracts.
There is little doubt that broccoli has health benefits. The wide range of them would put this brassica vegetable into the superfoods category – though I’m already a fan, and so would be biased.
Boiling broccoli (especially for too long) takes away most benefits. It also tastes way better when lightly steamed or raw.
Add finely chopped pieces next time you make a salad. Who knows, you might become a convert!
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