Broccoli!!! The Botanical Super Hero: Health Benefits and Nutritional Value

Health Benefits and Nutritional Value of Broccoli

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  • Health and Nutrition
  • Functional Foods
  • Broccoli

Bursting with nutrition, broccoli is a versatile vegetable that is popular not only for its unbeatable flavor but also for having powerful health-promoting properties.

The story of broccoli starts in the  Mediterranean where it is thought to have originated from wild cabbage and later introduced to Europe and the United States. [1, 2]   It is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the Brassica family. Other notable cruciferous vegetables are cabbage, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, arugula, radish, and mustards. [1]

The popularity of broccoli skyrocketed in the late 1970s when the health benefits of cruciferous vegetables were reported

Broccoli Brings It!

Nutritional Value of Broccoli

Broccoli boasts of high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, fiber, and carotenoids.  Also, it is a modest source of vitamins E, B1, B2, and B6, as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, and phosphorus.

Just 1 cup of raw broccoli (91 g) contains many necessary micronutrients while contributing only 31 calories and very little fat. [3]   A cup of Raw broccoli (91 g) also contains over 100% of the daily recommended intake of powerful antioxidant vitamin C and bone-health vitamin K. [3]  Furthermore, the fiber content of broccoli is helpful in the support of bowel regularity and in maintaining normal cholesterol levels.

Along with vitamins and minerals, broccoli is also a rich source of phytonutrients  which provide exceptional health benefits. [4, 5].  The phytonutrients in broccoli have high antioxidant activity that prevents oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.  Because both oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are associated with many diseases, like heart disease and cancer, a diet rich in broccoli may help decrease your risk of diseases.  

Nutritional Profile of Raw Broccoli (1cup, 91 g)

Macronutrients

Raw BroccoliAmount% DV
Calories312%
Protein2.6 g5%
Carbohydrate6 g2%
Fat0.3 g1%
Fiber2.4 g9%

Vitamins

Raw Broccoli  Amount% DV
Vitamin C81.2 mg135%
Vitamin K92.5 mcg116%
Vitamin A567 IU11%
Vitamin E0.7 mg4%
Folate57.3 mcg14%
Vitamin B60.2 mg8%
Thiamin0.1 mg4%
Riboflavin0.1 mg6%
Niacin0.6 mg3%

Minerals

Raw BroccoliAmount% DV
Calcium42.8 mg4%
Iron0.7 mg4%
Potassium288 mg8%
Phosphorus60 mg6%
Magnesium19.1 mg5%
Manganese0.2 mg10%
Zinc0.1 mg2%
Selenium2.3 mcg3%

Source: Nutrient data for this listing was provided by USDA SR-2018. Percent Daily Values (%DV) are for adults and are based on a 2,000 calorie reference diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs. 

A Cup of Broccoli a Day

Broccoli  and Cancer Prevention

Broccoli has long been highly valued as a nutritious veggie,  but what makes broccoli such an exceptional vegetable is the potential to reduce the risk of cancer.  A large amount of extensive research on broccoli supports the assumption that regular intake of broccoli decreases the risk of cancer. 

Broccoli plays a role in preventing and fighting cancer, particularly cancers of the colon, liver, prostate, breast, ovary, lung, bladder, and pancreas. [629]   The decrease in cancer risk is associated with the number of servings of broccoli consumed per week. [6, 7]    For example, one study found that eating greater than 3 servings a week reduced prostate cancer risk by 41% [6], while another study found that 5 or more servings a week reduced the relative risk of bladder cancer by 51%. [7]  

There is actually no established daily recommendation for broccoli or cruciferous vegetables.   In general, studies suggest three to five servings of broccoli a week provides better cancer prevention than one serving or less a week. [8].  So now you have an excellent reason to eat 1 cup or more of broccoli, at least 3 times per week.  Who wants to eat an apple when a cup of broccoli a day keeps the doctor away.   I’m only joking, eating an apple a day really does keep the doctor away. Hence, we should have both broccoli and apples and a variety of fruits and vegetables regularly. 

Of note, the National Cancer Institute recommendion for eating fruits and vegetables is five to nine servings (2.5-4.5 cups) daily.

Eat More Broccoli 

Anti-Cancer Activities of Sulforaphane 

Broccoli’s status as a unique vegetable that can prevent cancer attributed to the phytonutrient glucoraphanin [30].  Broccoli contains very high amounts of glucoraphanin which is converted to sulforaphane when broccoli is stressed, for example by cutting, crushing or chewing.  Sulforaphane is widely known for possessing several potent anti-cancer activities. [30, 31, 33, 34, 35].  

One activity of sulforaphane is that it neutralizes cancer-causing toxins before they can cause DNA damage that may eventually lead to cancer.  [36, 37]  The decrease of DNA damage by eating more broccoli was put to the test in a study where smokers and non-smokers consumed 20 g of broccoli per day for 10 days. After 10 days of broccoli intake, their blood samples showed that DNA damage was significantly decreased for both groups. [40]  

Sulforaphane also acts as a detox agent by increasing the excretion of toxins and carcinogens in the urine. [373839]  Additionally, sulforaphane can induce death of cancer cells and inhibit the ability of cancer cells to grow, migrate, and spread. [4142]  Altogether, sulforaphane activities may help reduce and even prevent cancer. 

Of note, broccoli sprouts are very good sources of sulforaphane. They contain 20-50 times more glucoraphanin than the mature market stage broccoli.

To Cook or Not to Cook

Best Way vs Best Choice

Eating broccoli raw is the best way to retain most of the nutritional value. [43, 44]
Because several nutrients leach into the cooking water or are destroyed by cooking heat, cooking reduces the nutrients you get from broccoli [
43444546

Nonetheless, half bread is better than none. So, the best choice is to eat broccoli whichever way appeals to you the most. In other words, enjoying cooked broccoli with fewer nutrients is better than not eating raw broccoli because you don’t like it.

The healthiest way to cook broccoli and conserve the nutritional potential is to steam it for about 3 minutes.  [49, 50, 51  Regardless of which way you prefer to cook your broccoli, you should cook it briefly with minimal water to protect nutrients.   In addition, add powdered mustard seeds to your cooked broccoli to significantly increase the formation of anticancer sulforaphane. [52]   

Of note, commercially sold frozen broccoli also have decreased nutrients because of the processing method. Again, adding powdered mustard seeds will increase the sulforaphane that forms.

More Reasons to Eat More Broccoli

 Other health benefits of broccoli

  1. Antioxidant activity:  Along with vitamin C, carotenoids and sulforaphane, broccoli contains flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol which have high antioxidant activity. [53, 54, 55]
  2. Detoxification activity: Sulporaphane boosts detoxification enzymes in the liver which leads to excretions of toxins and carcinogens in the urine. [39, 58]
  3. Anti-inflammation activity: Sulforaphone targets pathways that promote inflammation which leads to a decrease in inflammation, and reduced risk of diseases related to chronic inflammation. [36]
  4. Brain protection: Sulforaphane may protect our brains by decreasing brain inflammation and oxidative stress by free radicals. [56, 57]
  5. Eyesight protection:  Broccoli protects the lens cells from free radicals and minimizes the risk of cataract. [59]
  6. Fights infection: Sulforaphane kills and prevents the growth of H. Pylori. H. Pylori is a bacteria that causes gastric ulcers and increases the risk of stomach cancer. [60, 61, 62
  7. Fights Diabetes: In recent studies, sulforaphane provided in the form of broccoli sprout extracts reduced glucose production and improved glucose control in obese patients with type 2 diabetes. [63, 64]
  8. Lowers cholesterol: Evidence from two independent human studies indicates that consumption of high glucoraphanin broccoli significantly reduces plasma LDL cholesterol. [65]

Recipe Ideas Featuring Broccoli

Chili Broccoli and Cashew
A versatile veggie dish with lots of vitamin C and anti-inflammatory ingredients. It is nutritious, spicy, sweet and savory
Check out this recipe
Chili Broccoli and Cashew

Creamy Broccoli Salad with Walnuts
This healthy creamy broccoli salad has a sweet, nutty, and altogether delicious flavor. Fresh broccoli florets are tossed in dressing with bold flavorings that complements the strong flavor of broccoli
Check out this recipe
Creamy Flavored Broccoli Salad

In conclusion, we should all be regular broccoli eaters.  Broccoli’s status as one of the healthiest vegetables is here to stay.  It contains an excellent nutritional profile which provides exceptional health benefits as well as contribute to lower the risk of different types of cancer. 

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Farah
Farah
1 year ago

Great info! Truly a super food!

Diran Adekanye
Diran Adekanye
10 months ago

Love Broccoli! The gene whisperer. Great for turning on healthy gene factors.

Quick question: does anyone know anyway to reduce the smell of microwaved Broccoli?

I tend to shy away from taking it to work coz it can get smelly after microwaving.

Any ideas?

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