Broccoli has a place on almost every superfoods list because it's low in calories, rich in nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals. It's also low in fat and a good source of fiber. Broccoli is versatile too - you can eat it raw or cooked - and it's easy to find in the grocery store any time of the year. It also contains a number of compounds called glucosinolates that may have certain health benefits.
Research is this area is not clear - while population studies indicate that eating a diet high in vegetables including broccoli may reduce your risk of certain types of cancers, additional research has only been performed on cells and lab animals. More research is needed in human clinical trials to determine if any of these compounds offer any special health benefits.
Broccoli is a good source of minerals like calcium, potassium and selenium. It's an excellent source of vitamin C and has B-complex vitamins, vitamin A, and a phytochemical antioxidant called lutein.
One cup of chopped broccoli has:
- 128 calories
- 2.57 grams protein
- 0.34 grams fat
- 6.04 grams carbohydrate
- 2.4 grams fiber
- 43 milligrams calcium
- 0.66 milligrams iron
- 19 milligrams magnesium
- 288 milligrams potassium
- 0.11 micrograms selenium
- 81.2 milligrams vitamin C
- 0.58 milligrams niacin
- 0.52 milligrams pantothenic acid
- 0.159 milligrams vitamin B-6
- 57 micrograms folate
- 329 micrograms beta carotene
- 567 International Units vitamin A
- 1277 micrograms lutein + zeaxanthin
- 92.5 micrograms vitamin K
The broccoli plant, or Brassica oleracea italica is a native of the Mediterranean region. It's a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables that also includes Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and turnips. It has a strong flavor and firm texture.
You'll find fresh broccoli in the produce section of your grocery store. Choose firm dark green broccoli that's not wilted, or buy broccoli that has been washed, precut and is ready to add to a salad or be cooked and served as a side dish. Keep fresh broccoli in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Frozen broccoli is also available. It may be plain or mixed with other frozen vegetables and sauce. If you choose one with a sauce, read the label directions to be sure it's not too high in fat or sodium. Frozen can be kept frozen for up to one year.
For raw broccoli, simply wash the broccoli under running water and trim off the end of the stem. You can break the florets into individual pieces and serve them as part of a salad or with other raw vegetables and a serving of vegetable dip.
Broccoli can be steamed and served with a little olive oil or used in a stir-fry. It can also be used as an ingredient in soup or casseroles. Here are some healthy recipes that feature broccoli:
- Broccoli With Garlic
- Broccoli with Almonds
- Cauliflower and Broccoli Salad
- Broccoli Salad with Raisins and Bacon
Latta KP, Appel KE, Lampen A. "Health benefits and possible risks of broccoli - an overview." Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Dec;49(12):3287-309.
Moiseeva EP, Manson MM. "Dietary chemopreventive phytochemicals: too little or too much?" Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2009 Jul;2(7):611-6.
The University of Maine, Cooperative Extension Publications. "Bulletin #4177, Vegetables and Fruits for Health: Broccoli and Cauliflower." Accessed May 14, 2012. http://umaine.edu/publications/4177e/.
United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24. "Nutrient data for 11090, Broccoli, raw." Accessed May 14, 2012. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2939.