Broccoli: properties, benefits

Broccoli is a vegetable that should be eaten regularly due to its many benefits. Find out what they are good for and how to consume them in the best way.

Broccoli has a reputation for being the most hated vegetable by children around the world, but the bad reputation is fortunately outweighed by the many beneficial effects it provides to our health. The properties of broccoli, in fact, make them one of the symbolic foods of healthy nutrition.

Broccoli are vegetables belonging to the Brassicaceae or Cruciferous family, which also include cabbage, cauliflower, turnips, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts, radishes and rocket; particularly popular among the ancient Greeks and during the Roman Empire as they are widespread in the form of wild cabbage with spontaneous growth on the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.

Broccoli is rich in numerous nutrients, particularly fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, potassium and phosphorus, and also provides more protein than most other vegetables.

Broccoli: calories and nutritional values

Broccoli is mainly characterized by being rich in water, low in calories (only 34 per 100 grams), fat and sugar, have a low glycemic index, a good intake of fiber and, for being a vegetable, they also contain a fair amount quantity of vegetable proteins.

As for vitamins, broccoli contains an excellent amount of vitamin C (100 g contain over 100% of the recommended daily amount), a very powerful antioxidant very common in fruit and vegetables. There are also vitamin K and folic acid. Among the minerals, however, we find potassium, phosphorus and calcium well represented.

On top of that, broccoli is a great source of some powerful antioxidants and responsible for many of its benefits. Specifically, we remember:

  • Sulforaphane: one of the most abundant and widely studied plant compounds found in crucifers. Sulforaphane has a protective action against various cancers;
  • Indole-3-carbinol: unique nutrient present almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables which, like sulforaphane, has a beneficial effect against tumors;
  • Carotenoids: broccoli is rich in lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, which work by improving eye health;
  • Kempferol: flavonoid with anti-inflammatory action, capable of protecting against heart disease and allergies;
  • Quercetin: flavonoid with antioxidant action useful for reducing blood pressure.

The following table collects the main nutritional information of these vegetables:

Nutritional values ​​per 100g of broccoli:

  • Waterfall: 89.3 g
  • kcal: 34
  • Proteins: 2.82 g
  • Fat: 0.37 g
  • of which saturated: 0.039 g
  • Carbohydrates: 6.64 g
  • of which sugars: 1.7 g
  • Fibers: 2.6 g
  • Potassium: 316 mg
  • Phosphorus: 66 mg
  • Soccer: 47 mg
  • Choline: 18.7 mg
  • C vitamin: 89.2 mg
  • Vitamin K: 102 µg
  • Glycemic index: 10
  • Cholesterol: 0 g

Broccoli: health benefits

All the beneficial elements that we have just seen, give broccoli useful properties for our health. Specifically, broccoli boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant virtues, reduces cholesterol, has a detoxifying effect and helps protect the respiratory tract, but not only. Now let’s see in detail the benefits they bring.

✓ Detoxifying effect of broccoli

Every day our body comes into contact with substances that are not always positive for our health. It is important to periodically do a “cleansing”, perhaps with a so-called “detox” treatment. The glucoraphanins present in broccoli help improve our detoxification capacity. Basically, they act on potentially toxic molecules and make them ready for elimination by our body. This property is very useful for the liver, the “filter” organ where waste substances and fats to be eliminated generally accumulate.

✓ Eye health

The health of our eyes can also be favored thanks to the intake of some precious substances that are also contained in broccoli. We are talking about two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which in broccoli are contained in significant concentrations and play a particularly important role in the prevention of diseases involving the retina, the macula of the eye (for example, macular degeneration) and problems common such as cataracts. Both carotenoids always act through the mechanism that counteracts oxidative stress. In addition, broccoli contains beta-carotene, which is converted in our body into vitamin A, the vitamin useful for ocular health.

✓ Help for our lungs

A study showed how the substances with antioxidant properties contained in broccoli act on the cells of the bronchial epithelium in vitro, limiting damage from oxidative stress.

This mechanism, at the level of the lungs, is also at the basis of the inflammation that characterizes a respiratory disease called COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). In particular, sulforaphane having an antioxidant effect could limit inflammation and therefore be supportive in the treatment of patients suffering from this disease.

It is also hypothesized that the anti-inflammatory properties of some substances contained in broccoli could play an important role in the control of other diseases related to the respiratory tract, think for example of allergic asthma.

✓ Broccoli and cholesterol reduction

Cholesterol has many important functions in our body; for example, it is a key element for the formation of bile acids, the substances that help digest fats. Bile acids form in the liver, are stored in the gallbladder and released into the digestive system whenever you eat fatty food. Subsequently, the bile acids are reabsorbed into the bloodstream and then reused.

The substances present in broccoli, by binding with bile acids in the intestine, would increase their excretion, thus preventing their reuse. This situation leads to the synthesis of new bile acids from cholesterol, thereby reducing the total cholesterol level in our body.

According to a study, steamed broccoli is particularly effective in lowering cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

✓ Benefits for the cardiovascular system

In addition to reducing cholesterol, broccoli offers benefits to the cardiovascular system as the B-complex vitamins present in broccoli can limit the excessive formation of homocysteine, a molecule that increases the risk of undergoing atherosclerosis, stroke and attack of heart. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of broccoli contribute to the prevention of these disabling diseases.

✓ Prevention of diabetes

Foods high in fiber but low in calories, such as broccoli, are perfect for preventing diabetes and regulating blood sugar levels. Furthermore, sulforaphane appears to be able to repair the damage caused by hyperglycemia to the cardiovascular system.

This is demonstrated by a study that would have discovered how sulforaphane would be able to reduce free radicals by 73% and that it would activate a protein, NRF2, capable of protecting arteries from the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.

✓ Broccoli for bone health

Low levels of vitamin K are associated with a high risk of bone fractures and 100g of broccoli provides well over 100% of the daily requirement of this vitamin. Taking the adequate amount of vitamin K daily improves bone health, calcium absorption and reduced urinary excretion of calcium. In addition, broccoli is an excellent vegetable source of calcium.

✓ Skin health

The high content also in vitamins and in particular vitamins A, C and E allows to have a beneficial action also on our skin. Vitamin A intervenes in the formation of two fundamental substances to keep the skin elastic. These are retinol and collagen.

Vitamin A also acts by stimulating the expression of some specific enzymes, some of which have the function of improving skin thickness, thus decreasing the depth of the wrinkle. Vitamins C and E instead act as antioxidants, thus delaying cellular aging and fighting free radicals, even in our skin. Furthermore, vitamin C also plays an essential role in the formation of collagen, the main support system of the skin.

✓ Broccoli improves digestion

The fibers present in broccoli have a positive effect on the overall health of the digestive system as they facilitate bowel movements and the proper passage of food through the intestines, thus preventing constipation. The fibers also promote the growth of beneficial intestinal microflora which improves digestive power, while the presence of isothiocyanates helps protect the stomach from excessive growth of harmful bacteria or their attachment to the stomach walls.

Alongside dietary fiber, we also find glucosinolates, phytonutrients contained in broccoli that are converted into isothiocyanates (ITC). They, together with sulforaphane, help protect the stomach, also preventing the proliferation of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that, if not controlled, can lead to the development of important diseases such as chronic gastritis and peptic ulcer.

✓ Broccoli and cancer prevention

Broccoli is rich in numerous compounds that are believed to have protective effects against various forms of cancer such as lung, colorectal, breast, prostate, pancreatic and gastric cancer. What makes broccoli and other cruciferous plants so unique is the presence of particular plant compounds called isothiocyanates which have the ability to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, the development and growth of cancer cells and stimulate the immune system. Sulforaphane is the isothiocyanate most present in broccoli.

Difference between broccoli and cabbage

As we said above, cabbage and broccoli are two varieties belonging to the same family, the cruciferous. Therefore they share practically all the nutritional characteristics and beneficial properties typical of this family of vegetables.

The main difference is definitely the visual aspect and the taste. Specifically, the broccoli has the typical bright green color and the large stem from which branches start that end with the inflorescences, while the cauliflower has a generally white color (although there are orange and purple varieties) and a more compact structure, wrapped in leaves at the base. As for the flavor, that of cauliflower is sweeter and more delicate than that of broccoli.

Entering specifically about the nutritional aspects, we can first say that for both the recommended portion is 200 grams and the calorie intake is almost identical, as well as the sugar content. The potassium content is also almost identical between broccoli and cauliflower. Broccoli has slightly higher quantities of folic acid and vitamin C than cauliflower while, the latter, has a lower quantity of vitamin K, an aspect to be taken into consideration by those who follow anticoagulant therapy.

How much broccoli to eat per day? And per week?

A portion of broccoli corresponds, as well as other vegetables, to about 200 grams (weighed raw) which is equivalent, in practice, to about half a plate. The guidelines recommend consuming at least 2 servings of vegetables per day.

When they are in season, it is possible to consume broccoli every day to take advantage of its excellent beneficial properties. However, it is advisable to vary the types of fruit and vegetables consumed during the week to guarantee a varied diet and benefit from the properties of all seasonal foods (broccoli is in season in winter).

Broccoli: how to eat them and use them in the kitchen

Broccoli is very rich in vitamin C, a compound that is particularly sensitive to light, oxygen and temperature, for this reason, to avoid the oxidation of this vitamin and the dispersion of other nutrients, it is preferable to opt for simple and minimally invasive cooking. such as steamed or a quick blanching.

In fact, remember that a short steam cooking makes sulforaphane more bioavailable, which we have seen to be a very important element for our health.

On the contrary, prolonged cooking would cause its denaturation, therefore inactivation. Therefore, it would be better to avoid boiling broccoli for a long time as it would damage the nutritional content of these vegetables too much. Specifically, the cooking times of broccoli are: about 10/15 minutes both boiled and steamed.

What do you eat and what do you discard from broccoli?

You eat all of the broccoli, even the stem and leaves, which can be quickly sautéed in a pan with a drizzle of oil and, if you like, garlic. Generally they are brought to the table as a classic portion of vegetables, simply seasoned with oil, salt and lemon (or a drizzle of vinegar, if you prefer). However, there are other ways to bring this food to the table. Here are some ideas for adding them to your diet.

How do you eat broccoli?

  • You can use broccoli as a key ingredient in a winter pesto;
  • You can prepare a broccoli risotto by steaming them for a few minutes and then adding them to the rice (cooked separately). Season with extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt, pepper and oregano;
  • If you love smoothies and centrifuged, try adding some broccoli tops to your usual recipe;
  • Enrich your next omelette with broccoli;
  • For a savory, filling and sugar-free breakfast, you can make broccoli pancakes.

How to get rid of the smell of broccoli?

You know the smell that not everyone loves that is released when cooking broccoli? This characteristic is due to the sulfur that broccoli contains in fair quantities and to limit it to a minimum, you can squeeze a lemon in the cooking water of the broccoli or you can place a thick slice of bread soaked in white vinegar on the lid of the pot which will absorb the ‘smell.

Who shouldn’t eat broccoli? Contraindications and potential negative effects

Broccoli is generally well tolerated and has no particular contraindications. Allergy is also very rare. However, there are cases in which it is good to pay more attention to their consumption.

  • Thyroid problems: broccoli contains goitrogens, substances that by interfering with iodine metabolism can inhibit the activity of the thyroid, slowing down the production of hormones in the most sensitive individuals;
  • Fluidification of the blood: those who take anticoagulant drugs should carefully evaluate the amount of broccoli to be taken in their diet, as the high amount of vitamin K can interact with the action of the drug;
  • Renal insufficiency: People with severe renal insufficiency should pay attention to the consumption of broccoli due to the high potassium content. In this case it is still important to follow the nephrologist’s instructions.

Eating too much broccoli could cause intestinal discomfort such as bloating and bloating. However, these effects are transient and will tend to disappear after a few hours. If you are not used to consuming these vegetables, it may be useful to introduce them in your diet, in order to “accustom” the intestine.


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