The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Integrating Broccoli into Your Diet

Broccoli is a green cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family. It resembles a miniature tree and is closely related to Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage. Broccoli has numerous nutrients and benefits of a plant based diet. 

Nutritional Benefits of Broccoli

Broccoli is a nutrient-rich vegetable that may enhance your health in a variety of ways such as by reducing inflammation, improving blood sugar control, boosting immunity, and promoting heart health. There are three main varieties of broccoli; sprouting broccoli, Calabrese broccoli, and purple cauliflower – it’s a type of broccoli despite its name.

One cup of raw broccoli provides these nutrients:

  • Vitamin C: 135% of the RDI
  • Vitamin A: 11% of the RDI
  • Vitamin K: 116% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B9 (Folate): 14% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 8% of the RDI
  • Phosphorus: 6% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 3% of the RDI

Broccoli is extremely rich in the health benefits of plant based diets. It has twice the amount of vitamin C as in orange, as much calcium as in whole milk, and selenium which is famous for its cancer-fighting properties. 

Cancer Prevention

Research suggests that people who frequently eat Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are at a lower risk of developing various types of cancer such as breast, kidney, and colorectal cancer. Cruciferous vegetables differ from other vegetables in that they have sulfur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates. These compounds may help prevent cancer progress at different development stages.

Research published in 2017 found that consuming cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli may lower the risk of breast cancer especially in women who are yet to reach menopause. However, to preserve the glucosinolates, broccoli should be steamed on low heat.

Among the many benefits of plant based diets is they are full of chlorophyll. High amounts of chlorophyll found in broccoli help to block the carcinogenic effects of heterocyclic amines which are generated when grilling food at high temperatures. Studies have shown that just 3 servings of broccoli a week can cut cancer risk by 60%.

Allergy Management

Research shows that broccoli sprouts enhance the nasal allergic response. It also decreases the effects of particulate pollution on allergic disease and asthma. Broccoli is rich in the polyphenols quercetin and kaempferol, which are known for their anti-allergic immune response. 

Quercetin works fast in treating allergies and is one of the main ingredients in most anti-allergic drugs. Kaempferol has great anti-inflammatory properties. The compound sulforaphane found in abundance in broccoli triggers the release of antioxidant enzymes in the nasal airways. This offers protection from free radicals and pollutants that we breathe in every day.

Nutritional Support During Pregnancy

Our bodies require lots of vitamins, proteins, and minerals to sustain a pregnancy. Broccoli offers many benefits of plant based diets to both mother and baby. It is an excellent source of B vitamins especially, folate. Folate, also known as folic acid, aids in the development of the fetal brain and spinal cord, preventing certain birth defects such as spina bifida and cleft palate. It also plays a role in the formation and maintenance of DNA. 

The fiber in broccoli helps in preventing gestational diabetes, a disease common in pregnant women. A study suggests supplementing with broccoli sprouts to prevent brain injury in newborns.

Blood Sugar Control

Broccoli may promote better blood sugar control in diabetics. Although the exact mechanism is still unknown, it could be related to broccoli’s antioxidant content. A study found that insulin resistance was decreased in people with type 2 diabetes who regularly consumed broccoli sprouts. 

Broccoli is a good source of fiber. Dietary fiber is associated with lower blood sugar and improved diabetic control. A study done on rats revealed that there was decreased blood sugar and reduced pancreatic cell damage in rats fed broccoli extract.

Promote Eye Health

The benefits of a plant based diet found in broccoli are many and good eyesight is one of them. These cruciferous vegetables contain significant amounts of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These two are carotenoids that prevent serious eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Lutein also helps support lens health.

Vitamin A or retinol helps the body make the pigments it needs for the proper functioning of the retina. Without it, one is are at risk of developing night blindness. Vitamin A also helps the eyes produce the moisture they need to stay lubricated.

Helps Slow Down Aging

The aging process is largely attributed to oxidative stress and reduced metabolic function throughout one’s lifespan. Although aging is an unavoidable natural process, the type of diet we take plays a role in determining the development of age-related diseases. Sulforaphane found in broccoli is believed to slow down the biochemical process of aging by increasing the expression of antioxidant genes.

Bottom Line

Broccoli is a vegetable rich in nutrients and health benefits of plant based diet. Adding them to your diet may help you achieve your health goals more easily. The best way to get all the nutritional benefits of broccoli is by blanching or steaming and incorporating it with other vegetables.