By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Broccoli is a green vegetable that vaguely resembles a miniature tree. It belongs to the plant species known as Brassica oleracea. It is closely related to cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower all edible plants collectively referred to as cruciferous vegetables. There are three main varieties of broccoli: Calabrese broccoli, Sprouting broccoli and Purple cauliflower — despite its name a type of broccoli. Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. (1)
Broccoli has an impressive nutritional profile. It is high in fiber, very high in vitamin C and has potassium, B6 and vitamin A.
Broccoli is also packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants. Phytochemicals are chemicals in plants that are responsible for color, smell and flavor. Research shows that they have numerous healthful benefits, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Phytochemicals in broccoli are good for the immune system. They include glucobrassicin; carotenoids, such as zeaxanthin and beta-carotene; and kaempferol, a flavonoid. (2)
Health Benefits of Broccoli
- Helps Fight Cancer: Cancer occurs when malignant cells develop and spread throughout the body. This vegetable may help reduce your risk of certain cancers, like lung cancer, stomach cancer, and colon cancer. This is due to a compound in broccoli called isothiocyanates, which helps decrease inflammation. Chronic inflammation can cause changes to your DNA and increase the risk for cancer.
- Strengthens Your Bones: Vitamin K helps your body absorb calcium, and a deficiency increases the risk of bone fractures. Due to the high amount of vitamin K in broccoli, eating more of this vegetable can strengthen your bones. Broccoli also contains calcium, which is another essential nutrient for strong bones and teeth.
- Reduces Cholesterol: Broccoli is especially rich in soluble fiber, the type of fiber that research suggests is most effective for reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Since a healthy cholesterol level reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, broccoli can also contribute to heart health.
- Improves Immunity: The vitamin C in this flowering plant may give your body the boost it needs to fight off infections. As a bonus, vitamin C helps detoxify the body and removes free radicals that can lead to arthritis, wrinkles, and age-related macular degeneration.
- Helps with Weight Loss: Broccoli is also an excellent food for weight loss. Along with being low in calories, this fiber-rich food can help you stay full longer and may curb overeating. It can also improve digestion and help relieve constipation. (3)
- Fresh, young broccoli should not taste fibrous, woody, or sulfurous. Broccoli can become woody or fibrous if a person stores it at room temperature or for a long time.
- When buying broccoli, people should try to choose pieces that are tight and firm to the touch and dark green in color. Avoid pieces that are limp, turning yellow, or wilting.
- Store broccoli unwashed in loose or perforated bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. People should only wash broccoli right before eating it, as wet broccoli can develop mold and become limp. (4)