The health benefits of broccoli

Love it or hate it, we all know broccoli is good for us. It's green, so it must be, right? Broccoli is a member of the brassica family of vegetables and is accredited with super status thanks to its numerous health benefits. It not only protects cells from DNA damage, it has anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. So yes, it fully deserves its accolades.


Here are a few other reasons you should be including broccoli as a regular part of your diet.



Source of protein


​We may not realise that vegetables also contain protein. And broccoli is one of the best. Indeed, gram for gram, broccoli provides more protein than most other vegetables. Every 100g of raw broccoli contains 2.8g of protein making it one of the highest scoring green veg for protein. Protein is essential at all stages of life and is important for repairing, maintaining and building new cells. Generally, the average woman needs around 45g of protein and men 55g each day.


Fibre


We should aim for, at the very least, a minimum of 30g of fibre per day. Broccoli is a high fibre green vegetable with 2.6g per 100g eaten raw or 3.3g when steamed. This is roughly the same amount of fibre as a slice of wholegrain bread or a small baked potato. Fibre plays a vital role in keeping the intestinal tract in good working order and may help reduce risks of colon cancer.


Improves blood sugar levels


Broccoli takes longer to break down in the digestive system which in turn slows the rate glucose is released from the body. This has the knock on effect of improving the body’s blood-sugar response.


Helps with weight loss


In its natural raw state, broccoli is low in calories with 35 per 100g. Due to its fibre content it takes longer to digest, particularly when it's uncooked. This leads to an increased feeling of fullness, making it a good choice for weight control. It's also low in fat and saturated fat.


Low in carbs and sugar


​With only 6.6g of carbohydrates per 100g of raw broccoli and 1.6g of sugars, broccoli is ideal for anyone following a lower carbohydrate diet or who is trying to keep their sugar intake down.


Rich in vitamins and minerals


Broccoli contains high amounts of vitamins A, C, K and folate and is a good source of Bs (not B12). Eating high levels of vitamin K obtained through food rather is linked to greater bone density and reduced bone loss in early post-menopausal women.

For minerals, broccoli provides a decent amount of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese. However, as mentioned above, cooking broccoli alters its nutrient status, with most nutrients decreasing when cooked. Folate and Vitamin C are always lost when cooking, so it's worth bearing this in mind when considering your nutrient requirements.


Cooking broccoli for maximum nutrition


​The way we cook our vegetables has an effect on the amount of nutrients available to us. When cooked, our body is able to absorb more nutrients from the vegetable which gives cooking an advantage over raw. Of all the different ways of cooking, it's steaming that retains the most nutrients and enables us to absorb more of them. Boiling is fine when it's part of a soup as the nutrients can still be gained from the liquid. Stir frying is done over a high heat and cooks quickly so retains most nutrients. See suggestions below:





Fresh or frozen?


We might assume that buying the freshest, greenest looking broccoli stalk would provide the most nutrients. However, this isn't always the case. Broccoli that's been sitting under glare of supermarket lights for days and in some cases, nights, loses a considerable amount of nutrients, especially Vitamin C. However, broccoli that's frozen is usually packed and quickly frozen very soon after picking. This gives the added benefit of maximum nutrient retention. While frozen broccoli does have the added convenience factor, once cooked, it generally has a softer texture than freshly steamed broccoli so you may find it more suitable for recipes such as soup.


Other considerations


While broccoli is a nutrient superpower for the majority of us, those with thyroid problems should avoid excessive consumption in its raw state. This is due to a substance found in brassicas called glucosinolates which may interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland. Cooking broccoli appears to inactivate these substances so those with deficient thyroid hormone production should choose this form so they can benefit from its health giving properties.

While there’s no doubt the health benefits of broccoli provide an important contribution to daily nutritional needs, keep in mind that for optimum health, no single food can provide all necessary nutrients. Eating two or three servings of broccoli each week may help to reduce the risks of many serious diseases, including cancer, and should be included as part of a healthy and well balanced diet.