This delicious green vegetable of the Brassicas family derives its name from the Italian Broccolo meaning “flowering crest of cabbage”. It has been grown since the medieval times, with its origins in the Mediterranean1 and varieties include the common dark green (Calabrese), purple, white and hybrids like Broccolini.
5 Reasons to eat broccoli
- Readily available; easy to grow and easy to buy
- Easy to cook; steamed or boiled
- Rich in vitamins, minerals to support healthy cells, skin, eyes, bones and teeth.
- Source of fibre source to support digestion
- Contains Sulphur compounds (Isothiocyanates) which human research studies show have the potential to activate nervous system messaging (neural signaling) to support detoxification; the body’s (liver) natural cleaning of toxins and carcinogens2,3 anti-inflammatory modulation of the immune response4,5 and anti-microbial reduction in bacterial colonisation.6 Additionally, animal studies show anti-cancer potential, i.e. reduction in tumour growth.7
“Broccoli: a life saver”
says Dr Rangan Chatterjee, (Functional Medicine Doctor, BBC1 Doctor in the House)
What nutrients are in broccoli
Broccoli is a low carbohydrate source of protein, fibre, water, vitamins A, B, C and E, tryptophan, minerals potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium8.
Vitamin A, B and E
healthy cells and skin
immune support, energy, nervous system and red blood cell formation
building block for making proteins like serotonin (mood stabiliser)
and melatonin (sleep cycle)
nervous system and fluid balance
healthy bones and teeth
energy release, fluid balance
A portion of broccoli
One portion of Broccoli is about 3-4 large florets or one cup of chopped Broccoli (90g). In one portion of raw Broccoli the amount of Vitamin C exceeds the daily requirement9 and contains the same amount of Vitamin C as one orange8. The fibre content, 4g, is nearly a 1/6th of the daily requirement10. Research studies on fibre suggest it can slow digestion to improve nutrient absorption and add bulk to support appetite management and bowel movements11. The fibre content and the low glycaemic index (glucose sugar level) of Broccoli may improve blood sugar levels after eating which might reduce the risk of type II diabetes12. The water content supports hydration.
How to eat brocolli
- Eat it all!
- the flowering head, the leaves, peel and dice the sweet stems too.
- Steam it as a vegetable side and dress it with olive oil, butter, pesto or parmesan or serve it as the green vegetable with a Sunday roast.
- Include it in soups like Broccoli and Stilton.
- Use it in pasta, and stir fries as the main vegetable or that last splash of colour. A Jamie Oliver13 Vegetarian Noodle Stir-fry is pictured.
- Add it to salads, hot or cold. Jamie Oliver13 makes a lovely Warm Winter Salad (pictured)
- Bake it in pies, quiche, frittata e.g. Taste of Home Mushroom Broccoli Quiche14 or Jamie Oliver13 Mushroom and Leek Quiche (pictured)
- It can also be enjoyed raw with guacamole, hummus and salsa or in a salad.
Be aware of the need to wash vegetables to remove agricultural sprays and that excess fibre can cause digestive issues for some people (e.g. flatulence, bloating) so eat average size portions. Boiling can reduce some of the nutrient content15 (e.g. Vitamin C) so steaming is the recommended cooking method. Given Broccoli can speed up the body’s removal of toxins in the liver it might reduce the amount of medicine absorbed and dilute the desired effect of a medicine. Always ask your GP for advice on taking medications.
- Latté KP, Appel K-E, Lampen A. Health benefits and possible risks of broccoli – An overview. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2011 Dec;49(12):3287–309.
- Kensler TW, Ng D, Carmella SG, Chen M, Jacobson LP, Muñoz A, et al. Modulation of the metabolism of airborne pollutants by glucoraphanin-rich and sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout beverages in Qidong, China. Carcinogenesis. 2012 Jan;33(1):101–7.
- Egner PA, Chen J-G, Zarth AT, Ng DK, Wang J-B, Kensler KH, et al. Rapid and Sustainable Detoxication of Airborne Pollutants by Broccoli Sprout Beverage: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial in China. Cancer Prevention Research. 2014 Aug 1;7(8):813–23.
- Wagner AE, Will O, Sturm C, Lipinski S, Rosenstiel P, Rimbach G. DSS-induced acute colitis in C57BL/6 mice is mitigated by sulforaphane pre-treatment. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. 2013 Dec;24(12):2085–91.
- Navarro SL, Schwarz Y, Song X, Wang C-Y, Chen C, Trudo SP, et al. Cruciferous Vegetables Have Variable Effects on Biomarkers of Systemic Inflammation in a Randomized Controlled Trial in Healthy Young Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 2014 Nov 1;144(11):1850–7.
- Yanaka A, Fahey JW, Fukumoto A, Nakayama M, Inoue S, Zhang S, et al. Dietary Sulforaphane-Rich Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Colonization and Attenuate Gastritis in Helicobacter pylori-Infected Mice and Humans. Cancer Prevention Research. 2009 Mar 31;2(4):353–60
- Myzak MC, Dashwood WM, Orner GA, Ho E, Dashwood RH. Sulforaphane inhibits histone deacetylase in vivo and suppresses tumorigenesis in Apc min The FASEB Journal. 2006 Mar;20(3):506–8
- Nutritics Dietary Analysis Software v5.025
- Scientific Advisory Committee of Nutrition (SACN), UK Government Dietary Recommendations, Dietary Reference Values for Energy – Tables 4, 6 (Males and Females 19+ years), 2011. pp 9&11
- Scientific Advisory Committee of Nutrition (SACN), SACN Carbohydrates and Health Report, 2015. [Online]. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-carbohydrates-and-health-report
- Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients. 2013 Apr 22;5(4):1417–35.
- McRae MP. Dietary Fiber Intake and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. 2018 Mar;17(1):44–53.
- Oliver, J. Broccoli Recipes [Online] Available at: https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/broccoli-recipes/
- Jones RB, Frisina CL, Winkler S, Imsic M, Tomkins RB. Cooking method significantly effects glucosinolate content and sulforaphane production in broccoli florets. Food Chemistry. 2010 Nov;123(2):237–42.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is explanatory in nature and/or provides general dietary advice. It is not personalised nutritional and lifestyle recommendations.