The Importance of Eating Broccoli

— Written By Lethia Lee and last updated by Patricia Burch
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What is Broccoli and what are the health benefits?
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable which belongs to the Brassica genus of plants. It is a type of flower and has a thick, central stalk with grayish green leaves and green florets (there are some purple varieties). Broccoli has been categorized among the most nutritious vegetables and, when cooked properly, can really be a delicious addition to any meal plan.

There are many varieties of broccoli, the most well known being the typical broccoli head. Other varieties include broccoli rabe, Chinese broccoli, and Italian heirloom. Broccoli is available fresh and frozen. Fresh broccoli is available year-round with peak season from October through April.

Broccoli Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1 cup raw chopped (91 g)
Per Serving % Daily Value*
Calories 31  
Calories from Fat 3  
Total Fat 0.3g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g  
Monounsaturated Fat 0g  
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 30mg 1%
Potassium 288mg 8%
Carbohydrates 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 2.4g 9%
Sugars 1.5g  
Protein 2.5g  
Vitamin A 11% · Vitamin C 135%
Calcium 4% · Iron 4%
*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

At only 30 calories per cup, broccoli is a popular addition to the plates of people looking to both lose weight or gain muscle. The low calorie count shouldn’t deceive you though. This vegetable is chock-full of protein, fiber, and potassium.

Broccoli Health Benefits
Broccoli is a fiber rich vegetable, containing about nine percent of the daily value in one cup – raw. Fiber, the indigestible part of carbohydrate, can help to reduce cholesterol, promote bowel health, regulate blood sugars and aid in weight loss.

Broccoli is also packed with vitamins and minerals. It is an excellent source of Vitamin C (contains more than a day’s worth) and Vitamin K, a very good source of folate, and a good source of Vitamin A, manganese, potassium, and B-vitamins.

Broccoli is also a good source of plant-based calcium.
In addition, broccoli is one of the cruciferous vegetables that have been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Broccoli contains a group of substances known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. These substances give broccoli its pungent smell.

When digested and during food preparation, glucosinolates get broken down and form compounds known as indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates. One type of indole, known as indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane (an isothiocyanate) have been most frequently examined for their anticancer effects.

The results are mixed, but some studies suggest that eating higher amounts of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer (prostate, lung, breast).

Broccoli is also one of the foods with the highest levels of antioxidant phytonutrients on a per-calorie basis. Antioxidants help to fight off free radicals which can cause inflammation and disease.

Common Questions About Broccoli 

Why does my broccoli turn brown?
The most common reason that beautiful green colored vegetables like broccoli produce khaki colored green is because of overcooking. Typically, broccoli will start to turn a drab color after cooking for about seven minutes.

If you know you are going to eat broccoli right away, steam or saute it quickly and then serve. If, however, you plan on cooking it later, you can blanch it to preserve vitamins, minerals, and color.

The blanching process cooks food partially and is done to remove undesirable flavors, soften firm foods, set colors and shorten final cooking times. Blanching is quick. To blanch, place broccoli, one floret at a time, into salted boiling water and remove it after about 30 seconds. Immediately plunge broccoli into ice water. The ice bath halts the cooking process and helps set the color. When you are ready to use your broccoli cook it as desired.

Picking and Storing Broccoli
Choose stalks with compact clusters of tightly closed dark green florets. Avoid stalks with yellow flowers. To store fresh broccoli, place it in an airtight bag in the refrigerator for a few days. Frozen broccoli is usually good for about 8 to 10 months. If you want to freeze your own broccoli, blanch it first and then store it in the freezer in an airtight container.

Healthy Ways to Prepare Broccoli
Broccoli can be eaten raw, as crudite or slaw, or can be prepared using a variety of cooking methods. Steam, saute, or roast broccoli to compliment your main meal or use stems to make soups.

To avoid brownish colored broccoli, try not to overcook it. Broccoli shouldn’t be too mushy. You can maintain a beautiful green hue by blanching your broccoli first—this will not only enhance the color of broccoli but will help to soften the stems.

Get a veggie dose in the morning by adding your broccoli to your egg dish or cook up your broccoli to use as a base or side dish for a low carbohydrate dinner.

For more information on Broccoli and the health benefits contact Lethia Lee at Sampson County Cooperative Extension. 910.592.7161. or