The health benefits of broccoli

Discover what makes broccoli so healthy, from fibre to vitamins and minerals. We share the most nutritious ways to cook it in healthy broccoli recipes.

Florets of broccoli in a bowl on a wooden table

What is broccoli?

Broccoli is a branched, green vegetable with either purple or more commonly green flower buds. It belongs to the cruciferous family, along with cauliflower, cabbage and kale and it can be eaten raw or cooked, with just 80g (about 2 spears) counting as one of your five-a-day.

Take a look at our printable infographic to discover what counts as 5-a-day.

Nutritional benefits of broccoli

There have been many health claims over the years about broccoli and whether it could be labelled a 'superfood' or not, but its nutrient-rich profile does offer some real health benefits.

Broccoli is a good source of fibre and protein, and contains iron, potassium, calcium, selenium and magnesium as well as the vitamins A, C, E, K and a good array of B vitamins including folic acid.

Discover more about why we need fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Is broccoli good for heart health?

A study by Nutrition Research found that consuming steamed broccoli regularly lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing the total amount of cholesterol in the body. Another study in the US also found that increasing vegetables in the diet, especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, could reduce the risk of heart disease.

Discover what to eat for a healthy heart.

Can broccoli help build strong bones?

Vitamin K is an essential nutrient that is needed for blood clotting, and may play an important role in keeping our bones healthy and strong. Whilst more research is needed, there has been consistent evidence that vitamin K can improve bone health in general as well as increasing bone mineral density and reducing fracture rates in those with osteoporosis.

Adults need 1 mcg of vitamin K per kilogram of body weight, which means a 75kg adult would need 75mcg of vitamin K a day. Just 100g steamed broccoli provides 145mcg of vitamin K, so this nutrient can be easily achieved through diet alone.

Read more about osteoporosis and how diet affects bone density.

Please note, if you are taking blood thinners such as warfarin, you need to be mindful of your vitamin K consumption as it may interact with the medication, so check with your GP before making any dietary changes.

A plate filled with healthy wholewheat pasta, broccoli, boiled eggs and sunflower seeds

Is broccoli good for eye health?

Broccoli contains certain carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin that, in studies in 2006 and 2003, were linked to a decreased risk of age-related eye disorders, such as cataract and macular degeneration. Night blindness is also associated with a deficiency of vitamin A.  Broccoli contains beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A. Around 100g of broccoli will provide 100mcg of vitamin A, which is 14% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for men, and around 17% of the RDA for women.

Can broccoli help prevent cancer?

While there are no single 'superfoods' that can prevent cancer and certain risk factors for cancer are unrelated to diet, there is evidence that eating a healthy diet can reduce the risk of cancer. A key component of broccoli is a phytochemical known as sulforaphane, which also gives broccoli a slight bitter taste. Studies have shown that sulforaphane may play a part in enhancing detoxification of airborne toxins, such as cigarette smoke, and could help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Further research has suggested that broccoli may have anti-cancer properties and could reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Broccoli sprouts are, in fact, a more concentrated source of these cancer-fighting compounds. These can easily be sprouted from seed on your windowsill, just like growing cress.

Is broccoli best eaten raw or cooked?

A 2008 report by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that boiling and steaming was best for preserving broccoli’s antioxidant status, but that cooking can destroy vitamin C. Another piece of research, however, demonstrated that raw broccoli was best when it comes to preserving the levels of sulforaphane. In short, whether you eat broccoli raw or cooked, it is a valuable addition to a balanced diet.

Healthy broccoli recipes

Steak & broccoli protein pots
Sesame salmon, purple sprouting broccoli & sweet potato mash
Poached eggs with broccoli, tomatoes & wholemeal flatbread
Wholewheat pasta with broccoli & almonds
Stir-fried chicken with broccoli & brown rice

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This article was published on 9th October 2017.

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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