If you want the most health benefits from your diet, one of the best ways is to eat various fruits and vegetables, including broccoli. Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, a group of vegetables related to the cabbage family. Broccoli is low in calories but packed with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C, dietary fiber, and potassium. First, let’s look at why you’d want to eat it, and then explore creative ways to enjoy this tasty cruciferous veggie.
Broccoli is known for containing glucosinolates. When you eat broccoli, gut bacteria convert glucosinolates into sulforaphane, a compound with potential anti-cancer benefits. These compounds, at least in lab and animal studies, block the growth of some types of cancer cells. More than 50 clinical trials support the anti-cancer benefits of broccoli in animals. It’s an area that needs more research in humans and a challenging one since it’s hard to do reliable nutrition studies in humans. In addition, compounds in broccoli have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
Unfortunately, most people don’t get enough vegetables in their diet and that includes broccoli. Maybe that’s because they don’t know creative ways to eat this cruciferous veggie. Let’s look at some ways to enjoy broccoli.
When buying broccoli at the store, choose firm heads with open flower buds and green leaves. Stay away from heads with yellowing leaves or wilted flowers because they won’t taste as good. You can store broccoli in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to five days after bringing it home from the grocery store.
Avoid washing broccoli until just before using it, as moisture will cause it to spoil faster than if you leave it dry. Try to eat broccoli within the first few days of bringing it home for maximum nutrition. Broccoli loses up to 30% of its vitamin C if exposed to heat or light.
Ways to Prepare Broccoli
Once you’ve picked out broccoli and brought it home, you have lots of options for enjoying its nutritional benefits:
- Eat it raw – This is the best way to get all the nutrients in the vegetable. Eating broccoli raw preserves more vitamin C since you don’t expose it to heat.
- Steam it – Steaming keeps most of the vitamins and minerals intact and does not destroy any of the flavor or texture of the vegetable. So, it’s a healthy way to prepare your broccoli.
- Sautéed: Sautéing broccoli gives this crucifer a crisp texture and brings out more flavor. Add olive oil when sautéing broccoli for extra flavor.
- Grill it – Grilled broccoli tastes delicious, but make sure you line your grill pan with foil, so it doesn’t stick or burn. You can also wrap slices of turkey or parmesan cheese around broccoli stalks before grilling for extra flavor and protein.
- Roasted: Roasting broccoli makes the florets crispy while preserving their color and taste. You can roast any type of vegetable by placing it on a baking sheet, drizzling it with olive oil, and roasting it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until done (usually about 10 minutes).
- Blanched: Blanching involves boiling broccoli and then dropping it in cold water to preserve its bright green color. Blanching isn’t as healthy as steaming because it removes an enzyme called myrosinase that’s important for the anti-cancer benefits of the vegetables, but it does make broccoli more visually appealing.
There Are a Lot of Ways to Enjoy Broccoli
You’ll never run out of ideas for adding broccoli to a meal. Here are some to spark your imagination:
- Add raw florets to sandwiches, salads, and wraps
- Steam the florets and then add them to stir-fries or use them as a topping for pizza or pasta dishes.
- Bake chunks of broccoli in olive oil until they’re browned on top, then toss them with garlic salt before serving
- Add broccoli to quinoa or couscous for a side dish.
- Eat this cruciferous vegetable raw in salads or slaws (it tastes great with apples).
- Roast broccoli until soft and flavorful. Then toss it in a pan with pasta and cheese for an easy side dish or main course.
- Steam broccoli florets and add them to soups and stews along with quinoa or whole-wheat pasta for extra fiber and vitamins.
- Blend broccoli into a smoothie. Try adding broccoli florets or stems to your morning smoothie. The taste will be barely noticeable, but you’ll still get all the nutrients you need to start the day off right.
- Top a broccoli salad with nuts or seeds. Nuts and seeds add crunch and flavor, as well as healthy fats to a meal. They also pair nicely with broccoli by adding protein, fiber, and good fats.
- Sauté broccoli florets with garlic and olive oil for a delicious side dish or snack.
- Mix pureed broccoli into pasta sauce or pizza toppings for an easy way to sneak extra veggies into your diet!
- Chop up cooked chicken breast into small chunks and mix with some finely chopped broccoli florets, then stuff everything into tomato halves or roasted red pepper halves.
Try Broccoli’s Close Cousins
If you tire of broccoli, there are many varieties of this crucifer available to try. Did you know you can even buy purple broccoli at some grocery stores? The purple pigment comes from anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins. So, munching on purple broccoli gives your body an extra anti-inflammatory punch.
Broccolini is another type of broccoli that has stems longer than its florets (flower-like clusters). Broccoflower is yet another broccoli cousin with a bluish hue from its stem to its florets. The color typically fades when cooking, but it makes for vibrant salads.
Explore the World of Broccoli Sprouts
Broccoli sprouts are often touted as a superfood for their high concentration of sulforaphane and other beneficial compounds. But is it worth eating them over regular broccoli?
As mentioned, sulforaphane is a compound in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. It is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals that contribute to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Broccoli sprouts are particularly nutritious because they have 10 to 100 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli heads do. They also contain more glucoraphanin, which converts into sulforaphane when you chew it.
Broccoli sprouts also contain the most myrosinase, an enzyme that helps your body break down glucosinolates into sulforaphane, so you get maximal conversion and the most health benefits. You can buy broccoli sprouts at many supermarkets, but it’s easy to sprout your own at home too.
Broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate. Now you know why and can enjoy its health benefits every day.
- “Sulforaphane: Benefits, Side Effects, and Food Sources – Healthline.” 26 Feb. 2019, .healthline.com/nutrition/sulforaphane.
- Li Y, Zhang T, Korkaya H, Liu S, Lee HF, Newman B, Yu Y, Clouthier SG, Schwartz SJ, Wicha MS, Sun D. Sulforaphane, a dietary component of broccoli/broccoli sprouts, inhibits breast cancer stem cells. Clin Cancer Res. 2010 May 1;16(9):2580-90. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-09-2937. Epub 2010 Apr 13. PMID: 20388854; PMCID: PMC2862133.
- “Glucoraphanin, sulforaphane and myrosinase activity in germinating ….” 01 Jul. 2014, .sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464614001480.
- Yagishita Y, Fahey JW, Dinkova-Kostova AT, Kensler TW. Broccoli or Sulforaphane: Is It the Source or Dose That Matters? Molecules. 2019 Oct 6;24(19):3593. doi: 10.3390/molecules24193593. PMID: 31590459; PMCID: PMC6804255.