Broccoli is a green vegetable that has a shape reminiscent of a small tree. It belongs to the same family of vegetables as cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and other similar plants. It is available in several types and colors, and on the market, usually the most common is the broccoli of the Calabria type.
Broccoli can be said to belong to the group of “super vegetables” because it is rich in both micro and macronutrients. Contains many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
Why should we eat broccoli more often? In this article, we will list the most important beneficial effects of this vegetable.
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Rich source of vitamins, minerals, and bioactive components
One of the biggest advantages of broccoli over other vegetables is its nutritional composition. It is composed of a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and bioactive components:
Macronutrients in 91g fresh broccoli:
- Carbohydrates 6g
- Protein 2.6g
- Fat 0.3g
Micronutrients in the same amount:
- Vitamin C 135% of the Daily Recommended Intake
- Vitamin A 11% of DRI
- Vitamin K 116% of DRI
- Vitamin B9 14% of DRI
- Potassium 8% of DRI
- Phosphorus 6% of DRI
- Selenium 3 % of DRI and also contains 2.4g of fiber
Broccoli can be eaten fresh or processed. Both methods of preparation are healthy but provide different nutritional profiles. Different ways of processing broccoli, such as cooking, frying, steaming, microwave cooking, change the composition of nutrients. This in particular reduces the content of vitamin C as well as water-soluble proteins. The same goes for sugars. In any case, fresh or cooked broccoli is a rich source of vitamin C. In just 80g cooked broccoli has 84% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, which is equal to the amount of vitamin C contained in half a large orange.
Broccoli contains powerful antioxidants that have a positive effect on health
The antioxidant composition of broccoli is one of the greatest benefits that broccoli can offer.
Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit or neutralize the damage done by free radicals to the cell. This action leads to a reduction of inflammatory processes and thus to the protection of overall health.
Broccoli is rich in glucoraphanin, a substance that is converted during digestion into a powerful antioxidant called sulforaphane. Several studies indicate that this component can offer a wide range of beneficial effects on health. Among the most important are: lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels, oxidative stress, and reducing the risk of developing various chronic diseases.
Broccoli also contains the powerful antioxidants zeaxanthin and lutein, which can prevent oxidative stress and cell damage in the structure of the eyes.
The bioactive components contained in broccoli can help reduce the level of inflammation in the body
According to laboratory studies (mainly in animals) the high content of bioactive components in broccoli, such as various flavonoids, can lead to reduced inflammation in the body. To confirm the effect of these components of broccoli, more research is needed that will be conducted on humans.
Broccoli can help protect against some cancers
Several studies suggest that most plants in this family, including broccoli, may help prevent some cancers (breast, prostate, stomach, colon, bladder). Although the data obtained from these studies are encouraging, work still needs to be done to investigate some of the components that are thought to be responsible for this preventive effect of broccoli.
Fiber and antioxidants rich in broccoli can help lower blood sugar levels
Although the exact mechanism by which broccoli lowers blood glucose levels is not known, research on the subject suggests that the main reason for this effect is its antioxidant composition. Of course, not so low fiber content also contributes to this effect. Fiber is known to slow down digestion and nourish the beneficial intestinal microflora. Thus, foods rich in fiber provide a gradual absorption of glucose into the blood.
A study done on mice came up with some very interesting data. Namely, mice with diabetes, which were fed with broccoli extract had reduced damage to pancreatic cells.
The rich composition of antioxidants and fiber that broccoli has also supported healthy digestion, as well as intestinal perilostatics. This is provided by nourishing the beneficial intestinal microflora, which is proving to be increasingly important for overall human health.
Broccoli supports brain function
Some of the nutrients and bioactive components of broccoli can support the proper functioning of the brain as well as nerve cells.
A study of 960 older respondents found that one meal a day containing broccoli could, in the long run, help reduce the risk of cognitive decline in aging.
Sulforaphane, mentioned earlier, may help support brain function following an event that results in reduced oxygenation of brain tissue (lower oxygen supply).
Can support the slowing down of the aging process
The aging process is strongly associated with oxidative stress and decreased metabolic function over time.
Aging is an inevitable natural process, and the quality of nutrition is considered one of the key factors in determining genetic expression (activation) and the development of diseases associated with this process.
A study on this topic shows that sulforaphane, the main bioactive component of broccoli, has the capacity to slow down the biochemical aging process by reducing the expression (activation) of antioxidant genes. However, to confirm these data, much more studies on the same topic are needed.
Vitamin C supports the proper functioning of the immune system
The human immune system is a complex system that needs more nutrients to function properly.
Vitamin C is one of the most important micronutrients for immunity. In broccoli, vitamin C is found in high concentrations.
Broccoli can also help maintain dental and oral health
Broccoli contains a lot of different components, including components that can help maintain a healthy oral cavity.
In addition to vitamin C, broccoli also contains a certain amount of calcium. These two nutrients are important in reducing the risk of periodontitis. Flavonoids can also help in the process of protection against periodontitis.
Broccoli protects the health of bones and joints
Broccoli is a good source of vitamin K and calcium. These are two components that play a key role in maintaining good bone health.
They also contain phosphorus, zinc, and vitamin A, which are also very important for bones.
The nutritional composition of broccoli can help maintain the health of pregnant women
The body of pregnant women has more specific requirements. It needs a range of vitamins, minerals, proteins, all to maintain the health not only of the mother but also of the baby.
Folic acid or vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient for the development of the fetus’s brain and spine. Broccoli is especially rich in this micronutrient. Regular consumption of foods rich in folic acids, such as broccoli, can reduce the risk of some pregnancy problems.
Broccoli can help protect the skin from the sun’s rays
Skin cancer is on the rise, among other things due to the increasingly damaged ozone layer which protects us from overexposure to harmful ultraviolet rays.
Some smaller studies show that consuming broccoli can protect us from the ultraviolet radiation that leads to melanoma. The mechanism by which this action is possible, ie how the action of the bioactive components of broccoli is realized, is still unknown and more research is needed in that direction.
Broccoli belongs to the group of “super vegetables” due to the range of micro and macronutrients that it contains in large quantities. Through them, it provides, as we have seen, numerous health benefits, such as: lowering blood sugar levels, reducing inflammation in the body, supporting the immune system, and good heart health.
But it is very important to remember that good health can not be due to and maintained with a single food. Broccoli should be just one healthy component, certainly part of what is meant by a healthy and balanced diet. Only in that way can we ensure healthy life of higher quality.