Why is broccoli a superfood?



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@emmatalkshealth
@EmmaThornton
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30 June 2021

Why is broccoli a superfood?

Broccoli is considered a superfood due to its numerous health benefits. Rich in fibre, it supports digestion and weight balance, while nutrients including vitamin C and calcium help support everything from your immune system to your bones. Plus, its antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage to cells, including those in your skin or cardiovascular system.

What are the benefits of broccoli?

Broccoli has been labelled a 'superfood' as a result of a number of health benefits it is able to exert, such as:

1. It’s high in calcium

Broccoli, together with dairy and other green veg, is a lovely source of calcium. As most of us know, calcium is associated with healthy bones. However, what makes broccoli especially beneficial is the other nutrients it contains alongside calcium.

Magnesium, for one, is also essential for maintaining bone health and isn't always found in all fresh foods, such as dairy. Research has shown that magnesium helps to direct calcium to where it needs to be (in your bones and teeth rather than freely circulating) and, as a result, a good intake can help to maintain your bone mineral density and protect you against conditions such as osteoporosis. (1) Broccoli is also high in vitamin K, another nutrient we need enough of to support healthy bones as we age.

As well as micronutrients, broccoli also has a favourable content of macronutrients. The carbohydrate and fibre content are added perks, as I'll go on to explain, but actually the protein content is also quite impressive, with a typical portion contributing towards 5% of your recommended daily amount. Hence why this vibrant veg is often a popular choice for gym goers!

2. It's good for digestion

Broccoli is a great source of fibre, with one portion contributing up to 10% of the recommended daily amount. Fibre not only helps to keep your digestion moving along and therefore helps protect against constipation, but it may also have a whole host of other under-appreciated benefits such as supporting healthy cholesterol levels or helping to keep us fuller for longer which, in turn, can help to support a healthy body weight.

Beyond the fibre, some of the other unique phytonutrients that broccoli contains, such as sulfurophane, may also be especially beneficial for some of our other key digestive organs such as the liver. The liver is constantly working hard to naturally detoxify, clear out excess toxins and recycle unwanted extras such as hormones.

3. It's an immune helper

An added bonus of broccoli is that it contains many of the key nutrients your immune system needs to work effectively, such as vitamin C.

See, vitamin C isn't just found in your typical citrus fruit options, but you should think green veggies too. Also, the more fresh foods that you eat, such as cruciferous veg, the less room you'll have left for some more stimulating food and drink options which aren't quite so kind to the immune system, such as refined sugar which is pro-inflammatory, poor quality fats, caffeinated food and drink options or alcohol.

4. It's anti-inflammatory

The unique combination of nutrients, plus the plant-specific phytonutrients of, broccoli make it particularly potent anti-inflammatory option. Amongst the anti-inflammatory offerings are anti-oxidants.

These little beauties help to protect our cells from oxidative stress or damage by free radicals. Whilst most of our bodily cells can come under fire, some areas that are particularly vulnerable to this sort of destruction can include our skin or our cardiovascular system, which is why it is often cited that broccoli may have some particular benefits in these areas. (2)(3)

Many disease states are pro-inflammatory, including the ever-increasing type II diabetes. The combination of insulin-friendly nutrients such as magnesium, plus the complex carbohydrate and fibre content that they contain, make options like broccoli a top pick if you're keen to be a little gentler on your blood sugar levels. (4)

5. It can be cooked in a variety of ways

As with many food ingredients, I often like to think a little outside the box when it comes to cooking. However, I also want to cooking in general more accessible and, most importantly, appealing to more people!
Food certainly shouldn't be boring so if you can mix up how you cook your food, plus try combining different cooking techniques and complimentary ingredients in order to change the look and feel of the dish, then for me it's a win-win situation!

Next, the fresher the better when it comes to vegetables or we could risk losing some of the goodness they contain. This is especially so when it comes to water-soluble nutrients such as the B vitamins or vitamin C which are most likely to oxidise first. So, your best bet is to select vegetables which are still feeling firm to touch and looking nice and vibrant in their colour.

Next, regardless of the chosen cooking technique, try not to overcook your vegetables. Again, this helps to retain the maximum quantity of nutrients. Steaming is a particularly gentle method or for something a bit more exciting, try flash frying in a wok as I demonstrate nicely in my latest recipe: Sesame and Kelpamare Wok-Fried Broccoli.

It's not only delicious but the crunchy al dente texture is a welcome bonus for me, enjoy!

Creamy cauliflower and broccoli soup

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