Your parents knew what was up when they told you to eat your broccoli. This verdant vegetable is a powerhouse of nutrients. It’s reputed to benefit digestion, the cardiovascular system and the immune system, and to have anti-inflammatory and even cancer-preventing properties. Plus, broccoli is low in sodium and calories, at about 31 calories per serving. It’s also a fat-free vegetable.
Broccoli has an impressive nutritional profile. It is “high in fiber, very high in vitamin C and has potassium, B6 and vitamin A,” raved Victoria Jarzabkowski, a nutritionist with the Fitness Institute of Texas at the University of Texas at Austin. Below there are given health benefits of broccoli:
Probably the most publicized health benefit of broccoli is its possible ability to help prevent cancer. “Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and all vegetables in this group may be protective against some stomach and intestinal cancers,” Jarzabkowski said.
According to Jarzabkowski, broccoli can help lower cholesterol because the soluble fiber in the vegetable binds with the cholesterol in the blood. This binding makes the cholesterol easier to excrete, and consequently lessens cholesterol levels in the body.
Phytocheimcals glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin and glucobrassicin compose a terrific trio in broccoli. Together, they aid all steps of the body’s detoxification process, from activation to neutralization and elimination of contaminants.
In addition to reducing cholesterol, broccoli can aid in heart health by helping to keep blood vessels strong. The sulforaphane in broccoli is also an anti-inflammatory and may be able to prevent or reverse damage to blood vessel linings caused by chronic blood sugar problems. And the vegetable’s B-complex vitamins can help regulate or reduce excessive homocysteine, according to the Harvard University School of Public Health. Excess homocysteine, an amino acid that builds up after a person eats red meat, increases the risk of coronary artery disease.
“You’ve probably heard that carrots are good for your eyes, and that’s because they contain lutein,” Jarzabkowski said. “It’s a compound antioxidant that’s really good for eye health, and broccoli is also a great way to get it.” Another antioxidant in broccoli called zeaxanthin is similarly beneficial. Both chemicals may help protect against macular degeneration, an incurable condition that blurs central vision, and cataracts, a clouding of the eye’s lens.
Jarzabkowski emphasized broccoli’s digestive benefits, which she chalked up mostly to the vegetable’s high fiber content. Broccoli has nearly 1 gram of fiber per 10 calories. Fiber helps keep you regular and helps maintain healthy bacteria levels in the intestines.
Broccoli also aids in digestion by helping to keep your stomach lining healthy. The sulforaphane in broccoli helps keep the stomach bacteria Helicobacter pylori from becoming overgrown or clinging too strongly to the stomach wall. A 2009 Johns Hopkins study on mice found that broccoli sprouts are especially good at helping in this way. Mice that were fed broccoli sprouts daily for two months reduced the levels of H. pylori in their stools by more than 40 percent.
Broccoli is a great anti-inflammatory and may slow down the damage to joints associated with osteoarthritis. A 2013 study at the University of East Anglia found that broccoli’s sulforaphane may help people suffering from arthritis because this chemical “blocks the enzymes that cause joint destruction by stopping a key molecule known to cause inflammation.”
Broccoli’s isothiocyanates and omega-3 fatty acids also help to regulate inflammation. Furthermore, a 2010 study published in the journal Inflammation Researcher suggested that the flavonoid kaempferol lessens the impact of allergens, especially in the intestinal tract, which can reduce chronic inflammation.