Broccoli’s Health Benefits

January 11, 2017
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.

Eat these tiny little trees of health

When Italian horticulturalists developed broccoli from cabbage, they probably didn’t realize what a powerful treat they were creating. I think of broccoli as a multi-purpose vegetable, because it improves your health in so many areas. From fighting cancer, to improving eyesight, to helping your heart, to detoxing your body, broccoli does it all. Today, let’s take a closer look at one of my favorite vegetables.

Clean Out Your Cholesterol

Broccoli is very high in soluble fiber.

Soluble fiber is one of the most important nutrients you can eat. It aids digestion, by helping the gut process food. It also feeds the beneficial bacteria that live in the microbiome in your gut.

But broccoli is so high in soluble fiber, it performs another trick. That fiber can actually bind to cholesterol in your gut, before it can be absorbed into your blood, helping your body keep levels low. Forget about expensive cholesterol drugs—even yourself out with a hearty helping of broccoli!

Strengthen Your Heart

Broccoli is high in sulforaphane, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. Sulforaphane has been shown to reduce and reverse damage done to your blood vessel linings. The damage is often caused by inflammation from eating excess sugar—broccoli cleans that right up.

Broccoli is also high in B vitamins, which counteract homocysteine. Red meat is high in homocysteine, and it’s the amino acid most linked to inflammation and coronary heart disease. The B vitamins in broccoli help to keep your homocysteine levels low, and your heart healthy.

See Better With The Green Stalk

Broccoli is high in lutein—a nutrient well studied for improving eye health. It also contains zeaxanthin, another antioxidant that is great for your eyes.

Lutein and zeaxanthin have both been shown to prevent cataracts and fight macular degeneration. If you want to keep your eyes 20/20 or close to it, it’s hard to find a better food than broccoli.

The Cancer-Fighting Green

All cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are chock-full of antioxidants, which bind to free radicals and help prevent cell damage associated with cancer.

But, again, broccoli goes one step further.

Broccoli is full of isothiocyanates, chemicals that act as antioxidants themselves, but also boost detoxifying enzymes.

Broccoli has been shown to reduce stomach and intestinal cancers. And it’s even been shown to lower estrogen levels, which may help prevent breast cancer.

Get Those Toxins Out Of Here

Beyond acting as a powerful antioxidant, broccoli helps your body deal with other contaminants as well.

It’s all thanks to a trio of phytochemicals—glucoraphanin, gluconasturtin, and glucobrassicin. These three phytochemicals bond to all manner of contaminants, and help the body recognize them, contain them, and eliminate them. The sprouts of broccoli are especially full of these beneficial compounds, so make sure you don’t skimp on the good stuff.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Fighting Arthritis

The anti-inflammatory nutrients in broccoli like sulforaphane and omega-3 fatty acids—the same you find in fish oil—can perform miracles for your joints.

A diet high in broccoli is one of the best ways to naturally fight osteoarthritis. Not to mention all the other health benefits you get when you tamp down on inflammation, like the aforementioned heart health and anti-cancer action.

More Vitamins Than You’ve Ever Imagined

Did you know that broccoli is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C? Or that it’s high in Vitamin K and calcium, both great for bone health? Or that broccoli is surprisingly rich in protein?

In fact, a serving of broccoli has as much protein as a cup of rice, with far fewer calories.

The truth is, broccoli is so well-balanced, and so full of nutrients, you could get along pretty well eating nothing but these green stalks. There aren’t many foods you can say that about.

Make Sure You Eat It Right

How you prepare broccoli can greatly affect how health it is.

For instance, if you boil broccoli to cook it, you leach out nearly all the nutrients that make it so great.

But if you eat too much of it raw, you’re likely to irritate your digestive system.

Steaming broccoli is a great way to eat it—keeping almost all nutrients intact, but making it much easier on your stomach.

A quick five-minute trip to the pan for a stir-fry also helps maintain the nutritional value, while making it very palatable.

Just be sure not to undo the good of broccoli with poor accompaniments. Drowned in cheese, for instance, you’re taking in more cholesterol than broccoli can eliminate.

Served with a dash of soy sauce, or some olive oil and vinegar in a salad, your broccoli will taste great, and you won’t be piling unhealthy foods with this nutritional one.

This green veggie is so full of healthy nutrients—and damaging chemicals are so absent—that you can’t have too much of the stuff.

There’s a reason I try to have multiple servings of broccoli every week. You should do the same.

References

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