Health Benefits of Broccoli

Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on November 14, 2011
Thinkstock When your mom always pestered you about eating your broccoli, you should have listened. Broccoli is one of the healthiest veggies out there. Not only is the cruciferous vegetable a great source of dietary fiber, it is loaded with a bevy of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, K, calcium, beta-carotene and other antioxidants (notably indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane). Can't stomach raw broccoli? No worries—you can still reap the benefits from steamed or, even better, roasted broccoli.

Often called "little trees" by children, broccoli is more than a crunchy treat offered as part of a veggie platter. Broccoli is a nutrient-dense vegetable that can be enjoyed raw or cooked. It's found year-round easily at most grocery stores and is a common offering at farmers' markets. Adding broccoli to your diet is a great way to give your body several much-needed vitamins and minerals.

Packing a nutrient punch. One cup of raw broccoli florets has only twenty calories, so adding it to your plate will not tip the scales. The vegetable contains folate, a B-vitamin that helps to produce and maintain cells, and vitamin C to boost your immune system. It also boasts 2 grams of protein, as well as calcium, potassium and more than 2,000 IU (international units) of vitamin A. Your body needs vitamin A to help maintain healthy skin and a healthy immune system.

Raw or cooked. Does eating broccoli raw versus cooked provide better nutrition? Researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University state that cooking broccoli until it's soft and mushy will deteriorate its healthful value. To get the most benefits from broccoli's nutrients, eat it raw. However, if you cook it slightly (so it keeps its crunch) for about two to three minutes, it will maintain most of its beneficial nutrients.

Types of broccoli. Broccoli is part of the cabbage family. Its four types include heading, raab, Romanesco and sprouting, including the purple variety. The most common is heading, the type that can easily be found in most supermarkets. According to the University of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, broccoli raab, also known as turnip broccoli, is not a true broccoli. It's technically a turnip grown for its flowered head.

Choosing and storing broccoli. Look for broccoli that has a vibrant green color, free of brown discolorations or any yellowing. The broccoli leaves should not be wilted. Look for stems that are thinner, not fat and riddled with brown or black spots. Store broccoli in the refrigerator, unwashed in a plastic bag. Wash it when you use it. If you cut up broccoli pieces to keep in the refrigerator as munchies, store them in a container that seals tightly. The washed and cut pieces should last for about three to four days before getting wilted and soft. Add them to soup or a casserole to avoid waste.