Broccoli is a green vegetable that vaguely resembles a miniature tree. It belongs to the plant species known as Brassica oleracea.
It’s closely related to cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and cauliflower — all edible plants collectively referred to as cruciferous vegetables.
There are three main varieties of broccoli:
Purple cauliflower — despite its name a type of broccoli
Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.
Here are the top 14 health benefits of broccoli.
1. Packed With Vitamins, Minerals and Bioactive Compounds
One of broccoli’s biggest advantages is its nutrient content. It’s loaded with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, fiber and other bioactive compounds.
One cup (91 grams) of raw broccoli packs (1):
Carbs: 6 grams
Protein: 2.6 gram
Fat: 0.3 grams
Fiber: 2.4 grams
Vitamin C: 135% of the RDI
Vitamin A: 11% of the RDI
Vitamin K: 116% of the RDI
Vitamin B9 (Folate): 14% of the RDI
Potassium: 8% of the RDI
Phosphorus: 6% of the RDI
Selenium: 3% of the RDI
Broccoli can be eaten cooked or raw — both are perfectly healthy but provide different nutrient profiles.
Different cooking methods, such as boiling, microwaving, stir-frying and steaming, alter the vegetable’s nutrient composition, particularly reducing vitamin C, as well as soluble protein and sugar. Steaming appears to have the fewest negative effects (2).
Still, raw or cooked, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C. Just half a cup (78 grams) of cooked broccoli provides 84% of the reference daily intake (RDI) — more than one-half orange can offer (3, 4).
Broccoli is a rich source of multiple vitamins, minerals and fiber. Different cooking methods may affect the vegetable’s nutrient composition, but broccoli is a healthy addition to your diet whether cooked or raw.
2. Contains Potent Antioxidants That Offer Health-Protective Effects
The antioxidant content of broccoli may be one of its main boons for human health (5).
Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit or neutralize cell damage caused by free radicals. This can lead to reduced inflammation and an overall health-protective effect.
Broccoli has high levels of glucoraphanin, a compound that is converted into a potent antioxidant called sulforaphane during digestion (6).
Test-tube and animal studies indicate that sulforaphane may offer multiple health benefits, including reduced blood sugar, cholesterol levels, oxidative stress and chronic disease development. However, more research is needed to understand its role in humans (7).
Broccoli also contains measurable amounts of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which may prevent oxidative stress and cellular damage in your eyes (8).