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Broccoli is a vibrant green vegetable that grows in clusters of tree-shaped pieces. Known to scientists as Brassica oleracea, broccoli is a close relative to cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Broccoli is a cold-weather crop grown globally and readily available in supermarkets all year. Broccoli can be deliciously enjoyed raw, in salads, roasted, steamed, juiced, and in various other ways. Best of all, including broccoli in your diet, is a wise choice because it’s loaded with many beneficial nutrients. Take a look at some of the best ways incorporating broccoli into your diet may benefit your health.
Important Note: Each of the health benefits of eating broccoli listed below is based on the most current scientific research at the time of this publication.
Loaded With Nutrients
One of the best reasons to include broccoli in your diet is that it’s chock full of necessary nutrients. For starters, broccoli contains high concentrations of fiber, protein, and potassium, weighing in at 2.4 grams, 2.6 grams, and 8% of the daily recommended intake respectively per serving. What’s more, broccoli contains high concentrations of vitamins C, A, and K, each meeting 135%, 11%, and 116% respectively of the daily recommended intake. Other notable nutrients include the minerals phosphorus and selenium. Lastly, a single serving of broccoli contains only 6 grams of carbohydrates, less than one gram of fat, and just 30 calories per one-cup serving.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Broccoli’s composition is rife with essential vitamins and minerals while maintaining a low-fat, low-calorie, high-protein profile.
Full of Powerful Antioxidants and Bioactive Compounds
Just as important as all the vitamins and minerals contained in broccoli are the antioxidants and bioactive compounds. To begin, the antioxidants in broccoli, like all antioxidants, work to fend off harmful free radicals which, if oxidized, could lead to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Significantly, broccoli contains high levels of glucoraphanin, a plant compound that’s converted to sulforaphane when digested. Scientific studies indicate that sulforaphane can regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Broccoli also contains significant levels of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which can prevent damage to the eyes.
In addition to the antioxidative properties of broccoli, this vegetable is loaded with useful bioactive compounds. These bioactive compounds, like antioxidants, can reduce inflammation. One important compound found in broccoli is kaempferol which has revealed its ability to reduce inflammation in both animal and laboratory studies. Furthermore, an interesting study of tobacco smokers concluded that regularly eating broccoli had an anti-inflammatory effect on the lungs of said smokers.
General Consensus: 3.5/5 and here is why. While several animal and laboratory studies yielded promising results concerning broccoli and anti-inflammation, more human studies are needed.
Protects Against Cancer
Another awesome benefit of eating broccoli is that it’s loaded with bioactive compounds that are scientifically connected to reducing your risk for certain cancer types. A number of small-scale studies have shown that vegetables such as broccoli, belonging to the cruciferous family, protect against cancers of the stomach, prostate, and bladder among others. Scientists believe that the antioxidative functions of broccoli’s plant and bioactive compounds are the link to its anticarcinogenic effects.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. Many small-scale, laboratory studies have drawn a potential link between broccoli and anticancer effects, however, more human studies are warranted.
May Help Control Blood Sugar
There’s evidence suggesting that eating a broccoli-rich diet may have positive effects on your blood sugar, especially if you live with diabetes. Although there’s some uncertainty as to which nutrient or compound contributes to this effect, it’s believed that the antioxidants in broccoli reduce insulin resistance in people with type-2 diabetes. One study showed that diabetic rats who consumed broccoli at regular intervals experienced lowered blood sugar as well as remediated pancreatic cell damage. Another reason for improved blood sugar management when eating broccoli is that it’s packed with fiber; soluble fiber is scientifically linked to enhanced diabetic control.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. A number of animal and laboratory studies conclude that the antioxidants in broccoli lead to better blood sugar control, however, more human studies are indicated.
Supports Heart Health
Interestingly, consuming a broccoli-rich diet may be a positive indicator in terms of heart health. Again, it’s believed that the antioxidants in broccoli are owed the credit for mediating heart health. For starters, high cholesterol levels are an indicator of cardiovascular disease; studies show that a powdered broccoli supplement can not only lower your bad cholesterol levels, but it can also elevate the good cholesterol levels thereby reducing the cholesterol risk factor associated with heart disease. While some research shows that broccoli intake can reduce your overall risk for heart attack, others show a protective effect on heart tissues following an episode of cardiac arrest. Finally, a fiber-rich diet is also associated with a reduced risk for heart disease; as has already been established, broccoli is an excellent source of fiber, further indicating this veggie is a heart-healthy option.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. A myriad of studies indicates that broccoli reduces some of the risks associated with heart disease as well as prevents tissue damage following heart episodes.
Good For Digestion
Including broccoli in your diet is a recommended way to improve digestion and gut health. Broccoli’s fiber-rich and antioxidant-heavy composition is the perfect duo for digestive health. Fiber and antioxidants both contribute to bowel regularity and a balance of good bacteria in the gut, both of which indicate optimal overall gut function. One study in mice revealed that a broccoli-rich diet improved colonic inflammation as well as improvements in gut health. Another telling study with human subjects concluded that those who ate a broccoli-rich diet experienced healthier bowel movements.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. Though cursory studies indicate a connection between digestion and broccoli intake, more human studies are necessary to conclude with certainty.
Supports Brain Health
Eating broccoli may have positive indicators in terms of brain health. Some research suggests that eating a broccoli-rich diet may slow the decline of age-related cognitive losses while supporting healthy brain function regardless of age. One study of older adults revealed that a diet rich in green vegetables such as broccoli reduced age-related mental decline. Another study looked at the kaempferol content in broccoli and discovered it may reduce brain injury and inflammation after a stroke or heart attack. Furthermore, another study suggests that the bioactive compound sulforaphane may support brain health following oxygen loss. Yet another study treated mice with sulforaphane following a traumatic brain injury; the findings suggest that his compound may help in brain tissue recovery as well as reduced neural inflammation.
General Consensus: 3/5 and here is why. While all of the current evidence suggests eating broccoli may have positive effects on brain health, much of the research conducted thus far has been on animal subjects; human research is needed to fully support this claim.
Broccoli’s high vitamin C content is uber supportive of a healthy immune system. In fact, as one of the most important nutrients to immunity, up to 200 mg of vitamin C is recommended each day. Although citrus fruits are typically the most common source of vitamin C in one’s diet, broccoli doesn’t get enough credit. A single one-cup serving of broccoli contains a surprising 84% of the daily recommended value. Vitamin C in your diet helps your immune system to work optimally, causing it to easily fend off harmful infections.
General Consensus: 5/5 and here is why. Though a surprising source of vitamin C, broccoli is rife with this nutrient that’s essential to immunity.
Supports Bone and Joint Health
Notably, broccoli is packed with many nutrients relevant to bone and joint health. For starters, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K and calcium, both of which contribute to bone and joint health. What’s more, broccoli is also a remarkable source of phosphorus and zinc as well as vitamins A and C, all of which are necessary to bone health. Lastly, a lone test-tube study suggests that broccoli’s sulforaphane content is beneficial to bone and joint health, although, more research is needed in this department.
General Consensus: 4/5 and here is why. Broccoli’s nutrient content is overwhelmingly good for bone and joint health, although human research is needed concerning sulforaphane’s role in bone health.
Unlikely Benefits: Further Research Needed
Could Be Good for Dental and Oral Health
General Consensus: 2.5/5 and here is why. Though broccoli is a good source of vitamin C and calcium, both of which are concerned with dental and oral health, there simply aren’t many studies examining the effect of broccoli on this subject.
May Protect Skin from Sun Damage
General Consensus: 2/5 and here is why. Scientists suggest that the bioactive compounds in broccoli may provide protection against UV damage, however, current research only involves animals; human research is necessary to draw this conclusion with confidence.