When I was a kid, I couldn’t say broccoli. But I could say “bop a bee.” I wasn’t a fan of the little green trees at first, but over the years I've learned to love this vegetable.
After all, what’s not to love? It’s naturally nutritious, fairly inexpensive, and fun to dress up. Keep reading to learn more about this affordable, stalky favorite.
Broccoli seems to have been bred from cabbage in the Mediterranean, specifically in Italy. The word "broccoli" means “the flowering bud of a cabbage.” Broccoli is actually fairly new to the US -- did you know that it's only been growing here since 1925?
Italy and Asia grow and consume quite a bit of broccoli. In the US, broccoli is available year-round and is grown primarily in California as well as Arizona, Texas, and Oregon. 1
Broccolini, often dubbed “baby broccoli” is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. It was first cultivated in 1993 in Japan and is now grown in California, Arizona, and Mexico. 1
A cup of raw broccoli provides 55 calories and is a source of vitamin K and fiber. In addition, broccoli is a source of folate.
While most people go for just the broccoli florets, don’t toss those woody stems! They can be cut into rounds and cooked, or shredded and made into broccoli slaw. They're good sources of fiber and can be surprisingly sweet.
Like other vegetables in the cabbage family, broccoli is a great source of vitamin C and beta-carotene. The cancer-fighting phytochemicals in broccoli are more bioavailable when broccoli is lightly cooked, such as in a microwave (for 3 to 4 minutes) or steamed. 2
When it comes to your health, you really can’t go wrong with broccoli. As part of the cabbage family, it’s a source of the isothiocyanate sulforaphane, which has been found to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. In addition, a review of studies suggested that along with other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli may aid in the prevention of MS, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.3
Broccoli intake may also help reduce the damaging effects of liver disease. In rodent studies, 2-week consumption of a diet with 10% broccoli has been found to alter 25 different metabolites in the blood, including glutathione, which is linked with health promotion and disease prevention. These metabolites reflect changes in gut bacteria and liver health. More studies are needed on humans, but the initial findings from these rodent studies are promising. 4
One other bonus of broccoli intake is its impact on blood sugar. A small study indicates that broccoli consumption may improve insulin resistance in men with type 2 diabetes. Subjects that consumed broccoli for 12 weeks while doing aerobic exercise had more improvements in beta-cell function than those that consumed a placebo. 5
How to Enjoy Broccoli
There are plenty of ways to enjoy this versatile vegetable. Next time, try to...
- Steam broccoli in a microwave for 3 to 5 minutes and season with a touch of pesto.
- Brush broccoli florets and rounds with olive oil and roast them with garlic and lemon juice.
- Chop broccoli into very fine pieces and make it into a slaw with poppy seed dressing, almond slivers, and dried cherries.
- Grill broccoli along with peppers, onions, and zucchini
- Add broccoli to your favorite stir fry with green beans, bell peppers, and mushrooms.
- Try broccoli in a quiche or omelet.
- Add chopped broccoli to pasta, rice, or other grain dishes.
- Enjoy raw broccoli with your favorite hummus or yogurt dip.
By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Handout: 8 Fun Ways to Prepare Broccoli
More from the Affordable Nutritious Series
- Broccoli | Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (agmrc.org)
- Lu Y, Pang X, Yang T. Microwave cooking increases sulforaphane level in broccoli. Food Sci Nutr. 2020 Mar 5;8(4):2052-2058. doi: 10.1002/fsn3.1493. PMID: 32328271; PMCID: PMC7174218.
- Schepici G, Bramanti P, Mazzon E. Efficacy of Sulforaphane in Neurodegenerative Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Nov 16;21(22):8637. doi: 10.3390/ijms21228637. PMID: 33207780; PMCID: PMC7698208.
- Eve AA, Liu X, Wang Y, Miller MJ, Jeffery EH, Madak-Erdogan Z. Biomarkers of Broccoli Consumption: Implications for Glutathione Metabolism and Liver Health. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 20;12(9):2514. doi: 10.3390/nu12092514. PMID: 32825248; PMCID: PMC7551379.
- Saeidi A, Soltani M, Daraei A, Nohbaradar H, Haghighi MM, Khosravi N, Johnson KE, Laher I, Hackney AC, VanDusseldorp TA, Zouhal H. The Effects of Aerobic-Resistance Training and Broccoli Supplementation on Plasma Dectin-1 and Insulin Resistance in Males with Type 2 Diabetes. Nutrients. 2021 Sep 9;13(9):3144. doi: 10.3390/nu13093144. PMID: 34579020; PMCID: PMC8471572.
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/