Super foods, the ultimate health foods – the benefits of Broccoli

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Thursday, 26 February 2009.
Tagged: high fibre, super foods, vegetables, weight loss

Super foods, the ultimate health foods – the benefits of Broccoli

Kids might wrinkle their noses at it, but broccoli is one of the must-eat powerhouse vegetables. If you're busy and want dinner in a hurry, pick broccoli as your green veg. It's breeze to steam or cook without any water in the microwave. It's related to cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, all vegetables with a solid reputation in nutrition circles.

A nutritional powerhouse

Broccoli is one of nature's best super foods and provides over twice your daily requirement of vitamin C from an average serve. Plus it's top of the list for beta-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A), folate, vitamin E plus several B vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium. All this for very few kilojoules (calories)!

Reduced risk of cancer

People who eat large helpings of broccoli and its cruciferous cousins cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts show a reduced risk of several cancers, especially cancer of the colon. The active ingredients are sulphur compounds known as indoles and isothiocycantes, which seem to ‘switch on' cancer-fighting enzymes and block potentially dangerous carcinogens in the food we ingest. The sulphorophane in broccoli is the best known of these, but they're in all members of the cruciferous family.

Fibre for bowel health

Broccoli is also high in fibre, another dietary factor that keeps the bowel healthy (and has given the cruciferous family their reputation as "windy" vegetables). This soluble fibre also makes them bulky and filling - good for appetite control - and can lower blood cholesterol.

Protecting the vitamin C in broccoli

Boiling broccoli reduces its vitamin C content by about half so it's worth taking steps to minimise this loss - use as little water as possible (you can microwave the florets without any water at all), bring the water to the boil before you add the fresh broccoli, cook until just tender when you pierce the stalk with a sharp knife, and don't hold it warm for too long once cooked.

What's in broccoli?

Half a cup of cooked broccoli (around 50g) contains a mere 170kJ, virtually no fat or carbohydrate yet a generous 4g of fibre. One serve will also provide more than twice your daily needs for vitamin C, a good dose of the B vitamin folate, potassium and beta-carotene (converted to vitamin A in the body), as well as small amounts of iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin E and K.

Nutrition stats

Per serve:

Half a cup of boiled broccoli (weighing 50g) supplies: 2g protein, trace of fat, trace of sugars, trace of starch, 2g dietary fibre and 70 kilojoules (17 calories).

Per 100g cooked:

5 per cent protein, no fat, trace of sugars, trace of starch, 4 per cent dietary fibre and 140 kilojoules (33 calories).

Easy ways to enjoy more broccoli

  • Blanch and chill florets to serve with your favourite dip or salsa
  • Steam, boil or microwave and serve as a side dish topped with toasted flaked almonds or toss through with sesame oil, lime juice and lime zest
  • Add raw florets to salads for extra crunch
  • Cook with stock, garlic and onion, then puree to make a delicious soup. Serve with a dollop of thick yoghurt and a grind of black pepper.