Health And Nutrition: Benefits Of Adding Broccoli To Your Diet

An overview of the nutritional benefits of broccoli.

Broccoli is not only a low calorie and healthy vegetable; it is a super-food. Loaded with nutrients, dark green broccoli is one of the healthiest foods a person can eat. This green cruciferous vegetable is earning top honors in studies of the health benefits of various foods. It may reduce the risks of colon cancer, cataracts and stroke according to recent research. It has also been shown to reduce bad cholesterol.

A member of the Brassica family, broccoli is related to cabbage, cauliflower, kale and Brussels sprouts. It grows in a cool climate and most of the broccoli harvested in the United States is grown in California. While broccoli is available year round, its peak season is from October through April. The best broccoli is intensely colored dark green with tightly closed buds and crisp stalks. Broccoli that is turning yellow or brown and is limp or soggy is too old and will have a strong, unpleasant flavor. Fresh broccoli contains the most nutrients, but frozen broccoli is a healthy alternative when fresh is not readily available.

Broccoli is a valuable source of calcium, containing as much of the mineral as a glass of milk. In addition, it has more vitamin C than an orange and is a great source of vitamin A. Both vitamins A and C are antioxidants that help to slow damage to our bodies as we age. Consumption of antioxidants can improve the immune system and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and infections. Broccoli also boasts protein, folic acid, iron, potassium and lutein. Some of the most remarkable things about broccoli are the cancer-fighting substances it contains. The chemicals in broccoli actually help the body to produce enzymes that prevent cancers. While both the stocks and florets of broccoli are nutrient-packed, there is much more vitamin A in the florets than in the stalks.

Consuming broccoli has been shown to help regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. A high fiber vegetable, broccoli offers multiple benefits to the digestive system.Broccoli is quite filling due to its fiber content, but it is one of the lowest calorie foods, weighing in at only 44 calories for a cooked cup of it. Raw broccoli has only 24 calories for a chopped cup.Broccoli sprouts, the less developed form of the vegetable appear to offer the same health benefits and may be more palatable to some people.

Broccoli is a versatile vegetable and can be served raw as a crudite or as part of a salad. Cooked, broccoli is often the star of stir-fry and is also excellent with plain butter or with more elaborate sauces. The classic broccoli with cheese sauce is an excellent source of calcium and broccoli adds a nutritional punch to soups, casseroles and many other dishes.

Boiling broccoli or cooking it with any method that immerses it in water while it cooks removes many of the valuable nutrients. Steaming broccoli does a far better job of preserving the healthy effects. Of course, eating it raw is always a great option.

© High Speed Ventures 2011