Growing up there weren’t many foods I disliked more than broccoli. (Collard greens were among them—I just couldn’t stand the smell when I was a kid.)
Fast-forward a couple decades, and I want to put broccoli and collard greens in everything. My mom would be proud, except that she doesn’t actually like broccoli. Oh well.
Your own mom might have tried to feed it to you as a kid, and it turns out that she had good reason to do so—broccoli is a true superfood. This famous green has been linked to a variety of positive health effects; From the circulatory and immune systems to mental health.
Just what sort of healthful benefits is broccoli packing in those green bunches?
Why is Broccoli Healthy?
- Contains huge amounts of inducers—molecules that prompt enzymes in the body to start working. What’s great for us is that these enzymes are the kind that protects against cancer-causing agents! Young broccoli has between 10 and 100 times more of these inducers than other, mature vegetables, studies say. In addition to these inducers, it also has indole-3-carbinol. A powerful antioxidant that has been shown to be very effective against breast, cervical, and prostate cancer.
- Indole-3-carbinol, mentioned above, also encourages healthy liver function.
- Packed full of kaempferol, an anti-inflammatory nutrient. Kaempferol gives our bodies the “calm down” signal, reducing inflammatory reactions like allergies and pain.
- Studies show that the veggie supplies big packages of energy to the mitochondria—the powerhouses of our cells. If the engines in our cells are working correctly, they can perform their important functions. Like replicating and transporting nutrients—the way they’re supposed to. This mitochondrial support gives us energy and boosts the immune system.
Health-boosting effects are available no matter how you prepare. Some studies show that the way you cook your broccoli has a slight effect on the nutrients you’ll get out of it. But the evidence is very mixed. Generally, you don’t want to overcook any vegetable, although light cooking (like steaming) tends to make the nutrients in it more bioavailable than when it’s raw.
So how should you cook so that you get the maximum goodness in your greens?
- To keep the veggie’s vitamin C intact, opt for steaming or microwaving on low heat instead of boiling or frying. Much of the vitamin C leeches out into the water around it if broccoli is boiled.
- Carotenoids, which protect against cancer, are best retained when it is boiled or steamed. More than 65% of these carotenoids cook away if broccoli is fried.
- Because chlorophyll (the stuff that makes the broccoli green) is a great source of nutrients, it’s best to keep it intact in the cooking process. Studies show that boiling and stir-frying broccoli leads to a significant loss of chlorophyll content. Steaming, however, caused no reduction of chlorophyll.
In general, steaming is the best option, along with occasional raw broccoli. But don’t let that stop you from preparing this veggie in other ways too. While steaming may be particularly beneficial; Broccoli is a nutritious food no matter how it’s cooked! So carve out a little chunk of your plate and add an extra helping of broccoli. Your body will love you for it.