Broccoli, a low-carb superfood that boosts your digestion and bone health (recipes included)
11/17/2021 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
Broccoli, a low-carb superfood that boosts your digestion and bone health (recipes included)

Love them or hate them, there is no denying the health benefits of vegetables. And if you’re looking for one that offers the most nutritional benefits with each bite, look no further than broccoli.

Whether you’ve already discovered the goodness of this vegetable or you’re thinking of incorporating it into your diet, here’s everything you need to know about broccoli.

What’s so great about broccoli?

Broccoli is a branched vegetable with flower tops called florets. It belongs to the Brassicaceae (mustard) family, along with cauliflower, cabbage and kale. They are more commonly known as cruciferous vegetables.

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Broccoli is a nutrient powerhouse, being rich in fiber, micronutrients and powerful plant compounds. It is thought to improve digestion and reduce inflammation, which is at the root of many chronic diseases, including cancer. Broccoli is low in sodium and calories, providing about 31 calories per serving. Broccoli is also fat-free.

Here’s a closer look at the health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable:

1. Provides plenty of nutrients

Broccoli has quite an impressive nutritional profile. For starters, it is extremely high in insoluble fiber, the fiber that keeps you regular. It is also surprisingly high in vitamin C, an immune-boosting nutrient, and potassium. This mineral helps your nerves function and your muscles contract. It also helps your heartbeat stay regular.

Broccoli is also rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants. Phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their colors, flavors and aroma. Studies show that the phytochemicals in broccoli are especially good for your immune health. These include glucobrassicin, kaempferol and carotenoids like zeaxanthin and beta-carotene.

Many of the phytochemicals and nutrients in broccoli also double as antioxidants. Antioxidants help find and neutralize called free radicals. Free radicals naturally occur in the body but may also come from external sources, such as cigarette smoke. If left unchecked, free radicals can damage healthy cells and even DNA.

2. Improves digestion

Broccoli is one of the best vegetables for optimal digestion and gut health as it is packed with insoluble fiber. This type of fiber does not dissolve in water in the gut. Instead, it helps food move through your digestive tract. As such, insoluble fiber promotes bowel regularity and helps prevent issues like constipation.

3. Maintains strong, healthy bones

Broccoli is a good source of calcium, which your body needs to build strong, healthy bones. Calcium can also help control blood pressure and ensures your muscles, nerves and cells work as they should.

Broccoli doesn’t provide as much calcium as a glass of milk, but it’s a great source of calcium nonetheless for people who are lactose-intolerant or are following a vegan or vegetarian diet.

4. May aid in weight loss

Broccoli is a great food for weight loss. Aside from being low in calories, broccoli is high in fiber and water. This combination promotes feelings of fullness, so you’re less likely to snack or overeat if you eat broccoli.

5. Provides protein

For a non-starchy vegetable, broccoli also contains a good amount of protein, one of the three macronutrients you need to consume every day. Protein is what gives structure to your skin, muscles and organs. And at times when your body doesn’t get enough energy from carbohydrates, protein can serve as fuel for cells.

If you’re on a plant-based diet, you could easily meet your daily protein needs by adding broccoli to your daily diet.

How to cook broccoli

Broccoli can be enjoyed raw, steamed or blanched. It can even be incorporated into many recipes. To prep your broccoli, start by slicing straight through the stem as close to the crown as you can get. The crown should break easily into large tree-like pieces called florets.

Slice through the “trunk” of each floret to make bite-sized pieces. Rinse these well and serve as is or use them in your cooking. The main stem of broccoli is edible, but most people don’t eat it because it’s tough. A workaround to this is to trim off any leaves or blemishes, then peel off the tougher top layer of skin. Slice off the bottom inch of the stem and discard it. Slice the remaining stem into disks and cook them until tender.

Recipe for steamed broccoli florets

Steaming is the best way to keep the structure of broccoli intact and its nutrient profile unchanged. For an easy side dish that you can whip up in minutes, try this recipe for steamed broccoli florets:

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 4 broccoli heads
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic syrup
  • Goat cheese or crumbled feta
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Chop off the florets from the heads and cut them into chunks. Discard the stems.
  2. Pour water into the steamer pot and bring it to a boil.
  3. Put the florets in the steamer basket and secure the lid. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Transfer the florets to a serving plate. Add salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic syrup to taste.
  5. Top with the garlic, onion and cheese. Serve and enjoy.

Recipe for broccoli bowl

Fresh lemon juice, goat cheese and herbs help tone down the naturally bitter flavor of broccoli florets in this low-carb broccoli bowl recipe.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 6 baby cucumbers or 2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 3 small beetroots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 pounds broccoli florets, grated
  • 1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the nuts and cook for 1 minute, then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add the grated broccoli and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat. Add lemon zest and juice, basil and mint. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Divide the broccoli among serving bowls. Top with cucumber, beetroot and goat cheese. Serve and enjoy.

Broccoli is a nutrient-rich superfood with lots of health benefits to offer. Add broccoli to your diet today to enjoy its many benefits.

Sources:

ReadyNutrition.com

Phytochemicals.info

GoodFood.com.au

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