Broccoli Is One of the Healthiest Greens You Can Eat—Here Are 5 Nutritious Benefits to Prove It

This super-duper veggie packs one heck of a healthy punch.

Broccoli isn't just extremely tasty (when prepared correctly, of course)—it's also exceptionally healthy. But for some, though, it can be a veggie to wrinkle their noses at. Maybe because it looks like little trees, or maybe they had a bad experience being forced to swallow bland, mushy, steamed broccoli at the dinner table as a kid. Broccoli deserves better, and so do you!

In fact, broccoli is one of the most nutritious veggies you can eat. "Broccoli is a great vegetable choice because it's low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, and a significant source of vitamin C and vitamin K," says Jennifer Weis, R.D., LDN, owner of Jennifer Weis Nutrition Consulting, LLC. "It also provides vitamin A, folate, potassium, phosphorus, and selenium."

How to Buy the Best Broccoli

There's no magic formula for checking whether or not broccoli is ripe and ready to go—if it's a deep green color, it's ready to eat. One caveat when buying though is to be wary of non-organic broccoli.

"It's important to buy organic broccoli whenever possible because the Environmental Working Group lists it as one of the more toxic conventional vegetables every year," says Sara Peternell, MNT, board-certified holistic nutritionist and an expert in family nutrition. She adds that fresh is always a great choice of course, but buying frozen, organic broccoli is also good (and usually costs less).

Top Broccoli Benefits

It boosts your immune system.

Give your immune system an extra layer of defense against illness by loading up on broccoli. The cruciferous powerhouse contains antioxidants that help repair damaged cells so they can better resist disease and illness.

"Broccoli is loaded with two specific types of strong antioxidants, sulforaphane and indole, which act as regulators of detoxifying enzymes that protect cells," Peternell explains.

It helps protect your heart.

The more you can do to keep plaque from building up in your arteries, the better. Enter: beautiful, wonderful broccoli, which has carotenoids, an antioxidant that helps prevent exactly this kind of build-up that's dangerous for heart health.

"The antioxidants that come from green vegetables ward off heart disease by protecting the narrowing or hardening of blood vessel function, and reduce the growth of fatty deposits on the vessel walls that become plaque over time," Kim Denkhaus, M.S., RDN, owner of Farm Haus Nutrition.

It can lift your mood.

The different foods you eat trigger your brain to release specific hormones that influence your mood. Broccoli contains chromium, a mineral that works with neurotransmitters in your brain (those hormones that affect your mood) like serotonin, norepinephrine, and melatonin. With half a cup of broccoli, you'll get about half of the recommended dietary allowance of chromium.

It's good for your liver.

Your liver works 24/7 to carry toxins out of your body via the bile it secretes. Research published in the medical journal Hepatology, found that cruciferous veggies, like broccoli, help increase the enzymes that protect against fatty liver and the build-up of toxins. This is due to a specific compound found in broccoli called indole, which is associated with these anti-inflammatory benefits to the liver.

It protects your joints.

Protect your joints with the power of broccoli? Who knew? Researchers from the University of East Anglia concluded that sulforaphane, found in broccoli, decreases inflammation of the cartilage in your joints. This kind of inflammation can lead to osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.

How to Cook Broccoli

Eating broccoli raw will ensure you get the full range of nutrients, so feel free to add florets to a crudite platter with dips like hummus. But the truth is, raw broccoli isn't everyone's cup of tea (it can be a little dry and, well, vegetal).

While cooking broccoli does cause it to lose some nutritional value, it remains quite healthy—and tastes way better. Steamed, sauteed, stir-fried, and roasted are all fantastic options for cooking broccoli and bringing out its best flavors. (Research has found that steaming broccoli is the healthiest cooking method in terms of retaining the most nutrients).

Boiling is OK, too, but not always the best way to get all the nutritious benefits; some nutrients get extracted into the water and then poured down the drain, so minimizing contact with water when cooking is smart, if possible. Weis says her favorite way to prepare broccoli is to toss the florets in olive oil, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar and roast in the oven.

There is one condition to note, however, where specific cooking guidelines apply. If you have thyroid issues, Karen Graham, RDN, functional medicine dietitian, advises that you shouldn't eat raw broccoli. "Broccoli contains goitrogens, which can disrupt the production of the thyroid hormone," she says. "Boiling or blanching broccoli significantly reduces the amount of goitrogenic properties in cruciferous vegetables."

More Delicious Broccoli Recipes

Easy pasta recipes - healthy Roasted Broccoli Pesto Pasta
Caitlin Bensel

Roasted Broccoli Pesto Pasta

This broccoli pesto is the best reason to keep your broccoli stalks around. Slice broccoli stalks and roast in the oven mixed with the florets. A handful of florets mingle with the pasta, but the rest goes into making a nutty, cheesy, and zesty pesto.

Get the recipe.

Caitlin Bensel

Broccoli Soup With Cheddar Croutons

This soup manages to be both comforting and healthful. The broccoli, leek, and potato base comes together quickly, and—with an immersion blender—it only takes one pot.

Get the recipe.

Gnocchi and Broccoli Sheet-Pan Dinner Recipe
Jennifer Causey

Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Broccoli

Vegetables and potato dumplings get cozy in this easy, comforting weeknight dinner.

Get the recipe.

Hoisin Chicken With Broccoli
Greg DuPree

Hoisin Chicken With Broccoli

Not only does this dinner come together on just one baking sheet, but the ingredient list is also short for such a flavorful combination. Make a simple hoisin-tamari sauce to glaze the chicken, and roast some garlicky broccoli alongside.

Get the recipe.

Roasted Salmon with Crispy Broccoli and Quinoa
Johnny Miller

Roasted Salmon With Crispy Broccoli and Quinoa

For a hearty and healthy dinner (or next-day lunch!), roast salmon and broccoli on the same pan in the oven, layer over fluffy quinoa, and top with a savory soy-vinegar sauce.

Get the recipe.

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