The Brilliance of Broccoli

Happy Seeds of Wisdom Wednesday! Broccoli is a powerhouse vegetable that can be grown year-round in most parts of our county. It’s undeniably a vegetable that deserves more praise.

Broccoli originated in the Mediterranean, developed from a wild cabbage that was selectively planted for years by the Etruscans in the Tuscany region. The name arose from “broccolo”, the Italian word meaning “the flowering crest of a cabbage”. This veggie was a staple food for the Roman Empire and was brought to England during the mid-18th century. Broccoli wasn’t brought to the United States until the 1920s with the flow of Italian immigrants. Today, China produces the most broccoli in the world, with India producing the second most, and California is responsible for 90% of the United States’ production of broccoli.

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, along with brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, and kale. This family of vegetables is known for containing cancer preventing compounds and supporting destruction of defective cells. This powerhouse vegetable offers beta-carotene, calcium, choline, copper, fiber, folate, iron, lutein zeaxanthin, magnesium, manganese, niacin, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium. thiamine, tryptophan, vitamins A, B1, B6, C, E and K, and zinc. It also contains many anti-inflammatory antioxidants, flavonoids, and omega 3 fatty acids. Glucosinolates are the compounds in broccoli that are responsible for the bitter taste.

Remarkably, by including just one cup of broccoli in a meal, you can get 250% of your vitamin K for the day. Vitamin K is essential for bone health and proper blood clotting. 135% of your recommended daily vitamin C is also offered from that one cup! We’ve hyped up vitamin C before for its immune supporting benefits and help with collagen production. A serving also provides 50% of your chromium – which supports metabolism and proper blood sugar levels – and 40% of your folate – essential for memory and mood support.

Broccoli is a superfood for the brain. The high contents of choline and vitamin K contribute to better memory and cognition, while the sulforaphane in broccoli is shown to help prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

Broccoli is known for providing loads of fiber. Fiber is key for maintaining the right kinds and amounts of bacteria in the intestines and supports a healthy stomach lining, potentially combatting leaky gut. The high fiber content of broccoli is not only helpful for digestion but also keeps you satiated for longer, contributing to healthier eating patterns.

Your body’s metabolism is supported by many nutrients found in broccoli: fiber, folate, vitamins A, C, D and K.

Studies have shown that sulforaphane and kaempferol, both found in cruciferous veggies, help regulate blood sugar levels, especially helping those with diabetes.

The plethora of vitamins and antioxidants in broccoli help to relieve inflammation throughout the body and prevent DNA damage of the cells. Kaempferol, magnesium, potassium, sulforaphane – a primary player – and vitamin C especially offer potent anti-inflammatory benefits.

Broccoli contains a multitude of immune supporting antioxidants, making this a great vegetable to include in your diet. Beta-carotene, choline zinc, copper, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin C are some of the key antioxidants for the immune system.

The nutrients and compounds in broccoli are very anti-carcinogenic, making it an important vegetable to include in your diet for cancer prevention. Breast cancer and uterine cancer in particular are affected by broccoli’s anticancer properties, more specifically the ability to help decrease levels of estrogen in the body that would otherwise encourage breast cancer.

Studies have shown that liver health is supported by including broccoli in your diet, as it’s correlated with a reduced risk of liver cancer and fatty liver.

Broccoli can be a powerful detoxifier due to its amino acids, sulfur and vitamin C which help purify the blood by eliminating toxins and free radicals. This detoxification helps support clear skin, aided by skin-loving antioxidants and vitamins. This is furthered by the glucoraphanin phytonutrient that helps reduce sun damage on the skin.

Broccoli contains a unique compound, nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), that reduces premature aging by supporting proper metabolism. NMN along with the vitamins A and C in broccoli provide great anti-aging benefits.

The vitamins A and C also make Broccoli a great ally for hair, supporting healthy hair and regulating the production of sebum to keep your hair moisturized.

Fiber once again comes into play as a support for regulating cholesterol levels, thus supporting cardiovascular health. The anti-inflammatory flavonoid, kaempferol, also keeps inflammation down for a healthy heart.

We’ll talk about potassium once again as it serves the function of a vasodilator, improving the flow of blood throughout the body and thus delivering more oxygen to organs. Chromium is another blood pressure regulator and is plentiful in broccoli.

This powerhouse veggie also offers ample amounts of copper, iron and protein, which are essential for red blood cell production and preventing anemia.

Broccoli is useful for promoting eye health and reducing macular degeneration due to valuable carotenoids. The retina is protected specifically by the lutein and zeaxanthin in broccoli.

Broccoli also offers high amounts of calcium, vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc, which all contribute to strong bones. Vitamin K especially is key for bone health as it supports production of a protein in bones, called osteocalcin.

Broccoli provides a significant amount of folate, being one of the top 5 sources for this vital nutrient. Folate is only one of the many nutrients that broccoli offers that supports the healthy development of a fetus.

The high fiber content and roughage of broccoli can cause issues for those struggling with Irritable Bowl Disease, Crohn’s Disease, or Ulcerative Colitis. It is also important to keep in mind that the high vitamin K content could cause blood-thinning issues. Additionally, broccoli can have negative effects for those with Hypothyroidism if overindulged.

Broccoli has been prepared many ways; eaten raw, in a stir-fry, steamed, sautéed, roasted, pickled, etc. However, studies have shown that the best method of preparation is steaming. Steaming broccoli holds onto valuable sulforaphane and vitamin C that is often lost when using other cooking methods. It is also recommended to keep steaming time to a minimum to maximize the nutrient concentration of the vegetable. Broccoli sprouts have also become a popular way to get a high dose of antioxidants, especially sulforaphane. In fact, broccoli sprouts offer 20-100 times what fully grown broccoli can. Without a doubt, broccoli sprouts and broccoli would be great staples in a healthy diet.

- - -


  1. Health - 9 Health Benefits of Broccoli, According to a Nutritionist by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
  2. Max Lugavere - Grow Insanely Healthy Broccoli Sprouts at Home by Max Lugavere
  3. Organic Facts - 24 Incredible Benefits of Broccoli by Meenakshi Nagdeve
  4. The Spruce Eats - The History of Broccoli by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
  5. The World's Healthiest Foods - What's New and Beneficial About Broccoli

The Real Dirt

Sign up to keep up with what's growin' on
around Mendocino County and Lake Counties!