Broccoli or Brassica aleracea is a plant that belongs to the family Brassicaceae, which includes vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels Sprouts. Broccoli closely resembles the cauliflower, except for its color. It is an extremely nutritious vegetable, which is loaded with a number of vital nutrients and chemicals.
It is one of the most significant sources of several important vitamins, including vitamin A, C, K, B6, B12, and folate or folic acid. It is abundant in calcium, potassium, chromium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Apart from these, it contains several important phytochemicals and antioxidants, of which beta carotene, isothiocyanates, quercetin, indoles, and glutathione are worth mentioning.
It also contains the compound, sulforaphane, which has been found to possess anti-cancer, anti-microbial, and anti-diabetic properties. It is a rich source of fiber, and can meet the dietary requirements for both soluble and insoluble fiber. On the other hand, this vegetable is low in fats.
The high vitamin C content of broccoli makes it an ideal vegetable for getting enough antioxidants, which are essential for neutralizing the harmful free radicals. Vitamin C can also strengthen the immune system and facilitate the absorption of iron. On the other hand, calcium and potassium found abundantly in this vegetable can prove beneficial for conditions like osteoporosis and high blood pressure.
Calcium is required for healthy teeth and bones, while potassium is a crucial mineral for metabolism, and for maintaining water balance in the body. This mineral is also good for the heart and the kidneys. Broccoli also contains a significant amount of chromium, which can help regulate the level of blood sugar and insulin.
This vegetable contains a significant amount of fiber, which is good for the health of the digestive system. Many studies have also highlighted the anti-cancer properties of this vegetable, which can be attributed to its high sulforaphane and indole content. Sulforaphane can help activate and increase the levels of those enzymes that are associated with suppressing cancer or cancer-causing agents. On the other hand, indoles can deactivate estrogen metabolites, and hence lower the risk of hormone-related cancer like breast and prostate cancer.
Apart from these, some other health benefits of this vegetable are, weight reduction, cholesterol reduction, control or prevention of Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and stomach, colon, and lung cancer. The carotenoids found in this vegetable are important for the eyes, and they can help prevent diseases like cataract.
Pregnant women can lower the risk of birth defects in their children by including broccoli in their diet. A deficiency of folic acid is one of the most important risk factors for birth defects. This vegetable contains enough folic acid, and hence, it can help lower the incidence of birth defects in babies.
So, broccoli is an ideal food that can help control or prevent several common ailments, including cataract, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, common cold, diabetes, and even cancer and tumors. However, try to avoid overcooking this vegetable, as this can reduce its vitamin and mineral content. It is better to cook this vegetable in simple ways, like steaming or baking, instead of frying it in excess oil or fats.