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Broccoli, a plant belonging to the cabbage family is widely appreciated for its incredible benefits. It is a rich source of a wide variety of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins. Nutritionists recommend an inclusion of broccoli in the diet for a sound health. Broccoli is green in colour with large flower heads. Its structure is tree-like with the flower heads branching from a thick stalk which is edible. The large mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves.

The plant is included in the cultivar group of the Brassica family. Cultivars are plant varieties that are produced in cultivation through the process of selective breeding. The plants are selected from a group of plants that are naturally occurring and then bred to produce a set of desirable characteristics or enhance the characteristics that are already existing in them. Broccoli has a striking resemblance to cauliflower, which is another cultivar group belonging to the same species.

Broccoli has been considered to be a valuable food item since the Roman empire. The existence of the broccoli plant dates back to the 6th century BC and was produced as a result of the careful breeding of the existing Brassica crops in the Mediterranean regions. The term ‘broccoli’ has been derived from the word ‘broccolo’ which denotes ‘cabbage flower’.

Some basic facts about broccoli

  • Botanical Name: Brassica oleracea var. Italica
  • Common Name: Broccoli
  • Parts used: Flowers, leaves, stalk
  • Native Regions and Geographical Distribution: Native to the Mediterranean regions of the world. Mostly cultivated in temperate and sub-tropical regions.
  1. Types of broccoli
  2. Healthy and simple broccoli recipe
  3. Side effects of broccoli
  4. Nutritional facts about broccoli
  5. What is broccoli good for

Broccoli is cultivated for its nutritional benefits. The most common types of broccoli that are available have been mentioned below.

  • Calabrese broccoli: It is simply called broccoli and has been named after the place where it was first cultivated ie. Calabria in Italy. This type of broccoli has thick stalks and large green heads.
  • Sprouting broccoli: This type of broccoli has thin, tender stalks and a large number of heads.
  • Purple broccoli: This type of broccoli is mainly cultivated in Europe and North America. The flower buds of this type of broccoli are smaller and have a purplish colour.
  • Chinese broccoli: This type of broccoli does not form heads. It has a darker green colour and a stronger flavour compared with the other types of broccoli. It is found in Asia, mainly in China and the plant is eaten as a whole.

Broccoli can be used in a number of preparations or as a side vegetable along with carbohydrates and meats. A most simple and healthy way of consuming broccoli has been described here.

  • Take about 250 g of broccoli.
  • Cut the broccoli florets, stalks and leaves into sizeable pieces. Clean them thoroughly.
  • Add about 500 ml (2 large cups) of water in a bowl and add the broccoli pieces to it.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, drain the water.
  • Add salt and pepper and a gentle drizzling of olive oil.
  • Enjoy your broccoli. You can prepare a salad by adding more vegetables of your choice.

There are a number of health benefits of consuming broccoli. However, some people may experience certain side-effects upon unregulated consumption of broccoli. These side effects have been discussed below.

  • Broccoli has blood sugar lowering property and might cause the blood sugar to drop very low. It is, therefore, essential to monitor the levels of blood sugar on a timely basis if high amounts of broccoli are included in the diet.
  • Excessive consumption of broccoli during pregnancy might cause problems such as abdominal pain, intestinal blockage. So, pregnant women should consume broccoli in moderate amounts to avoid any complications. 
  • People taking medicines for blood thinning should consult a nutritionist regarding their broccoli intake as high amounts of Vitamin K present in it might interfere with the effectiveness of the medicines.
  • It is possible that certain people may experience certain allergic reactions upon consumption of broccoli such as skin rashes, itching etc. if such symptoms develop, it is essential to consult your physician at the earliest. (Read more: Allergy symptoms).

Broccoli is a host of nutrients, minerals and vitamins. The nutritional value of raw broccoli per 100 g has been mentioned below.

Nutrients

 

Value per 100 g
Energy 34 g

 

Water

 

89.30 g

 

Carbohydrates

 

6.64 g

 

Proteins

 

2.82 g

 

Sugar

 

1.7 g

 

Dietary fibre

 

2.6 g

 

Fats (Total lipids)

 

0.37 g

 

Vitamins
Vitamin A

 

31 ug

 

Vitamin B1

 

0.071 mg

 

Vitamin B2

 

0.117 mg

 

Vitamin B3

 

0.639 mg

 

Vitamin B6

 

0.175 mg

 

Vitamin B9

 

63 ug

 

Vitamin C

 

89.2 mg

 

Vitamin E

 

0.78 mg

 

Vitamin K

 

101.6 mg

 

Minerals
Potassium

 

316 mg

 

Calcium

 

47 mg

 

Phosphorus

 

66 mg

 

Sodium

 

33 mg

 

Magnesium

 

21 mg

 

Iron

 

0.73 mg

 

Zinc

 

0.41 mg

 

Fatty acids (Lipids)
Total saturated

 

0.114 g

 

Total monounsaturated

 

0.031 g

 

Total polyunsaturated

 

0.112 g

 

(Read more: Vitamin B foods)

Health benefits that can be derived from the regular consumption of broccoli are huge. The fact that broccoli is rich in so many diet essentials makes it a much-favoured food. These benefits are discussed below.

  1. Broccoli for digestion
  2. Broccoli for liver
  3. Broccoli as an antioxidant
  4. Broccoli as anti-inflammatory
  5. Broccoli for brain
  6. Broccoli for skin and hair
  7. Broccoli for eyes
  8. Broccoli for diabetes
  9. Broccoli for cholesterol
  10. Broccoli for cancer

Broccoli for digestion

Broccoli is rich in dietary fibres. The high fibre content present in broccoli makes it an excellent choice for maintaining the digestive function of the body. Studies have found that a bioactive compound, kaempferol present in broccoli, keeps the lining of the stomach intact and maintains the levels of healthy bacteria in the intestines.

The healthy gut bacteria aid in the process of digestion, and thus, including broccoli in the diet can help prevent digestive disorders such as constipation and irritating bowel syndrome (IBS). Additionally, the regulation of digestive metabolism by broccoli can also prove to be effective for weight loss programmes. 

(Read more: Weight loss diet chart)

Broccoli for liver

Including broccoli in the diet can have great health benefits for the liver. Non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases (NAFLD) that include liver cirrhosis and liver cancer are on a rise. Liver cancer is regarded as the fifth most common type of cancer in the current scenario, as per reports and statistics. Liver cancer is relatively preventable because the risk factors associated with it are mainly related to diet and lifestyle.

Studies have found that broccoli helps in regulating metabolism in the liver and inhibit the development of NAFLD. Researchers suggest that broccoli helps in reducing triglycerides in the liver which further reduces the risks associated with NAFLD. The mechanism by which broccoli helps in achieving optimum liver function, however, is not yet fully explored.

Broccoli as an antioxidant

Broccoli has high levels of antioxidants, which have beneficial effects on the health. Antioxidants are compounds that help in the prevention and cause a delay in cellular damage caused due to oxidative stress.

Studies have found that broccoli contains a large variety of phenolic compounds is responsible for its antioxidising capacity. Thus, broccoli has protective actions on your body and is a much-needed inclusion in the diet so as to maintain a healthier lifestyle.

(Read more: Antioxidant foods)

Broccoli as anti-inflammatory

The inclusion of broccoli in the diet can help in reducing inflammation in the case of diseases such as arthritis and osteoarthritis. According to a recent study, the bioactive compound, sulforaphane, found in broccoli is effective against inflammation caused by such diseases. The compound is believed to inhibit the enzymes that cause the destruction of joints in arthritis. Further studies are, however, required to support these findings

Broccoli for brain

Studies have found that broccoli consumption can reduce the risk of onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Broccoli has been found to be neuroprotective (protects brain) in function. The common factor of neurodegenerative diseases is oxidative stress. Broccoli is rich in antioxidants and can reduce the level of oxidative stress significantly.

A study conducted in 2015 found that consumption of raw broccoli juice can prevent Alzheimer’s by the activation a particular signalling pathway called Nrf2 that tends to shut down with age. Further studies are, however, required to understand the exact mechanism of action.

Broccoli for skin and hair

Vitamin C is present in broccoli in very high amounts and is required for maintaining a healthy skin. Deficiency of this vitamin can cause dry skin conditions and diseases like scurvy. Consumption of broccoli can thus, keep such diseases at bay.

The antioxidative properties of the compounds present in broccoli help delay the process of skin ageing, avoiding premature age spots and wrinkles. It also gives a radiant glow to your skin. Broccoli has also been found to minimize the effect of ultraviolet radiation on the skin. The phytonutrient, glucoraphanin present in ample amounts in broccoli is suggested to reverse the effects of UV exposure on the skin.

Additionally, broccoli is rich in Vitamin A. Vitamin A and C together are required for the production of sebum that moisturizes the hair follicles naturally. They also strengthen hair roots and prevent hair loss and breakage. So, if you are looking for lustrous and thick locks, make sure to include broccoli in your diet.

Broccoli for eyes

Broccoli is a rich source of Vitamin A and its consumption can be beneficial for the eyes. Vitamin A is required for the development of the rods and cone cells of the eyes that is essential for a proper vision. Additionally, deficiency of Vitamin A can lead to dry eyes and diseases like xerophthalmia. High amounts of this vitamin in broccoli can help prevent such diseases.

Studies have found that broccoli intake can also reduce the risks associated with age-related eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Nutritionists recommend the inclusion of broccoli in the children’ diet beginning at a very young age for healthier eyes.

Broccoli for diabetes

One of the major causes of the development of diabetes is oxidative stress. Consumption of broccoli has been found to lower diabetes levels and the reason is ascertained to be lying in the antioxidative and hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) properties of the vegetable.

A number of clinical trials on patients with type 2 diabetes have found that inclusion of broccoli in the diet can lower diabetes by acting to improve insulin resistance and by lowering the levels of oxidative stress. The exact mechanism of action of broccoli in lowering blood sugar levels, however, remains to be investigated and requires further research.

Broccoli for cholesterol

Intake of broccoli has been found to be effective in reducing low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as bad cholesterol. Reports from randomized clinical trials involving patients with high cholesterol indicated that regular consumption of broccoli over the period of study led to a significant reduction of LDL levels in patients. The main bioactive compound involved in the reduction of cholesterol levels was glucoraphanin, found abundantly in broccoli.

(Read more: High cholesterol symptoms)

Broccoli for cancer

Experimental studies are suggestive of the fact that a diet rich in broccoli can reduce the risk of cancer. In a clinical trial conducted between January 2011 and February 2012, it was found that a diet rich in broccoli and other vegetables belonging to the same family can reduce the risk of cancer. Intake of broccoli can help in restoring the metabolism of the body that generally tends to become dysfunctional due to oxidative stress.

Studies are suggestive of the fact that the protective action of broccoli is mediated by the action of glucosinolates. However, further research is required in support of this hypothesis. Additionally, the bioactive compound kaempferol found in broccoli is also found to have anti-cancerous properties.

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References

  1. Alessandra Masci et al. Neuroprotective Effect of Brassica oleracea Sprouts Crude Juice in a Cellular Model of Alzheimer's Disease . Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2015; 2015: 781938. PMID: 26180595
  2. Bahadoran Z et al. Broccoli sprouts reduce oxidative stress in type 2 diabetes: a randomized double-blind clinical trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;65(8):972-7. PMID: 21559038
  3. Latté KP, Appel KE, Lampen A. Health benefits and possible risks of broccoli - an overview. Food Chem Toxicol. 2011 Dec;49(12):3287-309. PMID: 21906651
  4. Sithara Suresh et al. Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) Reduces Oxidative Damage to Pancreatic Tissue and Combats Hyperglycaemia in Diabetic Rats . Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2017 Dec; 22(4): 277–284. PMID: 29333379
  5. Charlotte N Armah et al. A diet rich in high-glucoraphanin broccoli interacts with genotype to reduce discordance in plasma metabolite profiles by modulating mitochondrial function. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Sep; 98(3): 712–722. PMID: 23964055
  6. Tamara Sotelo et al. Identification of Antioxidant Capacity -Related QTLs in Brassica oleracea . PLoS One. 2014; 9(9): e107290. PMID: 25198771
  7. Christine Sturm, Anika E. Wagner. Brassica-Derived Plant Bioactives as Modulators of Chemopreventive and Inflammatory Signaling Pathways . Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Sep; 18(9): 1890. PMID: 28862664