Broccoli’s health benefits still make it a smart choice.
We know, we know: “Eat your broccoli.” raw vs. cooked is a long and complicated We’re fed this advice ad nauseam from diapers to dentures. But new research is showing that the old adage has stuck for a reason—and the benefits of broccoli go even deeper than we once realized.
Let’s start with the basics: One cup of raw broccoli contains only 30 calories and packs in more than an entire day’s worth of vitamins C and K. It’s a significant source of folate (one cup contains 14 percent of the recommended daily value for a 2,000-calorie diet), vitamin A (11 percent), manganese (10 percent), fiber (9 percent) and vitamin B6 (8 percent). It also contains other important minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium. In a nutshell, this means that eating broccoli can benefit the immune, nervous and circulatory systems; boost bone and hair growth; strengthen vision; and promote gut health.
But that’s not all. A study published in May reported that a compound in broccoli called sulforaphane has the ability to actually change the body’s DNA, thereby reducing the risk of prostate cancer (this same compound has previously been shown to prevent stomach ulcers). Another study showed that a compound in broccoli called NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) was able to reduce signs of aging in mice. And last year, scientists at the University of Illinois came a step closer to figuring out how to increase the already plentiful levels of phenols in broccoli. These compounds, the scientists confirmed, reduce inflammation in the body and can protect you from multiple conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Now that we know why we’re supposed to gobble up the green stuff, let’s talk about how to best enjoy it. Purchase heads that are green with no brown or yellow spots, and store it dry and bagged in the refrigerator for up to a week. (A tip for locavores: The broccoli season extends through October in New Jersey. Search for farms at jerseyfresh.nj.gov.) The debate of one, fraught with trade-offs (for example, Scientific American reported that the aforementioned sulforaphane is created when the broccoli is cooked, a process that also decreases the vitamin C levels). When in doubt, prepare it however you’re most likely to eat it, whether it’s simply steamed, roasted with garlic (20 minutes at 450°F), or served in salad, soup or pasta. For picky kids, recipes easily found online describe how to sneak it into mac and cheese, puree it as pesto or mold it into nuggets.
Do you find it’s not easy eating greens? It might be hard-wired into your brain. A 2016 study reported that having a certain gene can make broccoli and other greens taste bitter to you. But knowing how much good it’s doing your body will hopefully leave a sweet taste in your mouth.