When you think of healthy food, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Well, for many, the answer is broccoli. As a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli belongs to a group of veggies that are considered to be the healthiest. It is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Consuming it regularly also promotes health in a variety of ways.
Despite the plentiful health benefits of broccoli, many people cringe at the thought of eating it. Thus, in addition to reading about what makes broccoli so healthy, you’ll learn how to cook it correctly, so that you genuinely enjoy eating it. Moreover, you’ll find tips for incorporating more broccoli into your diet and discover some of my favorite recipes.
What are the benefits of broccoli
- Broccoli is low in fat and calories, and cholesterol-free
- It is rich in fiber, which improves digestion, immunity, mood and helps you feel full
- Broccoli is an excellent source of folate, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium as well as vitamins A, B2, B6, C, E, and K.
- Regularly eating broccoli helps reduce inflammation.
- Further, it contains antioxidants, which reduce cell damage caused by free radicals. This can slow down the aging process as well as lower the risk of chronic diseases.
- Broccoli may have a protective effect against certain cancers. These include cancers of the breast, prostate, gastric, colorectal, renal/kidney, and bladder.
- Broccoli promotes heart health in a variety of ways. Among others, it can help lower LDL cholesterol while increasing HDL cholesterol. Moreover, it may reduce heart disease and the risk of heart attacks.
- People with diabetes likely benefit from increasing their intake of this vegetable because it helps control blood sugar.
- Broccoli also supports a healthy brain and immune function as well as healthy bones and joints.
- Further, it reduces skin damage from the sun or aging.
- Broccoli is also fantastic for detoxifying your body. Thus, it improves overall health because you expel potentially damaging compounds faster.
Now that you learned a bit about the benefits of broccoli, let’s take a look at how you can incorporate it into your diet more frequently.
How to eat more broccoli
- Use it as a delicious side to any main dish
- Put it in stir-fries, stews, fajitas, or make soup or burgers with it.
- Make your smoothie more nutritious by adding broccoli.
- Use it as an ingredient in salad
- Prepare a healthy snack by dipping raw broccoli in hummus, guacamole, or tahini.
- Feel free to use frozen broccoli
- Try out various methods of preparing broccoli (see below) to find one that you genuinely like
How to cook broccoli
There are a variety of ways to cook broccoli so that it actually tastes good. Popular options are oven roasting or sautéing. The healthiest way is steaming because this method retains the most nutrients. Boiling, on the other hand, is not recommended because up to 90% of nutrients are lost.
The whole broccoli, including leaves and stem, is edible (and nutrient-rich). However, some prefer to use florets only.
As always, do what works for you. Healthy eating should be a pleasurable experience, not something you have to force yourself to do.
Tips for improving broccoli flavor
- At the store, pick broccoli that is firm and dark green. Avoid those that are soft and turning a yellowish color
- Try to use the broccoli while it’s still fresh and avoid storing it for too long
- If you do store it, put it in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for a maximum of 7 days
- Wash the broccoli shortly before you begin preparing it not ahead of time
To steam broccoli, add 2-3 cm (~ 1 in) of water to a pot. Place the steamer basket on top and bring the water to a boil. Then, add the broccoli florets and steam for 5-6 minutes. Mind the time because overcooking the broccoli can severely impact look and flavor. Remove the broccoli from the steamer and season it. I like using a combination of freshly ground pepper, garlic powder, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, sesame seeds, and toasted almonds.
Another delicious way to prepare broccoli is by roasting it in the oven. To do so, preheat the oven to 180 C/356 F. Then, cut the broccoli into florets and coat it with ground pepper, freshly-minced garlic, and lemon juice. Then place it on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes (until soft). If desired, add more seasoning.
Sautéing is another tasty option. Again, cut the broccoli into florets. Next, heat 4 Tbsp vegetable broth in a pan, add the florets and sauté for 5-15 minutes until tender. Then season as desired (see steaming).
How to cook frozen broccoli
I’m a massive fan of using frozen broccoli. For one, it allows me to eat delicious broccoli even when fresh is out of season. Moreover, using it saves time because it is already washed and precut 😁. You can use frozen broccoli almost the same as fresh; there are just two things to keep in mind:
- Frozen broccoli needs less cooking/roasting time.
- It may require a bit more seasoning.
Here are 7 of my favorite broccoli recipes I absolutely recommend you try
- Vegan Broccoli Balls
- Broccoli Cheese Soup Recipe
- Roasted Broccoli Sweet Potato Salad
- Crispy Orange Seitan and Broccoli
- The Best Broccoli Tofu Stir Fry Recipe
- Broccoli Apple Salad with Creamy Lemon-Tahini Dressing
- Roasted Broccoli and Lemon Pasta Recipe
The power of mustard powder
Sulforaphane, a compound in cruciferous vegetables that is believed to have cancer-suppressing abilities, is not available in cooked broccoli because necessary enzymes are lost. To preserve the enzymes, you can chop your broccoli and let it sit for a few hours before cooking them. Alternatively (or if you are using frozen broccoli), you can add some mustard powder post-cooking to reactivate the enzymes. You can read all the details here.Summary: By cutting up your broccoli a few hours before cooking it or adding some mustard powder to your cooked one, you can increase the health benefits of broccoli.
According to WebMD, you should talk to your doctor or RD before eating large amounts of broccoli if you take blood thinners or have IBS or kidney problems.
Summary: Health benefits of broccoli + how to cook it
Do you like to eat broccoli, or are you just eating it for its health benefits?