In our world of health and wellness, barely a day goes by that we don’t see a new Instagram post, article, or viral video on the next big superfood with promises to change your life in ways that science hasn’t even discovered yet.
As someone that has worked in the wellness industry for nearly 10 years now, I love nothing more than stripping back the complicated information and really getting back to nutrition basics, which includes eating some of the most humble (and original) superfoods getting around.
This weeks superfood hero doesn’t wear a cape or need an introduction but I am going to give you a list of 7 reasons why broccoli gets to wear the badge of honor, plus hang around for 5 delicious recipes that have come straight from my foodie teammates in the Food Matters HQ.
7 Health Benefits of Broccoli
1. Cholesterol Reduction
A nutritionist with the University of Texas at Austin, talks about broccoli's ability to lower cholesterol levels thanks to its high soluble fiber content, which binds with cholesterol in the blood. This binding process makes the cholesterol easier to excrete from the body, and therefore reduces overall levels.
Interestingly, broccoli sprouts are even more potent than mature broccoli in this regard. A 2009 study published by The Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition found that an extract from broccoli sprouts was able to produce powerful cholesterol-lowering effects and potentially reduce lipid storage in subjects with a high-fat diet.
A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that broccoli sprouts may be especially potent in detoxifying the body from carcinogens. Large quantities of protective enzymes can be found in very young (3-day-old) cruciferous sprouts. The ability of these sprouts to protect against carcinogens is anywhere from 10-100 times more potent than that of their mature counterparts.
3. Heart Health
In addition to kicking out cholesterol, broccoli can aid in keeping your heart healthy by strengthening blood vessels. The sulforaphane content in broccoli is an anti-inflammatory and may even be able to prevent and reverse damage done to blood vessel linings, which is often caused by chronic blood sugar levels.
Furthermore, according to Harvard University's School of Public Health, broccoli's B-complex vitamins can help regulate your body's homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid that increases in parallel to excessive red meat consumption. High levels of homocysteine in the body increases the risk of coronary artery disease.
One of broccoli's most well-known benefits is its ability to aid digestion. This helpful characteristic can be attributed to a particularly high fiber content - around 1 gram of fiber per 10 calories! Fiber assists in keeping your bowel movements regular and helps to maintain healthy bacteria levels in the gut.
An important factor to consider when consuming broccoli for digestive purposes is that some people find the raw version to be particularly unsettling on their stomach. For this reason, if you're feeling the urge to try some raw broccoli, it's probably wise to start by consuming small amounts first.
5. Eye Health
Affectionately known as "the eye vitamins", lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that are highly revered for their vision strengthening properties. Both of these naturally occurring chemicals are found in broccoli and have been shown to help protect against macular degeneration and cataracts; two debilitating eye conditions that severely affect vision and quality of life.
Broccoli is a great anti-inflammatory that may help to reduce the effects of joint damage caused by osteoarthritis. A 2013 study conducted by the University of East Anglia found that broccoli's sulforaphane content may assist in easing the suffering associated with arthritis. This quality is largely attributable to sulphorane's ability to "block the enzymes that cause joint destruction by stopping a key molecule known to cause inflammation."
Broccoli is also a great source of one particularly potent phytonutrient called kaempferol, which has the potential to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances in the digestive tract. A 2010 study published in the Inflammation Researcher journal found that by decreasing the influence of allergy-related substances, the kaempferol in broccoli also helps to lower the risk of chronic inflammation.
7. Cancer Prevention
Perhaps the most widely publicized health benefit of broccoli is its potential to help fight cancer. Many studies have provided evidence of the protective effects that broccoli and broccoli sprouts have against cancer. The chemopreventive properties of sulforaphane have been extensively studied and research into the effect that sulforaphane has on cancer stem cells (CSCs) has drawn some interesting conclusions. CSCs are suggested to be responsible for initiating and maintaining most forms of cancer, and are known to be largely drug-resistant. A number of studies have indicated that sulforaphane may have the ability to target CSCs in different types of cancer, which would greatly assist in the recovery process and reduce the risk of relapse.
5 Broccoli Recipes The Food Matters Team is Loving!
Broccoli Pesto Pasta
- 1 full head of broccoli
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Rind of 1 lemon
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or hemp oil
- 1/4 cup organic parmesan or nutritional yeast
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 2 cups of gluten free pasta (we love using brown rice or buckwheat pasta)
- Extra greens to add in: spinach, peas, extra broccoli, zucchini.
- Place the broccoli, pine nuts, the garlic, lemon rind and juice, oil, parmesan or nutritional yeast, salt and pepper in a food processor, blender of NutriBullet and process until roughly chopped. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water according to packet instructions or until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.
- Return the pasta and 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid to the pan over medium heat, add the broccoli pesto mixture and stir for 1–2 minutes or until well combined, mixing through any additional greens at this stage.
- Divide the pasta between plates enjoy!
Healthy Broccoli & Parmesan Fritters by Jessica Sepal
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 2 free-range eggs
- 3/4 cup almond meal
- 1 tsp lemon rind
- 1/3 cup parmesan, shaved
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Greek yogurt, to serve
- Lemon wedges, to serve
- Steam or boil the broccoli florets until they’re slightly tender but not too soft. Drain the broccoli and set it aside to cool slightly.
- In a food processor, add the cooked broccoli, eggs, almond meal, lemon rind, parmesan, garlic clove and salt. Pulse until the mixture comes together. Add a little more almond meal if it seems too wet.
- Heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add a heaped tablespoon of the fritter mixture to the pan and shape into a fritter. Repeat until you have 4 fritters cooking at once.
- Turn down the heat – remember, cook the fritters slowly! Cook the fritters on one side until they’re golden (7-10 mins) then flip carefully and fry for a further 5 mins until cooked through. Repeat with remaining fritters.
- Serve the fritters with a dollop of Greek yogurt and fresh lemon wedges.
Broccoli Salad with Creamy Almond Dressing by Pinch of Yum
- 2 heads broccoli, cut into small florets
- 2 cups chopped purple cabbage
- 1/2 cup golden raisins or cranberries
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- Juice of 1 orange
- 2 tablespoons miso pasta
- 2 tablespoons almond butter
- 1 shallot
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Toss all the salad ingredients together in a bowl.
- Pulse the dressing ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Pour over the salad ingredients and toss to combine.
- Serve immediately!
Char-Grilled Sprouting Broccoli with Sweet Tahini + Toasted Sesame Seeds by Yotam Ottolenghi
- 550g broccolini
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
- 40g tahini
- 1½ tsp honey
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp each white and black sesame seeds, toasted (or just 2 tsp white)
- Toss the broccoli in the oil, a teaspoon of salt and a large pinch of pepper, then cook on a very hot ridged griddle pan for two minutes on each side, until slightly charred and smoky. Set aside to cool.
- Whisk the tahini, honey, lemon juice, garlic and a pinch of salt, and slowly start to add water half a tablespoon at a time. At first, the sauce will look as if it has split, but it will soon come back together. Add just enough water to make the sauce the consistency of honey – around three tablespoons in total. Arrange the broccoli on a platter, drizzle with sauce and scatter with sesame seeds. Serve at room temperature.
Oven-Baked Broccoli and Cauliflower Steaks by Lee Holmes
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 small head cauliflower, cut into 4 thick slices
- 1 head broccoli, cut into 4 thick slices
- Sheep’s Yoghurt, to serve
- Pomegranate, to serve
- small handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve
Sheep’s Yoghurt Dip with Pomegranate
- 1 large pomegranate
- 520 g (1 lb 21/2oz/2 cups) full-fat plain sheep’s milk yogurt, chilled
- 2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped
- small handful coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped, plus extra sprigs to garnish
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- mint sprigs, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, cumin seeds, ground coriander, garam masala, turmeric, yeast flakes, salt and pepper.
- Lay the cauliflower and broccoli slices on the prepared baking tray, and brush with the spice mixture, turning over to coat both sides. Bake for 20–30 minutes, until tender. Set aside to cool.
- Cut the pomegranate in half and gently scoop out the seeds in segments, being careful not to break them. Pull the seeds off the yellow pithy membrane.
- In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, spring onion, coriander, salt and cumin, and mix well to combine. Add the lemon juice and check the seasoning. Gently fold in the pomegranate seeds, reserving some for a garnish. Transfer to a serving bowl, then garnish with the reserved pomegranate seeds.
- Transfer the ‘steaks’ to a plate, top with sheep’s yogurt dip and garnish with the coriander leaves to serve.