When it comes to nutrition, broccoli tops the list with a plethora of health benefits.
While low in calories, it is a nutritional powerhouse full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. It is one of the healthiest cruciferous vegetables and its close relatives include Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage.
The vegetable contains a compound known as sulforaphane, which studies suggest helps to maintain people’s blood sugar levels and may even have anti-cancer properties.
How much broccoli should you eat to obtain maximum health benefits?
When looking into literature, there are conflicting results on the functional amount of broccoli based on differences in the study population, design, and dietary assessment.
Some studies recommend 2-3 servings of broccoli (or other cruciferous vegetables) per week. Others show results that broccoli once a week may be enough to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancers (like prostate cancer).
Overall, one to two servings of broccoli per week is something that we recommend as part of a healthy diet. Cruciferous vegetables in general and eating or drinking other ‘bitter’ foods like olive oil, walnuts, garlic, grapefruit, green tea, bitter melon, dandelion greens, or citrus peel every day will do you good.
How the research was carried out?
The researchers, from Zhejiang University, bought several heads of broccoli from a local market.
The broccoli was chopped to activate the enzyme myrosinase, which plants have evolved to protect themselves against herbivores.
Myrosinase causes sulforaphane to become available for absorption.
The pulverised broccoli was then divided into three groups.
Some of was left as it was, some were immediately stir-fried for four minutes and the remainder sat for 90 minutes before also being cooked quickly over heat.
A Chinese study suggests chopping the vegetable into 2mm pieces and letting them ‘sit’ for 90 minutes before gently cooking increases their sulforaphane levels by 2.8 times.
Although unclear exactly why this occurs, the researchers believe waiting before cooking chopped broccoli may allow sulforaphane to ‘develop’.
It is important to chop broccoli as sulforaphane can only be absorbed if the vegetable is ‘damaged’.
The Healthiest Way To Cook Broccoli
The high amount of chlorophyll found in broccoli (green pigment present in plants and algae that is essential in plant photosynthesis) can help neutralize the taste and smell of sulfur as well as its gas-producing effects. However, chlorophyll is very heat sensitive, so cooking your broccoli for more than 5 minutes at high heat will destroy its counteracting effects. Therefore, keep the cooking light and short to avoid chlorophyll as well as vitamin C loss!
We recommend blanching, steaming, or microwaving your broccoli shortly, if possible. I like to eat blanched broccoli with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of vanilla powder.
To optimize nutritional benefits and to make sure that the flavorful components in your broccoli are converted into health-promoting bioactive in your body, steaming is a great option.
Pro Tip: To crisp up broccoli florets that have gone a bit limp, soak ’em for a spell in ice-cold water. They’ll firm up fast.