8 Surprising Health Benefits of Broccoli

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Ashley Festa on July 27, 2021
  • steamed-broccoli-in-bowl
    A Cruciferous Vegetable With Crucial Nutrition
    When you eat broccoli, you’re consuming the buds of this cruciferous vegetable. Cooked or raw, broccoli offers health benefits including many vitamins and minerals, fiber and antioxidants—though raw broccoli benefits have a slight edge on cooked broccoli. Don’t confuse this broccoli with broccoli rabe; while their names sound similar, they are very different vegetables. Though it may not be a superfood, broccoli rabe benefits also contribute to overall health and nutrition. Learn more about some of the surprising nutritional benefits of broccoli.
  • Spoon of green thai curry with broccoli, close-up
    1. Broccoli rivals oranges when it comes to vitamin C.
    One of the many health benefits of broccoli is its nutrition factor—this green veggie is chock full of vitamins. Just a cup of chopped raw or cooked broccoli contains about 90% of your daily vitamin C needs, almost as much as an orange. Broccoli is loaded with other vitamins and minerals too, especially vitamin K. Both raw and cooked broccoli are also good sources of potassium, phosphorus, folate and other B vitamins, beta-carotene, iron, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Broccoli also contains some protein and calcium.
  • young girl eating broccoli at home with a messy face
    2. Broccoli is a great source of fiber.
    A cup of either raw and cooked broccoli provides about 10% of your daily fiber needs. It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, neither of which can be digested but nevertheless help with different body functions. As you might guess, soluble fiber dissolves in body fluid. It slows down digestion and helps good gut bacteria flourish. Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, doesn’t dissolve, which makes stool softer and bulkier and quicker to pass through your body. In addition to keeping you regular, a high-fiber diet has a host of other benefits, including better colorectal and heart health, and it lowers your risk of obesity, diabetes and cancer.
  • Woman Eating Minestrone Vegetable Soup with Broccoli
    3. Broccoli boosts immunity and reduces inflammation.
    Along with other cruciferous veggies, like kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, broccoli contains phytonutrients that benefit your gut’s immune system and lower the risk of inflammatory bowel diseases. The anti-inflammatory properties of broccoli also help protect against cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States, even ahead of cancer.
  • broccoli and cauliflower
    4. Broccoli may help prevent cancer.
    Broccoli contains glucosinolates, which are the chemicals that give it its distinct smell and slightly bitter taste. When these chemicals break down during chewing and digestion, they form other compounds that are being studied for anticancer properties. In lab animal research, scientists have found that these compounds protect cells against DNA damage and prevent tumor formation and migration, which occurs when cancer spreads from one part of the body to another. These compounds also help promote cell death, which is a good thing because it prevents cells from growing out of control. Research is ongoing for potential human benefits of glucosinolates.
  • Hand picking up broccoli with chopsticks
    5. The antioxidants in broccoli may help slow the aging process.
    The health benefits of broccoli include beta-carotene and other carotenoids, vitamin E, and of course, all that aforementioned vitamin C. These are all antioxidants, which help protect our cells against oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals. Besides helping to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, arthritis and other conditions, this veggie can actually help slow the aging process by repairing cell’s DNA damage that has already occurred. Eating broccoli raw may increase this health benefit.
  • High Angle View Of Roasted Broccoli
    6. Broccoli protects against heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
    Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in America, and diabetes is also in the top 10 list of deadly health conditions. But broccoli helps give the body what it needs to prevent these diseases. All those antioxidants, as well as broccoli’s anti-inflammatory properties, work together to lower your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. As for diabetes, animal studies have found that the chemicals in broccoli can inhibit glucose production and improve glucose tolerance. In human studies, the chemicals improved patients’ fasting glucose level.
  • Broccoli rabe
    7. Broccoli rabe benefits aren’t the same as broccoli health benefits.
    Also called broccoli raab or rapini, broccoli rabe is also a cruciferous vegetable that looks a little bit like tiny broccoli heads, but are mostly leafy. While it tastes like broccoli and somewhat resembles broccoli, broccoli rabe is actually more closely related to turnips. Broccoli rabe doesn’t have nearly the amount of vitamin C as broccoli, but it still has about 9% of your daily vitamin C needs in just a cup of the raw veggie. Broccoli rabe is a great source of vitamin K, and also offers other nutrients, such as folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, iron, manganese and phosphorus.
  •  Woman cutting fresh broccoli
    8. Raw broccoli may have higher health benefits than cooked broccoli.
    Consider giving raw broccoli a try since it has been shown to have higher amounts of anticarcinogens than cooked broccoli, and these compounds absorb faster in the body. However, that’s not to say you should skip broccoli altogether if you don’t like it raw. It’s still a super healthy veggie, no matter how you enjoy it.
8 Surprising Health Benefits of Broccoli
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  5. Broccoli raab, raw. NutritionValue.org. https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Broccoli_raab%2C_raw_nutritional_value.html?size=1+cup+chopped+%3D+40+g
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  9. Soluble vs. insoluble fiber. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002136.htm
  10. What’s the Difference Between Soluble and Insoluble Fiber? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/whats-the-difference-between-soluble-and-insoluble-fiber/
  11. What Are Cruciferous Vegetables — and Why Are They So Good for You? Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/crunchy-and-cruciferous-youll-love-this-special-family-of-veggies/
  12. Leading Causes of Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
  13. Vermeulen M, Klöpping-Ketelaars IW, van den Berg R, Vaes WH. Bioavailability and kinetics of sulforaphane in humans after consumption of cooked versus raw broccoli. J Agric Food Chem. 2008 Nov 26;56(22):10505-9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18950181/
  14. Bai Y, Wang X, Zhao S, Ma C, Cui J, Zheng Y. Sulforaphane Protects against Cardiovascular Disease via Nrf2 Activation. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2015;2015:407580. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4637098/
  15. Axelsson AS, Tubbs E, Mecham B, Chacko S, Nenonen HA, Tang Y, Fahey JW, Derry JMJ, Wollheim CB, Wierup N, Haymond MW, Friend SH, Mulder H, Rosengren AH. Sulforaphane reduces hepatic glucose production and improves glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Sci Transl Med. 2017 Jun 14;9(394):eaah4477. https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/9/394/eaah4477.full
  16. Rapini/Broccoli Raab. University of California. http://sonomamg.ucanr.edu/Food_Gardening/Feature_Vegetables/Rapini_Broccoli_Raab/
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 19
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