Eating a healthy diet can be difficult in today’s fast-food world. People often eat on the go, choosing foods for their portability rather than their nutritional value. When searching for a snack to grab on your way out the door, a great addition to your office lunch or a perfect side dish for dinner, think of broccoli – considered healthy for many reasons.
Low Calorie and Low Fat
The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans stresses the importance of consuming nutrient-dense foods to maintain the calorie balance necessary to sustain a healthy weight. Nutrient-dense foods provide a variety of essential nutrients in as few calories and with as little fat as possible. Broccoli meets this need because a 1-cup serving of chopped raw broccoli contains only 31 calories and .34 grams of fat. This serving of broccoli also contains 2.6 grams of protein, 2.4 grams of fiber and very little natural sugar.
The University of Illinois Extension reports that broccoli packs more nutrients than any other vegetable. Broccoli serves as an excellent source of vitamin C, contributing 81 milligrams to your diet in each 1-cup serving. This amount of broccoli exceeds the daily recommended intake of 75 milligrams per day for women. Broccoli also contains a large amount of beta-carotene, a carotenoid compound that is a precursor to vitamin A. Each 1-cup serving contains 28 micrograms of vitamin A. Broccoli also contributes vitamin K, folate and other B vitamins to your daily intake.
Broccoli serves as a rich source of essential minerals. Although the 1-cup serving naturally contains 30 milligrams of sodium, of which you should limit your intake, it also provides 288 milligrams of potassium, which counteracts the effects of sodium. Broccoli also contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and small amounts of iron.
One of the main reasons doctors and scientists consider broccoli a healthy food is its potential to protect against certain types of cancer. Broccoli is classified as a cruciferous vegetable. These vegetables contain a group of phytochemicals known as glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds that your body breaks down into biologically active compounds with anti-cancer effects. Although not yet completely understood, these compounds in broccoli may protect cellular DNA from damage, inactivate cancer-causing compounds, fight viruses and bacteria, promote an anti-inflammatory response and inhibit tumor cell migration. So whether you like it raw or cooked, as a snack or part of a meal, eat your broccoli as part of a healthy diet.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Broccoli, raw
- University of Illinois Extension: Broccoli
- Institute of Medicine: Recommended Dietary Allowance
- American Heart Association: Potassium and High Blood Pressure
- National Cancer Institute: Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention
- American Cancer Society: Broccoli
Stephanie Chandler is a freelance writer whose master's degree in biomedical science and over 15 years experience in the scientific and pharmaceutical professions provide her with the knowledge to contribute to health topics. Chandler has been writing for corporations and small businesses since 1991. In addition to writing scientific papers and procedures, her articles are published on Overstock.com and other websites.