Don’t be too quick to cut carbs out of your diet – your body uses them as the main source of energy. If you’re carefully monitoring all of the macronutrients in your diet, broccoli will fall under the carbohydrate category. Sure, broccoli has a trace amount of fat and even a few grams of protein, but the majority of the calories come from carbohydrates.
One cup of steamed broccoli gives you a minimal 55 calories. Eighty percent of the calories in broccoli come from carbohydrates, while the remaining amount stems primarily from protein. That heaping 1-cup side of broccoli provides about 11 grams of carbohydrates, around 3 grams of protein and a miniscule amount of fat.
Carbs in the Diet
Because carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy, a big chunk of your calories needs to come from them. Somewhere between 45 and 65 percent of your overall calories for the day should ideally come from carbs, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans states. This means that if 1,600 calories per day is average for you, you’ll need 720 to 1,040 calories from carbohydrates. Since carbs have 4 calories per gram, this amounts to 180 to 260 grams of carbs. Your 1-cup side of steamed broccoli only takes up 4 to 6 percent of your daily carbohydrate allowance, based on 1,600 calories.
If you’re carefully keeping tabs on all the carbohydrates in your diet, you’ll want to opt for low-carb toppings for your favorite green veggie. Vegetable oil-based margarine is carb-free, but if you prefer a butter-margarine blend spread, you’ll wind up with 0.1 grams of carbohydrates. Olive oil is a healthier alternative to butter blends that is full of heart-friendly fats. You’ll get the flavor you crave, without adding any carbohydrates. Garlic adds even more flavor to broccoli. One minced clove of garlic contains 1 gram of carbohydrates, while the powdered variety has 2 grams of carbs in a teaspoon. Black pepper, chili powder and paprika are other low-carb toppings that each have 1.5 grams of carbs or less per teaspoon.
The Fiber Bonus
Broccoli also has another type of carbohydrate that doesn’t add any calories to your diet: Fiber. Even though fiber doesn’t give you energy, your body needs it each day for basic digestive processes. For every 1,000 calories in your diet, you should be getting 14 grams of fiber, reports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For example, based on 1,600 calories per day, you’ll need 22.5 grams of fiber. That same 1-cup portion of cooked broccoli has more than 5 grams of fiber – roughly 23 percent of your fiber needs for the entire day.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Broccoli, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, Without Salt
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Carbohydrate, by Difference (g) Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Sorted by Nutrient Content
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.