Broccoli is one of the healthiest foods you can add to your diet. It is versatile in many recipes, makes a convenient side dish and is just as delicious eaten plain as a snack. Broccoli is loaded with nutrients and virtually guilt-free, since it is ultra low in calories.
Low in Calories
Broccoli fills you up for only a small amount calories, helping you keep your waistline trim. A full 1-cup serving of chopped steamed broccoli has about 55 calories, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. The majority of the calories, roughly 80 percent, come from carbohydrates. You need carbohydrates in your diet because they are the main source of fuel for every cell. The remaining 20 percent of calories come from a trace amount of protein and fat.
Beneficial for Digestion
Eating more broccoli ups your fiber intake, improving your digestive health. Broccoli is rich in insoluble fiber, a type of fiber that pushes out waste and keeps you regular. You need 14 grams of fiber in your diet for every 1,000 calories you consume, reports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. For example, if you tend to stick to an 1,800-calorie diet, you need 26 grams of fiber every day. You'll get a whopping 5 grams of fiber from just 1 cup of cooked broccoli, or nearly 20 percent of the recommendation for an 1,800-calorie diet.
Broccoli adds lots of vitamin C to your diet to keep your body healthy. Vitamin C helps you in a couple of different ways. It plays a role in helping your immune system work at its best, ridding your system of foreign invaders that make you sick. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that keeps all cells in tip-top shape by neutralizing free radicals. When free radicals build up, your risk of developing chronic diseases, including cancer, increases. Women need 75 milligrams of vitamin C on a daily basis, but if you're pregnant you need to boost your intake to 85 milligrams, which goes up to 120 milligrams while breastfeeding. The men in your household require 90 milligrams of vitamin C each day. Smoking further increases your needs by an additional 35 milligrams, explains the Office of Dietary Supplements. One cup of steamed broccoli has 100 milligrams of vitamin C.
Optimal Heart Health
Broccoli contains high levels of potassium, which is an important part of your diet because it keeps your heart pumping steadily. As an electrolyte, potassium conducts electricity through your body. This steady flow of electricity is vital to heart function. When potassium levels drop too low, you may wind up having an irregular heart beat and suffer from extreme fatigue. Adults of both genders need 4,700 milligrams of daily potassium. Your recommendation does not increase during pregnancy, but if you nurse, you'll need 5,100 milligrams each day, notes the Linus Pauling Institute. Enjoying a 1-cup side of steaming broccoli for dinner adds more than 450 milligrams of potassium to your diet.
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.