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Broccoli: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects By Dr. Rajeev Singh

By Dr Rajeev Singh +2 more

Introduction: 

Broccoli, earlier popularised in western countries, is now gaining renewed interest globally. Broccoli, a yummy vegetable which looks like a mini-tree with several branches and flower heads, is slowly becoming a serious contender as the next superfood. The scientific name of Broccoli is Brassica oleracea. It is a member of the Brassicaceae family, other members include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc. The members of this family are rich in vitamins, minerals, glycosides, dietary fibres etc. Due to its high nutritional value, broccoli is also known as the “Crown jewel of nutrition”. It is a winter-season crop cultivated largely along the Mediterranean region.1 There are several ways in which broccoli is consumed; this versatile ingredient can be used in various recipes, as a standalone ingredient in salads, steamed and sprinkled with seasoning of choice and consumed as a side dish, stir-fried or boiled and prepared as a soup.2 Let us know more about this superfood’s benefits, nutritional value and side effects. 

broccoli benefits

Nutritional Value of Broccoli: 

Broccoli contains various nutritional components that are given in the table below. They are rich in a variety of compounds, like vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, sulphur-containing compounds, anticancer and antioxidants. 

Nutritional components Value per 100g 
Total protein 2.57 (25.6%) 
Total fat 0.4g (3.94%) 
Total carbohydrates 6g (59.46%) 
Dietary fibre 3.0 g 
Iron 45.83 micrograms 
Zinc 54 micrograms 
Manganese 18.83 micrograms 
Calcium 4.65 mg 
Phosphorus 7.01 mg 
Potassium 145 mg 
Beta-carotene 30.6 micrograms 
Lutein 85.5 micrograms 
Vitamin C 93.2 mg 
Folate 71 micrograms 
Vitamin K 102 micrograms 

Table 1: Nutritional value of broccoli (florets)2,3,4,5 

Properties of Broccoli: 

Scientific literature has found that the consumption of Broccoli shows numerous properties as those mentioned below which may be: 

  • Anti-inflammatory 
  • Antioxidant 
  • Immunity booster 
  • Cardio protective 
  • Anti-ageing2    

Potential Uses of Broccoli for Overall Health: 

Some of the potential benefits of Broccoli are described as follows: 

1. Potential uses of Broccoli for cancer  

Broccoli contains a biochemical compound, sulforaphane which has anticarcinogenic property. Liu et al. conducted a study in 2017 to assess the effect of broccoli on targeting squamous cell carcinomas in-vitro and in-vivo. The study results showed broccoli had a positive impact on cancer and caused tumour suppression. This may indicate that consumption of broccoli may help in avoiding the occurrence of cancers, however more human studies to support these claims are needed.6 

2. Potential uses of Broccoli for fatty liver 

Fatty liver is an umbrella term which is known to include several disease conditions caused by fat accumulation in the liver. Studies show consumption of broccoli can slow down the development of fatty liver. Chen et al. conducted a study in 2016 to observe the effects of broccoli consumption on fatty liver in mice. Six months of consumption of broccoli showed decreased levels of liver enzymes, NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) scores and suppressed hepatic neoplasm formation. However, more human studies are required to ascertain these claims.7 

3. Potential uses of Broccoli on osteoarthritis 

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. Broccoli contains sulforaphane (isothiocyanate) which have anti-inflammatory properties. Davidson et al. conducted a study in 2017 to assess the effect of broccoli consumption on osteoarthritis. A 100-g consumption of broccoli for 14-days resulted in improvement in the levels of isothiocyanate, however the functional consequence of this on humans has to be studied.8 

4. Potential uses of Broccoli for Alzheimer’s disease 

Alzheimer’s disease is a very common neurodegenerative disease in the elderly which impairs the mental functions and memory. The main cause of this disease is occurrence of amyloid deposits and oxidative stress. Zhang et al. conducted a study in 2015 to assess the effects of sulforaphane present in broccoli on Alzheimer’s. The study was conducted in mice and it was found that broccoli which contains sulforaphane, had neuroprotective effects and helped in protecting the brain from amyloid deposits and oxidative stress. Therefore, there is a possibility that consumption of broccoli can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but we need more human studies to support these claims.9 

5. Potential uses of Broccoli for gastrointestinal health 

Chronic oxidative stress can delay the defecation process. A diet rich in fibre can help aid digestion process and can relieve constipation. Broccoli in addition to being rich in fibre is also rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant. Akinori et al. conducted a study in 2018 to assess the effects of broccoli-supplemented diet on defecation.  The participants were requested to eat 20g of raw broccoli daily for 4 weeks. Four weeks of broccoli consumption showed improvement in bowel habits. Thus, it can be concluded that the consumption of broccoli may help in improving the overall gastrointestinal health.10 

6. Other potential uses of broccoli 

  • May provide a neuroprotective effect in patients with traumatic brain injury. 
  • A high level of carotenoids may help improve eyesight. 
  • Presence of Vitamin K may help in blood clotting. 
  • Being a good source of magnesium, it may exert a cardioprotective effect. 
  • May help in promoting hair growth.2,11 

Though there are studies that show the benefits of Broccoli in various conditions, but these are insufficient and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of Broccoli on human health.  

Eating broccoli might improve your vision. Broccoli contains a compound named indole-3-carbonyl which might be able to remove environmental toxins by a specific receptor, aryl hydrocarbon receptor proteins (Ahr). This receptor might be responsible for the detoxification of the retina.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, B.A.M.S, M.D (Ayu)

How to Use Broccoli? 

Broccoli can be used in the following ways: 

  • The florets, leaves and stems are fully edible and have several ways of consumption. 
  • This versatile vegetable can be used in various recipes, as a standalone ingredient in salads, steamed and sprinkled with seasoning of choice and consumed as a side dish. It can also be stir-fried or boiled and prepared as a soup.3 

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.   

Also Read: Potential Benefits of Alpha Lipoic Acid: Comprehensive Insights Backed by Science

Side Effects of Broccoli: 

A few side effects related to the consumption of Broccoli include: 

  • An excess consumption of broccoli by smokers can increase the risk of developing lung cancer due to increase in antioxidants. 
  • As broccoli is rich in Potassium that causes lowering of blood pressure, an excess consumption can result in hypotension. 
  • An excess broccoli consumption can also increase the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. 
  • Patient on blood thinners can have increased risk of bleeding due to the presence of Vitamin K in broccoli. 
  • Broccoli contains isothiocyanates which are goitrogens and can alter iodine uptake, functioning of thyroid gland and can cause hypothyroidism. 
  • In some people it may cause headaches, nasal congestion, wheezing and skin rashes.12 

However, if you experience any adverse reactions to broccoli, immediately contact a doctor or your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it to you. They will be able to guide you appropriately for your symptoms. 

Broccoli may have a beneficial role in maintaining heart health. Based on some research, people who eat broccoli regularly may have less calcium buildup in their aortas. As we know calcified aortas might lead to heart attacks or stroke. Thus, broccoli might be beneficial in reducing the risk of heart health and stroke.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

Precautions to take with Broccoli: 

Eating broccoli is healthy if taken in moderate amounts. However, general precautions must be followed in the given conditions: 

  • Thyroid and hypotension.  
  • Persons sensitive to common allergens in general. 
  • Diabetes  
  • Smokers.11 

Also Read: Chinese Eggplant: Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & More! 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

As broccoli contains Vitamin K, it may interact with blood thinning medicines and increase the risk of bleeding. Therefore, you must always seek the advice of your Ayurvedic physician about the possible interaction of broccoli with other drugs, and follow the prescription thoroughly, as they will know your health condition and other medications you are taking.11 

Also Read: Purple Cabbage: Revealing its Research-Based Health Benefits

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) What is the scientific name of broccoli?

The scientific name of Broccoli is Brassica oleracea, and it is a member of the Brassicaceae family.1 

2) What other members are present in the Brassicaceae family? 

Cruciferous vegetables/flowering plants included in this family are cabbage, cauliflower, kale, etc.1

3) Which vegetable is known as the crown jewel of nutrition?

Broccoli which is rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, glycosides, dietary fibres etc., is also known as the “Crown jewel of nutrition” due to its high nutritional value.1 

4) Can broccoli improve bowel defecation? 

Yes. As broccoli is rich in dietary fibre and sulforaphane, both of which aids in digestion and the latter also reduces oxidative stress and therefore, it can improve bowel defecation. However, it is advised to consult a doctor for a proper treatment and do not consider consumption of broccoli as an alternative to modern medicine. 

5) Is it safe to consume broccoli when taking blood pressure medicines? 

In addition to blood pressure lowering by your blood pressure medication, consumption of broccoli, which is rich in Potassium will result in severe hypotension. So, it is advised to consult a doctor for a proper advice.10 

References: 

  1. Lee SG, Kim JH, Son MJ, Lee EJ, Park WD, Kim JB, Lee SP, Lee IS. Influence of extraction method on quality and functionality of broccoli juice. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2013;18:133–138. doi: 10.3746/pnf.2013.18.2.133. Available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3892506/ 
  1. Nishkak (2022) What are the health benefits of broccoli? PharmEasy Blog. Available at: https://pharmeasy.in/blog/what-are-the-health-benefits-of-broccoli/ (Accessed: November 18, 2022).  
  1. Liu M, Zhang L, Ser SL, Cumming JR, Ku KM. Comparative Phytonutrient Analysis of Broccoli By-Products: The Potentials for Broccoli By-Product Utilization. Molecules. 2018 Apr 13;23(4):900. doi: 10.3390/molecules23040900. PMID: 29652847; PMCID: PMC6017511. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6017511/ 
  1. Sharma KD, Stähler K, Smith B, Melton L. Antioxidant capacity, polyphenolics and pigments of broccoli-cheese powder blends. J Food Sci Technol. 2011 Aug;48(4):510-4. doi: 10.1007/s13197-010-0211-1. Epub 2011 Jan 11. PMID: 23572781; PMCID: PMC3551179. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551179/ 
  1. Drabińska N, Nogueira M, Szmatowicz B. Valorisation of Broccoli By-Products: Technological, Sensory and Flavour Properties of Durum Pasta Fortified with Broccoli Leaf Powder. Molecules. 2022 Jul 22;27(15):4672. doi: 10.3390/molecules27154672. PMID: 35897847; PMCID: PMC9332216. Available at: 
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9332216/ 
  1. Liu CM, Peng CY, Liao YW, Lu MY, Tsai ML, Yeh JC, Yu CH, Yu CC. Sulforaphane targets cancer stemness and tumor initiating properties in oral squamous cell carcinomas via miR-200c induction. J Formos Med Assoc. 2017 Jan;116(1):41-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jfma.2016.01.004. Epub 2016 Feb 12. PMID: 26879838. Available at: https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S0929664616000280?token=39B4FB4C51B8E9A3740EF7B4F861EF4462AC6B62FB6342F5B0EA8B2BBA9DDEB873AFBAAE31838E8F8449E35B940FE406&originRegion=eu-west-1&originCreation=20221113122352
  1. Chen YJ, Wallig MA, Jeffery EH. Dietary Broccoli Lessens Development of Fatty Liver and Liver Cancer in Mice Given Diethylnitrosamine and Fed a Western or Control Diet. J Nutr. 2016 Mar;146(3):542-50. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.228148. Epub 2016 Feb 10. PMID: 26865652; PMCID: PMC4763488. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4763488/
  1. Davidson R, Gardner S, Jupp O, Bullough A, Butters S, Watts L, Donell S, Traka M, Saha S, Mithen R, Peffers M, Clegg P, Bao Y, Cassidy A, Clark I. Isothiocyanates are detected in human synovial fluid following broccoli consumption and can affect the tissues of the knee joint. Sci Rep. 2017 Jun 13;7(1):3398. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-03629-5. PMID: 28611391; PMCID: PMC5469854. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5469854/
  1. Zhang R, Miao QW, Zhu CX, Zhao Y, Liu L, Yang J, An L. Sulforaphane ameliorates neurobehavioral deficits and protects the brain from amyloid β deposits and peroxidation in mice with Alzheimer-like lesions. Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2015 Mar;30(2):183-91. doi: 10.1177/1533317514542645. Epub 2014 Jul 13. PMID: 25024455. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1533317514542645?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub%20%200pubmed
  1. Yanaka A. Daily intake of broccoli sprouts normalizes bowel habits in human healthy subjects. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2018 Jan;62(1):75-82. doi: 10.3164/jcbn.17-42. Epub 2017 Nov 3. PMID: 29371757; PMCID: PMC5773831. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5773831/
  1. Health benefits of broccoli (no date) Let’s Eat Healthy + Dairy Council of California Homepage. Available at: https://www.healthyeating.org/blog/detail/health-benefits-of-broccoli (Accessed: November 18, 2022).  
  1. Nandini DB, Rao RS, Deepak BS, Reddy PB. Sulforaphane in broccoli: The green chemoprevention!! Role in cancer prevention and therapy. J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2020 May-Aug;24(2):405. doi: 10.4103/jomfp.JOMFP_126_19. Epub 2020 Sep 9. PMID: 33456268; PMCID: PMC7802872. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802872/ 
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