Mothers seem to have an instinctive wisdom about what’s good for the body, even if it takes science decades (or even centuries) to catch up. Case in point: Modern science is just beginning to discover exactly how right our moms were when they insisted we eat our broccoli.
So as we explore the scope of broccoli benefits, let’s chalk up one more point for mothers everywhere...and get ready to embrace the green!
Broccoli is a member of the healthy family of cruciferous vegetables (also referred to as brassica vegetables). This family also includes cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula, bok choy, cabbage, kale, collard greens, cress, radishes, turnips, and kohlrabi. All of these vegetables are incredibly nutritious and gut healthy, so you really can’t go wrong enjoying any of them.
With its relatively mild flavor, versatility, and affordability, broccoli provides an accessible and delicious way to give your body a brassica boost. For starters, the fiber in broccoli is an excellent prebiotic, which means it provides the perfect nutrition for your friendly gut microbes to thrive. When your beneficial flora are doing well, they support vibrant health in your entire body and mind—and probiotic organisms also help crowd out the types of bacteria you don’t want.
Broccoli contains such a vast array of nutrition it’s almost like taking a multivitamin. Here are just a few of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients you get in each bite:
• Vitamin A
• B vitamins
• Vitamin C
• Vitamin E
• Vitamin K
• Folic acid
• Omega 3s
• Isothiocyanates (ITCs)
Broccoli and Your Gut
Most of us are already well aware of the importance of gut health. Glowing wellness starts in the digestive system, and a balanced gut is associated with supporting a number of health factors, such as positive mood, beautiful skin, exuberant energy, restful sleep, healthy weight management, cardiovascular health, and much, much more. The breaking news is that eating broccoli seems to have a direct, positive effect on the gut microbiome!
Broccoli is a great source of glucosinolates, which break down into indolocarbazole (ITZ), a compound that regulates intestinal microbial makeup. And the latest research is confirming that a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli has a significant impact on microbial diversity and composition.
In one recent study, scientists determined that everyone’s microbiome is completely unique (like snowflakes!), but eating cruciferous vegetables including broccoli consistently altered the microbial composition of participants for the better. They also discovered that very specific beneficial microbes are associated with eating brassica veggies.1
Additional research involving healthy adults found that the microbiomes of those fed broccoli and daikon radish became more diverse and contained more favorable organisms than a control group fed an otherwise identical diet lacking any cruciferous vegetables. The broccoli eating group’s Bacteroidetes to Firmicutes ratios increased by 37%, however, the group that didn’t receive any cruciferous veggies actually experienced a 5% reduction in this ratio.2
A third study also confirms that broccoli consumption benefits the gut, and quickly too. Participants given a diet that included broccoli and cauliflower over a two-week period experienced a significant reduction in certain troublesome intestinal microbes that are associated with digestive difficulties, excess weight gain, gut permeability and other health challenges.3
Even More Health Benefits of Broccoli
Broccoli’s rich nutritional profile and gut boosting powers support wellness in a number of other ways as well:• Brings out your most beautiful self: The B vitamins; vitamins A, E, and K; folate; protein; and omega 3s in broccoli help keep skin, hair, and nails healthy, glowing, and gorgeous.
• Keeps you safer in the sunshine: Glucoraphanin, a phytonutrient contained in broccoli, seems to lessen the harmful effects of UV rays.4
• Detoxifies and protects: Broccoli’s sulfur, vitamin C, and amino acids work to flush out toxins and free radicals, cleansing and purifying the blood. Then, to make things even better, nutrients including ITCs, beta carotene, vitamins, diindolylmethane, and glucoraphanin keep your body functioning properly on a cellular level.5,6
• Supports eye health: Eating lutein and zeaxanthin-rich foods like broccoli helps maintain vision as we age.7
• Encourages cardiovascular and endocrine wellness: The combination of nutrients contained in broccoli—including omega 3s, beta carotene, chromium, sulforaphane, and fiber—support smooth blood flow and overall heart health, as well as optimum cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels. And as if this wasn’t already exciting enough, broccoli is also rich in iron and amino acids that enable your body to produce the red blood cells it needs for vibrant energy.8,9,10,11,12
• Protects your bones: The naturally occurring calcium and vitamin K in broccoli act to keep bones strong through the years.13
• Tames tummy troubles: In addition to taking digestive health to the next level by favorably altering the microbiome, broccoli is also high in prebiotic fiber, magnesium, vitamins, and phytonutrients that act synergistically to improve nutrient absorption and keep everything moving smoothly along. The latest research reveals that broccoli may even ease temporary inflammation and discomfort in those who struggle with existing digestive issues.14
• Bolsters aging immune systems: Sulforaphane, which is abundant in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, switches on important antioxidant enzymes and genes that combat free radical damage that would otherwise occur over time. When the immune system is activated in this way, the body is better equipped to postpone or even remain free of many conditions that were once believed to be an inevitable part of aging.15
Sometimes, even with lots of wonderful foods like broccoli on the menu, it can be difficult to get enough probiotics and prebiotics in your diet. Supplementing with a high quality time-released probiotic such as PRO-15 and an organic prebiotic powder helps ensure you’re making the most of all your gut-healthy choices.
Whether you’re already a broccoli enthusiast—or it’s topped your list of least appealing foods—there are so many ways to enjoy this superfood that odds are at least one of them will click for you. You can roast broccoli in the oven, brushed with your favorite healthy oil and spices, saute it with onions and mushrooms, steam it gently, or just chop some up in your next salad. Broccoli also works really well in soups and stews.
If you’re still not a fan, try pureeing it into a homemade pesto or tossing a few steamed and then frozen broccoli florets together with some fresh mango, grapes, and orange slices into your next smoothie. All you’ll taste is the fruit, but your gut will absolutely appreciate the green gift you’ve sent it.
Incorporating broccoli (and other brassica veggies) into your meal planning routine is one of the cheapest and yummiest ways to take charge of your microbial and overall wellness. So when you start treating yourself to broccoli regularly—and pat yourself on the back for being so health conscious—don’t forget to call your mom and thank her for what she’s been telling you all along.
1. Li, F., Hullar, M. A., Schwarz, Y., & Lampe, J. W. (2009). Human Gut Bacterial Communities Are Altered by Addition of Cruciferous Vegetables to a Controlled Fruit- and Vegetable-Free Diet. Journal of Nutrition, 139(9), 1685-1691. doi:10.3945/jn.109.108191
2. Jennifer L Kaczmarek, Craig S Charron, Janet A Novotny, Elizabeth H Jeffery, Harold E Seifried, Sharon A Ross, Kelly S Swanson, & Hannah D Holscher (2017). Broccoli Consumption Impacts the Human Gastrointestinal Microbiota. FASEB Journal, 31:965.18
3. Kellingray, L., Tapp, H. S., Saha, S., Doleman, J. F., Narbad, A., & Mithen, R. F. (2017). Consumption of a diet rich in Brassica vegetables is associated with a reduced abundance of sulphate-reducing bacteria: A randomised crossover study. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 61(9), 1600992. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201600992
4. Dinkova-Kostova, A. T., Fahey, J. W., Benedict, A. L., Jenkins, S. N., Ye, L., Wehage, S. L., & Talalay, P. (2010). Dietary glucoraphanin-rich broccoli sprout extracts protect against UV radiation-induced skin carcinogenesis in SKH-1 hairless mice. Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, 9(4), 597. doi:10.1039/b9pp00130a
5. Mithen R., Faulkner K., Magrath R., Rose P., Williamson G., & Marquez J. (2003). Development of isothiocyanate-enriched broccoli, and its enhanced ability to induce phase 2 detoxification enzymes in mammalian cells. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 106(4), 727-734. doi:10.1007/s00122-002-1123-x
6. Murillo, G., & Mehta, R. (2001). Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention. Nutrition and Cancer, 41(1), 17-28. doi:10.1207/s15327914nc41-1&2_2
7. Perry, A., Rasmussen, H., & Johnson, E. J. (2009). Xanthophyll (lutein, zeaxanthin) content in fruits, vegetables and corn and egg products. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 22(1), 9-15. doi:10.1016/j.jfca.2008.07.006
8. Zhang, X., Shu, X., Xiang, Y., Yang, G., Li, H., Gao, J., … Zheng, W. (2011). Cruciferous vegetable consumption is associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(1), 240-246. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.009340
9. Bazzano, L. A., He, J., Ogden, L. G., Loria, C., Vupputuri, S., Myers, L., … Johnston, S. C. (2001). Dietary Potassium Intake and Risk of Stroke in US Men and Women : National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I Epidemiologic Follow-Up Study Editorial Comment: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I Epidemiologic Follow-Up Study Potassium, Stroke, and the Bounds of Epidemiological Studies: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I Epidemiologic Follow-Up Study. Stroke, 32(7), 1473-1480. doi:10.1161/01.str.32.7.1473
10. Armah, C. N., Derdemezis, C., Traka, M. H., Dainty, J. R., Doleman, J. F., Saha, S., … Mithen, R. F. (2015). Diet rich in high glucoraphanin broccoli reduces plasma LDL cholesterol: Evidence from randomised controlled trials. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 59(5), 918-926. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201400863
11. Zakkar, M., Van der Heiden, K., Luong, L. A., Chaudhury, H., Cuhlmann, S., Hamdulay, S. S., … Evans, P. C. (2009). Activation of Nrf2 in Endothelial Cells Protects Arteries From Exhibiting a Proinflammatory State. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 29(11), 1851-1857. doi:10.1161/atvbaha.109.193375
12. Tang, G., Meng, X., Li, Y., Zhao, C., Liu, Q., & Li, H. (2017). Effects of Vegetables on Cardiovascular Diseases and Related Mechanisms. Nutrients, 9(8), 857. doi:10.3390/nu9080857
13. Weber, P. (2001). Vitamin K and bone health. Nutrition, 17(10), 880-887. doi:10.1016/s0899-9007(01)00709-2
14. Hubbard, T. D., Murray, I. A., Nichols, R. G., Cassel, K., Podolsky, M., Kuzu, G., … Perdew, G. H. (2017). Dietary broccoli impacts microbial community structure and attenuates chemically induced colitis in mice in an Ah receptor dependent manner. Journal of Functional Foods, 37, 685-698. doi:10.1016/j.jff.2017.08.038
15. Kim, H., Barajas, B., Wang, M., & Nel, A. E. (2008). Nrf2 activation by sulforaphane restores the age-related decrease of TH1 immunity: Role of dendritic cells. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 121(5), 1255-1261.e7. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2008.01.016
Roberta Pescow is a writer at Hyperbiotics and proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. Natural wellness is a subject she’s passionate about, so she loves sharing information that helps others discover all the ways probiotics support glowing health and well-being. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.