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“Now, now… Eat your greens”! We’ve all heard how greens like broccoli are good for us. Don’t ruin it with sugar-loaded ketchup, though! Let’s find out the healthiest way to cook broccoli (and retain its flavour).
Good day everybody, I hope you’re all well and ready to get into another post!
Today we are going to be answering a quick question about one of the world’s most nutritious vegetables: Broccoli. It’s delicious, versatile, and it’s everywhere.
Yet, the healthiest way to eat broccoli is sometimes debated or misunderstood.
So we’re going to clear things up. I will be covering multiple methods of cooking and preparing this cruciferous vegetable, and also discussing some of its amazing health benefits.
Without further adieu, let’s brocc’n’roll! (the puns get better every time ;))
Why You Should Eat Broccoli at All
Broccoli is one of the healthiest foods out there! It is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, and dietary fiber. This fibre includes both insoluble and soluble fibre types.
A little-known fact is that the leaves and stems are just as nutritious as the florets! Why not try mixing them into your cooking and spend less for an even healthier diet!
Per 100 g, raw broccoli will typically contain the following (RDI):
- Vitamin A carotenoids – 12%
- Vitamin B1 – around 10%
- Vitamins B5, B6, and B9 – each around 13%
- Vitamin C – just under 150%
- Vitamin K (K1) – over 80%
- Iron – 6%
- Manganese – 10%
- Potassium – 8%
- Magnesium – 5%
- Selenium – 5%
- Calcium – 5%
- Phosphorus – 7%
- Zinc – 4%.
Some Brilliant Broccoli Benefits
That’s all good, but what does it mean? Well, alongside broccoli’s other beneficial nutrients, these have a great impact on our health by aiding in many vital functions.
Eating broccoli benefits our health in numerous ways because of this. Here are just a few!
Boosted Immune System.
Broccoli is loaded with vitamin C and other antioxidants and flavonoids! All of these can really help out our immune system and protect us from illness.
Vitamin C in particular helps to modulate the immune system, keeping it functioning well. This makes it beneficial for fighting viruses and invasive bacteria, such as those that cause the flu. As studies show, vitamin C and zinc can both reduce the symptoms and chance of mild and severe illnesses (^)(^). Zinc is another powerful antioxidant.
Amongst other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is linked to a lower risk of cancer. This is due to numerous vitamins and minerals, but also phytochemicals such as sulforaphane. This chemical is much higher in young sprouts rather than the mature vegetable.
Soluble and Insoluble Fibre
The fibres found in broccoli are great for the body in many ways. Naturally, these include aiding in digestion, but also the following examples.
- Preventing blood sugar spikes
- Reduced serum bad LDL cholesterol levels (which improves heart health)
- Prebiotic properties, which support a healthy gut microbiome (such as probiotic bacteria which help to improve digestion, mood, and overall health).
Supporting Weight Loss
Due to the fact that broccoli is very low in calories, it is often eaten by those trying to lose weight. If you have an excess amount of body fat and need to lose some, then by consuming less calories than you expel, your body will turn to its fat storage as a source of energy.
There are healthy what is an unhealthy ways to lose weight. Starvation is an extremely unhealthy way, so make sure to see a qualified professional before cutting down on too much.
The nutrients in broccoli also help to maintain a healthy body weight.
So, What Is the Healthiest Way to Eat Broccoli?
In as many ways as broccoli benefits health, it can be used in cooking. It really is that versatile!
That said, if you want to get the most out of it nutritionally, and still experience it’s full flavour potential, here’s what to know…
There are certain benefits of eating raw broccoli over cooking broccoli, but it isn’t for everyone.
- If you have digestive issues or an irritable bowel, then raw broccoli can cause discomfort or upset. For this reason, it is best to check with a medical professional if you have digestive issues before eating raw broccoli.
- The same goes for people on thyroid medication or impaired thyroid function. This is because raw cruciferous vegetables can cause slight suppression of the thyroid.
- Vitamin K can act as a coagulant (meaning it helps the blood to clot). For this reason it can interfere with blood thinning medication. Those receiving this treatment may be better off with smaller portions.
For most people that shouldn’t be a concern, and raw broccoli can be welcomed into a balanced diet.
What Are its Advantages?
When compared to cooked broccoli, raw broccoli is highest in vitamin C and fibre content. For this reason it is one of the healthiest way to eat broccoli.
(This is the reason that raw broccoli isn’t ideal for those prone to irritation, bloating, or gas. Vitamin C supports healthy digestion, but fibre takes time to break down. For this reason, high amounts of certain fibres can increase the load on your digestive system.
Unsure whether you should have it raw or not? Trying small amounts at a time is a good indicator. Personally, I’m fine with it. And if the above don’t apply to you, you should be too.)
For most people, the soluble and insoluble fibre found in raw broccoli is mostly beneficial. Raw broccoli will contribute more towards the benefits of fibre and Vitamin C than if cooked.
Make sure to buy your broccoli from a safe source. A local organic farm is best, but most reputable supermarkets are good too. If you are abroad or buying from a smaller market, it is best to do your research or cook the broccoli to be on the safe side. This will prevent illness from bacteria.
Boiling is the Worst Option!
As the header says, the worst option for retaining nutrients is boiling.
This is true even more so if using a lot of water or cooking for a long amount of time.
On average, boiling broccoli may reduce its overall nutrient content by up to 90%.
Boiling can greatly reduce vitamins, glucosinolates, and chlorophyll.
This effect is highest on water soluble-vitamins (such as the B vitamins and vitamin C). When you boil broccoli, you are potentially reducing over half of or even most of the vitamin C content that it would have. The lowest loss percentage is on minerals, typically by 5 to 10.
When looking for the healthiest way to eat broccoli, steer clear of boiled broccoli! Opting for alternatives is much better for nutrition and health benefits.
Stir-Frying isn’t Always Your Best Bet either
Although stir-frying’s effects on nutrient content are lesser than that of boiling, they are still significant. When frying you are also likely to lose more antioxidants.
However, stir-fry is sometimes actually a fair option. If you’re looking to add some broccoli into your next stir-fry, there are benefits and disadvantages. Stir-frying can increase the bioavailability of beneficial plant compounds such as beta carotene and other phytochemicals. Additionally, short cooking times (without water) will prevent the loss of B vitamins.
Unfortunately, stir-frying will reduce much of the vitamin C content of vegetables. It can also decrease the levels of antioxidants as stated above. This is because they will become oxidized by the high heat of this method. Interestingly, the other methods above reduce antioxidant availability even more (^).
If you do choose this method, make sure that you use a healthy cooking oil or fat. Sunflower oil and other vegetable oils can be very harmful, being high in trans fats and wreaking havoc with free radicals.
Steaming – THIS is Your Best Option!
Without a doubt, steaming is your best bet when cooking broccoli. In fact, you can say the same about almost all leafy vegetables. There are many ways to steam vegetables, so it’s not difficult at all!
How to Steam Broccoli (Methods)
As long as you have a pot to boil water in, you can use strainers and colanders (metal/steel). This way you simply have to place your vegetables in the strainer or colander above a pot with boiling water. There are other methods such as using a plate and food-grade foil.
One way is using a Steamer Basket (Find Your Own Here) which you can place over your pots and pans. This method is very easy and simply requires boiling water underneath the steamer. Typically, broccoli will take about 5 to 6 minutes to cook perfectly.
Another way of steaming broccoli is by using an electric steamer. Oftentimes, this will save you energy and money.One example is the trusted Russell Hobbs 21140 steamer, currently on a 50% discount. Click here to see if this deal is still available if you’re interested and getting a steamer for yourself.
Nutritional Benefits of Steaming
When you steam broccoli, you will reduce some of the nutrients, but not as much as with other methods of cooking. You will also greatly increase the availability of other nutrients, more so than with other cooking methods.
Steaming broccoli retains a large amount of of the vitamin C content, usually above 75% (^). It also will reduce Vitamin B9 and other folates, typically by around 20%.
These reductions are fairly low and are much better than other methods of cooking.
The effects of steaming will increase the bioavailability of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, and K. The same goes for sulforaphane and other phytochemicals with beneficial properties such as reducing inflammation.
Overall, steaming preserves the highest amount of nutrients and increases bioavailability the most. This is the healthiest way to eat broccoli.
Microwaving Comes in Second
Microwaving is arguably the second healthiest way to eat broccoli. This is because it will reduce around 24% of the vitamin C content on average. It also doesn’t cause much of a loss of carotenoids, but unfortunately may reduce glucosinolates.
Microwaving is known to retain moisture quite well. For this reason, B vitamins will not be reduced too significantly either.
As one Harvard health publication notes, when you microwave with a small amount of water the process is rather similar to steaming(^).
The best way to cook broccoli in the microwave is to place the florets in a microwave safe container with around 4 tablespoons of water. Cover this with a microwave safe lid and cook for 3 to 4 minutes depending on your wattage. Using a bowl and small dish to cover it works well, too.
Overview of the Healthiest Way to Eat Broccoli
So, just what is the healthiest way to eat broccoli?
Well, this cruciferous vegetable can be eaten raw, but is most often is boiled or steamed. As we’ve learned, different methods of cooking will affect nutrition in different ways…
Boiling is always a poor choice as it reduces the highest amount of vitamins.
Similarly, stir-frying reduces the nutrient-content significantly, but it is a fair choice sometimes.
The majority of research and information would suggest that gentle steaming is the best overall cooking method. This is to retain nutrition and increase the bioavailability of certain vitamins.
If you need something simpler or quicker, a quick “steam” in the microwave is best.
Raw broccoli may be highest in vitamin C, chlorophyll, and glucosinolates, but the bioavailability are vitamins A, E, and K, and sulforaphane is increased if broccoli is cooked.
This means that the ability for us to absorb them improve. For this reason, including both raw and cooked broccoli in your diet is an ideal choice for most.
And as usual…
If you have any questions, comment below and I’ll be sure to get back to you! Also feel free to leave any suggestions if you want to learn about how to cook other healthy foods. 🙂
Anyway, that’s it for this post and our explanation of the healthiest way to eat broccoli! We’ve got a big post coming up, all about the health benefits of black seed oil. Keep an eye out for that!
Remember to like and follow us on social media, and tag a friend looking to learn more about healthy eating. Thank you for reading, and have a great day.
Until the next one, stay healthy