Just when you thought you understood why broccoli is good for you, we have more good news to share. Folate, which is found in large quantities in broccoli plays an active role in cancer prevention, but that’s not where it ends! If broccoli did nothing but protect us from cancer, that would be enough, but this mighty vegetable works on other fronts as well. Interestingly, folic acid deficiency may be the most common vitamin deficiency in the world, and it’s essential in preventing many conditions. Here are some benefits of broccoli you may not be aware of:
Broccoli and its related crucifers are rich in folate, the B vitamin that is essential to preventing birth defects. Neural tube like spina bifida have been linked to folic acid deficiency in pregnancy. A single cup of raw, chopped broccoli provides more than 50 milligrams of folate (the plant form of folic acid).
Folate is also active in removing homocysteine from the circulatory system; high levels of homocysteine are associated with cardiovascular disease. Broccoli is also a great source of the flavonoids, carotenoids, vitamin C, folate, and potassium that help prevent heart disease. It also provides generous amounts of fiber, vitamin E, and vitamin B6, which promote cardiovascular health. Broccoli is one of the few vegetables, along with spinach, that are relatively high in coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), a fat-soluble antioxidant that is a major contributor to the production of energy in our bodies. At least in people with diagnosed heart disease, CoQ10 may play a cardioprotective role.
We all know how common cataracts are in our aging population, so eat your broccoli before cataracts strike you! Broccoli is rich in the powerful phytochemical carotenoid antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin (as well as vitamin C). Both of these carotenoids are concentrated in the lens and retina of the eye. One study found that people who ate broccoli more than twice weekly had a 23 percent lower risk of cataracts when compared to those who ate broccoli less than once a month. Lutein/zeaxanthin and vitamin C also serve to protect the eyes from the free-radical damage done to the eyes by ultraviolet light.
Broccoli and cruciferous vegetables are bone builders. One cup of raw broccoli provides 41 milligrams of calcium along with 79 milligrams of vitamin C, which promotes the absorption of calcium. While this is not a huge amount of calcium, it’s at a low cost of calories and with the benefit of the many other nutrients in broccoli. Whole milk and other full-fat dairy products, long touted as the main sources of calcium, contain no vitamin C and are often loaded with saturated fat and many more calories than the 25 in 1 cup of raw, chopped broccoli. Broccoli also supplies a significant portion of vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting, and also contributes to bone health.
About 25 percent of the population inherit an aversion to the bitter taste of cruciferous vegetables. If this describes you, add salt, since that makes them taste sweeter. Use broccoli in a stir-fry with low-sodium soy sauce or add them to casseroles and lasagnas. Cheese always makes broccoli taste better. In this case, the extra calories and fat may be worth it!