If you grew up in a health-conscious household, chances are you were spoon-fed broccoli from an early age. Even if you weren’t, broccoli was still probably on the menu from time to time. Broccoli is one of the most popular veggies in the world, and love it or hate it, it is one we are all well acquainted with.
But it’s not just any old vegetable. Broccoli is a bona fide superfood with a myriad of health benefits. Bet your parents didn’t know that!
When measuring the nutritional value of broccoli, all one has to do is refer to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). This score combines nutritional research to rank foods according to their nutritional power. In the case of broccoli, its’ ANDI score ranks in the top 20 foods in the world.
With all the known benefits of broccoli, no wonder it’s one of the most widely consumed veggies in America. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AGRC), nearly one million tons of broccoli is harvested every year in the US, with almost all grown in the state of California. The AGRC also reports that the average American eats a whopping 6.6 pounds of broccoli annually.
It is not by accident that broccoli has risen to the top of our food chain. Its strong flavor mixed with its numerous benefits to health and wellbeing make it a superfood deserving of any dinner plate. Read on to discover more about its nutritional elements as well as our signature recipes for the very best healthy broccoli salads.
So exactly how healthy is broccoli compared to other popular veggies? Let’s take a quick look at broccoli’s detailed nutrient contents to see how it measures up against other superfood vegetables.
Nutrients per 1 cup chopped (91g)
All nutritional data collected from the experts at Self Nutrition Data.
- 30 Calories
- 2.4g Dietary fiber
- 6g Total carbohydrates
- 19mg Omega-3 fatty acids
- 2.6g Protein
- 11% Daily value (DV) Vitamin A
- 135% DV Vitamin C
- 116% DV Vitamin K
- 14% DV Folate
- 10% DV Manganese
Clearly, broccoli comes up big on multiple fronts. In only one 91g serving, you have your entire intake of two essential vitamins covered for the day, vitamins C and K. Plus, you get a healthy dose of dietary fiber to aid in digestion as well as an array of supporting nutrients like omega-3s, which are required for proper brain function.
To give you a better idea as to what each vitamin and mineral actually does, here’s a quick rundown.
Vitamin C, also known as asorbic acid, is the single nutrient that broccoli carries the most of. Vitamin C, although commonly thought to be exclusive to citrus fruits, is concentrated in cruciferous vegetables more so than those found in even oranges and mangoes. This vitamin is known to lower the risk of certain cancers, aid in repairing wounds, and boost the immune system with vital antioxidants.
Also known as retinol, vitamin A is crucial for its ability to supply red and white blood cells with the power they need to reproduce. This keeps the immune system functioning, rebuilds tissues, and regulates the growth of cells in the body. Keeping your body stocked with vitamin A is one of the best methods for warding off infectious disease as well as skin ailments such as acne.
While not the most well-known essential nutrient, vitamin K is enormously important. It’s also enormously rare in comparison to most other vitamins. This is a fat-soluble vitamin that prevents blood clotting and is vital in the suppression of bleeding and bruising.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential part of any diet. Since the human body cannot naturally produce them, they must be consumed in our diets or supplemented. These are the “healthy fats” that we’ve all heard so much about. While commonly found in fish and seeds, these fats are necessary for fueling the brain, maintaining cognitive function, and preventing mental illnesses such as depression.
Broccoli vs. Cauliflower
Broccoli is often compared to its cruciferous cousin, cauliflower. In recent years, many in the health and wellness community have even declared broccoli obsolete in comparison. In reality, they couldn’t be any more wrong.
Broccoli beats out cauliflower in several key nutritional areas. These include: protein, dietary fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins C, A, and K. In only two metrics, potassium and folate, does cauliflower come out slightly on top. This makes broccoli the clear victor in the battle of the tree-like twins. So when stuck choosing between the two, go green!
How to Cook Broccoli Best
Don’t get us wrong, raw broccoli makes for a great, healthy snack. Especially when there’s dip involved. However, cooked broccoli makes for an excellent complement to many delicious meals that are sure to crowd please.
Plus, the natural bitterness of raw broccoli isn’t always enjoyed by all. When cooking broccoli, some of this bitter taste is removed as it heats, or masked by the cooking oils. Basically, cooked broccoli can make for a more versatile side to your meal that is more neutral on the tongue.
The most common cooking methods for broccoli are boiling, steaming, microwaving, and stir frying. It is important to note that boiling broccoli drastically lowers broccoli’s natural sulforaphane levels. Since sulforaphane is an organic compound with proven cancer-fighting properties, we recommend steaming or stir frying your broccoli as these methods have no effect on its nutritional profile.
The Best Broccoli-Infused Salads
Broccoli can be used to make several nutritious healthy superfood salads. Try any of these nutrient-packed salads to give yourself the ultimate mid-day boost.
Fresh Broccoli Medley
This one is a no-nonsense broccoli salad that is as delicious as it is easy to make. Just fry up the bacon and crumble it over top of the mixed ingredients. The dressing is prepared simply by mixing the mayo with the vinegar and coconut sugar until smooth.
- 2 fresh broccoli heads
- 1 red onion, sliced
- ½ pound natural bacon
- ¾ cup raisins
- ¾ cup almonds, sliced
- 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
- ¾ cup coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
Broccoli Apple Salad
This is a summertime favorite. Lay this out on the table at your next family BBQ or picnic in the park and it will be gone in no-time. Plus, its range of sweet and savory flavors means even the kids will love it too.
Again, this one is also an easy fix. All you have to do is mix the veggies, pecans, and cranberries in a mixing bowl while you whisk the dressing ingredients in a separate one. Once well stirred, simply coat the dressing over the salad and chill to serve.
- 4 cups broccoli florets (fresh)
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ¼ cup diced red onion
- 2 large Gala apples, chopped fine
- ½ cup pecans, chopped coarse
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup low-fat mayonnaise
- ½ cup greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp coconut sugar
- ¼ tsp Himalayan sea salt
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
Crunchy High-Protein Broccoli Salad
This is the perfect low-carb salad. It’s got everything from its creamy taste to its super protein and fiber dense nutritional profile. This is our favorite of them all, so we highly recommend you give this one a shot. Plus, this makes for a great post-workout recovery meal.
For the dressing, combine the yogurt with the mayo, lemon juice, and paprika. Then, season with sea salt and ground pepper to taste. Once that’s finished, add in the remaining ingredients and stir well. For pairing, we suggest a fresh baguette or garlic loaf.
- ⅓ low-fat plain yogurt
- ⅓ cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- ½ tsp paprika
- Himalayan sea salt and pepper to taste
- 3 cups broccoli florets (fresh)
- 2 cups grilled chicken breast, cut in strips
- ⅓ cup sliced red onion
- 1 ¼ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
GarPar Broccoli Blast
This isn’t your mom’s broccoli. It’s no regular side dish either. This super nutritious side packs the benefits of garlic and broccoli in one delicious, easy-to-prepare bowl. Seriously, you won’t want to skip on this one. For the best broccoli you will ever have, give this a shot.
- 4 pounds broccoli
- 4 cloves garlic (sliced)
- 8 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ½ tsps. black pepper
- 1 ½ tsps. sea salt
- 2 tsps. lemon zest
- 2 tbsps. lemon juice
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice broccoli into small florets to make roughly 8 cups. Lay broccoli on sheet pan in a single layer. Mix in garlic on the broccoli and layer on 5 tbsps. of olive oil before adding sea salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until crisp and tender. Upon removing from oven, add remaining olive oil, lemon zest, and parmesan.