Health Benefits of Broccolini

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on May 02, 2023
4 min read

Did you dislike broccoli as a child? If so, meet broccolini, a new and improved take on its vegetable cousin. A broccoli hybrid, broccolini was first developed in Japan in 1993. It is a mix of broccoli and gai lan, a vegetable common in Asian cuisine. 

Broccolini has been steadily gaining popularity in the western world in recent years due to its versatility and fresh flavor. Adding broccolini to your diet can help boost your immune system and improve your overall health.

Broccolini, also called baby broccoli, was created by breeding broccoli and gai lan. Gai lan is a vegetable common in Asian, particularly Chinese, cuisine. Other names for gai lan include Chinese kale, Chinese broccoli, or kailaan. 

Broccolini has smaller florets than broccoli and long, tender stems. The taste profile is slightly peppery and sweet. It has been grown in the U.S. since 1998 and has risen up the vegetable ranks to become a favorite of chefs and diners across the country. 

Like its more common cousin broccoli, broccolini is packed to the gills with good-for-you nutrients. 

If you don’t care for the taste of broccoli but still want the health benefits, broccolini is a must-try. Although it was once rare to find broccolini in the U.S., nowadays you can likely find it in your local supermarket. 

Although the two vegetables have a big difference in flavor, broccolini doesn’t skimp on nutritional benefits. 

Broccolini is loaded with vitamins A and D, which contribute to keeping you healthy and your immune system up to par. Vitamin A famously benefits your eye health, and both vitamins contribute to healthy skin.

Broccolini is also high in both calcium and magnesium, which help to regulate your blood pressure. As a cruciferous vegetable, it is high in fiber. Fiber keeps you full for longer periods of time, helps you digest food properly, and prevents constipation. It also keeps your blood sugar at a low level. 

You can get protein from broccolini, too. One cup of broccolini has the same amount of protein you’d find in a cup of white rice. The main difference is, broccolini has about half the calories of that cup of rice.

Broccolini also contains the antioxidant sulforaphane. Sulforaphane can:  

  • Neutralize toxins in your body
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Protect against DNA mutations leading to cancer
  • Slow possible cancer tumor growth

Another way that broccolini helps protect your body from cancer is through an enzyme called myrosinase. This enzyme is released when you eat broccolini. It produces disease-fighting antioxidant compounds that have been shown to help fight four kinds of cancer. 

Adding broccolini to your diet can have a positive impact on your health. It can help you maintain proper brain function, keep your nervous system healthy, and promote muscle growth. 

Broccolini is fast becoming a household favorite for its bright, peppery flavor. It is also quite simple to cook. 

The best way to experience the health benefits of broccolini is to eat it raw. The stems, leaves, and florets are all edible. 

You can also choose to steam your broccolini and serve it as a side to complete a tasty, nutritious meal. 

 In order to preserve as many nutritional benefits as possible, don’t boil or steam your broccolini for longer than three minutes. Drop it in a bath of ice water immediately after to stop the cooking process and preserve the bright green color.  

‌After steaming, you can also heat a pan with some virgin olive oil, and toss the broccolini with sliced garlic, red pepper, and red chili flakes for a delicious, spicy option. Finish with fresh lemon juice. ‌

To keep the nutritional profile of broccolini intact in other recipes, you can follow these tips for healthy cooking: 

  • Avoid deep frying. Deep frying your food has been linked to cancer. It can cause carcinogens to form on your food. 
  • Use fewer animal fats. Most animal fats like butter and cheese have unhealthy saturated fats. Stick to vegetable-based fats like olive oil, or use them to substitute half the fat content in your dish.  
  • Use olive or canola oil. Olive oil is heart-healthy and reduces your risk of obesity. You can also try canola oil if you prefer a more neutral taste.  
  • Flavor your food naturally. Use garlic, herbs, onions, and citrus fruits instead of sugar, salt, and sauces in your cooking. You will get a flavor-packed dish without the extra junk. 
  • Limit the use of cream-based sauces. It’s common to top your vegetables with a cheese sauce or smother your veggies in ranch sauce, but don’t let the extra calories cancel out the veggie’s benefits. 
  • Measure your ingredients. It’s tempting to throw some oil in a pan without knowing how much is actually in there. Make it a habit to measure your calorie-heavy food instead of eyeballing it.