Health Benefits of Broccoli

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on March 28, 2024
6 min read

Although you'd never guess it, broccoli has its origins in the wild mustard plant. It was bred by farmers over time to be the crunchy green vegetable we know today – and it's loaded with healthy nutrients.

Broccoli dates to the Roman Empire, where it grew in the Mediterranean region. U.S. farmers didn't start to grow it until the 1920s. Today, if you're like the average American, you eat nearly 6 pounds of the stuff each year. How much you like its cabbage-like flavor may depend at least in part on your genes. Some people are born hyper-sensitive to bitter tastes like that of broccoli.

In the U.S., the most common types of this veggie are hybrids of an Italian green broccoli called calabrese – with florets of varying shades of green. But don't expect to see signs for calabrese broccoli at the store. Throughout the world, grocers sell different varieties under the single name "broccoli."

A half-cup of broccoli contains:

  • Calories: 15
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbs: 3 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram

One cup of broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange. You need this antioxidant to protect your cells from damage and promote healing throughout your body.

Broccoli is also rich in vitamins and minerals like:

On top of all the vitamins and minerals it contains, broccoli is chock-full of many natural chemicals that scientists are still learning about. Chief among these is a sulfur compound called sulforaphane, which may help with certain health conditions. These include:

Diabetes. Studies show that sulforaphane may help lower your blood sugar. If you have type 2 diabetes and obesity, you may notice a bigger improvement in blood sugar than other people would.

Cancer. Sulforaphane and other natural compounds in broccoli might stop cancer cells from forming in your body.

Osteoarthritis. Because it keeps the cartilage between your joints healthy, sulforaphane can help prevent or slow osteoarthritis.

Schizophrenia. While scientists don't have enough proof yet, high levels of sulforaphane may shift brain chemicals. Researchers are trying to find out if broccoli sprout extracts could help people with schizophrenia manage their symptoms.

Other natural plant compounds in broccoli called carotenoids have health benefits, too. They can help lower your chances of getting heart disease and boost your immune system, your body's defense against germs.

You may need to avoid broccoli if you have some health problems. Talk to your doctor about what's best for you before pairing these:

Broccoli and blood thinners. Broccoli is high in vitamin K, which helps your blood clot. If you eat more than usual, it may change how your body responds to your medicine. While you don't have to avoid all broccoli if you're on blood thinners, you should keep the amount of vitamin K in your diet steady.

Broccoli and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Broccoli may give you gas and upset your bowels.

Broccoli and kidney problems. The phosphorus in broccoli can start to build up in your blood if your kidneys don't work well.

At the supermarket, look for broccoli that's dark or bright green to a purplish color. The head should be firm and compact.

How to tell if broccoli is bad

 Avoid broccoli with:

  • Enlarged buds
  • Yellowing
  • Bruising
  • Decay

Broccoli price

The average cost of broccoli is around $2 a pound.

Some people prefer broccoli florets, but you can eat the leaves and stems, too. The stalk contains the most fiber, while broccoli leaves are highest in cell-protecting antioxidants, vitamins E and K, and calcium.

How to clean broccoli

Wash it under cold, running water, but not until you're ready to prepare it. Otherwise, it'll go limp and become moldy. Unwashed, it will stay fresh in a plastic bag in your fridge for a week.

How to cut broccoli

Cut off the stem close to the head, which will break into large florets. Cut the large florets through the stems into smaller pieces. You can also eat the broccoli stem. First, trim off the leaves and bottom inch of the stem, then cut the stem into disks.

How to boil broccoli

Boiling will remove up to 90% of broccoli's nutrients, so prepare it a similar way, such as blanching. First, get a bowl of ice water ready next to the stove. Boil water in a pot, add salt, and cook broccoli florets for 1-1½ minutes until they're just tender. Quickly cool them in the ice water. Boil the stems for 1½-2 minutes until they're also tender, or longer if you prefer them softer.

How to cook broccoli in the microwave

Put broccoli florets and stems in a microwave-safe dish. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water. Cover with a plate and microwave on high for 3 to 4 minutes. Check broccoli tenderness carefully and microwave for an extra minute if needed.

Roasted broccoli

Preheat your oven to 425 F. Make sure the broccoli is dry and coat it with oil and salt. Arrange it in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes until crunchy and caramelized. Serve right away.

Raw broccoli

You can also eat broccoli raw with a side of hummus or salad dressing.


Here are some tips to store your broccoli and help it stay fresh:

  • Store at 32 F with 95% humidity for up to a month. At higher temperatures, it will last about 5 days
  • Avoid storing broccoli in dry storage
  • Loosely cover uncooked broccoli to allow breathing
  • Store broccoli away from fruits and veggies that emit ethylene gas. Ethylene makes florets yellow and shortens broccoli's shelf life

You can use broccoli in a variety of dishes, such as:

Broccoli salad

Put ⅓ cup of currants in a small heatproof bowl, pour ½ cup boiling water over them, and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, mix ½ cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar, ½ teaspoon Kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper in a big bowl. 

Shred 2 pounds of broccoli with a food processor's shredding disk. Add to the dressing bowl along with currants, ½ small red onion, and ¾ cup toasted almonds. Mix well. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Let sit for 30 minutes at room temp or 1 hour in the fridge before serving for flavors to blend.

Broccoli cheddar soup


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 1 cup julienned or shredded carrots
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 14 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce

Here are the steps to make the soup:

Sauté aromatics. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and salt. Sauté until softened and slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 more minute.
Make roux and add broth. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly whisk in half-and-half and broth, scraping up any browned bits.
Cook vegetables. Add broccoli, carrots, mustard powder, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Purée soup. Remove from the heat and purée with an immersion blender or a stand blender in batches. 
Add cheese. Return soup to low heat. Gradually whisk in cheese, allowing each addition to melt before adding more.
Taste and season. Whisk in the hot sauce, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt or pepper as needed.

Broccoli is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Its health benefits range from potentially lowering blood sugar levels to aiding in cancer prevention and promoting joint health. People with certain health conditions, such as those taking blood thinners or with kidney problems, may need avoid broccoli or cut back on how much they eat. You can prepare the veggie in various ways, like roasting or blanching it, but boiling should be avoided to keep its nutrients.