Scientific name: Brassica oleracea L. var. Botrytis 

Description: Broccoli, a member of the Brassica family, is a widely consumed vegetable worldwide.1 Its edible parts comprise the stalk and the sizable flowering head, offering versatility in its consumption – whether raw, cooked, as a side dish, or integrated into various meals. Characterized as a cruciferous vegetable, a term derived from the Latin “cross-bearing,” broccoli earns its name from the cross-like arrangement of its four petals.2 This botanical lineage aligns it with other vegetables including bok choy, cauliflower, and kale.

Broccoli manifests in three distinct varieties: calabrese, broccoli raab, and broccolini.3

Calabrese, or heading broccoli, claims the title of the most prevalent broccoli variety globally.3 Available in both green and purple hues, its hallmark is the verdant flowering head, which, upon chopping, generates additional smaller flowering heads. The average American consumes an average of seven pounds of calabrese broccoli annually.3

Broccoli raab, marked by its elongated, slender stem and diminutive flowers atop, boasts a distinct bitter note compared to calabrese broccoli.3 This variety is believed to echo the type of broccoli enjoyed by ancient Romans, adding historical intrigue to its profile.3

Meanwhile, broccolini, known variably as baby broccoli, stem broccoli, or sprouting broccoli, has gained recent popularity.3 It’s characterized by its petite heads and tender stems.3 It has a more mild flavor than broccoli, it tastes mildly sweet and earthy.

Nutrients: Broccoli, like other cruciferous vegetables, is high in fiber and vitamin K.3 Since it is a leafy green, it is also high in vitamins A and C.3 It is nutrient-dense and low calorie.3

According to the USDA, these are the vitamins and nutrients various forms and preparations of broccoli contain: 

Raw broccoli

Serving size: 1 cup

  • 30.9 calories
  • 0.337 g of fat
  • 6.04 g of carbohydrates 
  • 2.37 g fiber
  • 2.57 g of protein
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 28.2 mcg vitamin A
  • 81.2 mg vitamin C
  • 0.71 mg vitamin E
  • 92.8 mcg of vitamin K
  • 0.664 mg iron
  • 288 mg potassium
  • 0.33 mg zinc

Half a cup (the serving size) of cooked (boiled and drained) broccoli without added salt contains: 

Broccoli cooked, boiled, and drained without salt:

Serving size: ½ cup

  • 27.3 calories
  • 0.32 g of fat
  • 5.6 g of carbohydrates 
  • 2.57 g fiber
  • 1.86 g of protein
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 60.1 mcg vitamin A
  • 50.6 mg vitamin C
  • 1.13 mg vitamin E
  • 110 mcg of vitamin K
  • 0.523 mg iron
  • 229 mg potassium
  • 0.351 mg zinc

Broccoli, frozen:

Serving size: 1 cup

  • 40.6 calories
  • 0.452 g of fat
  • 57.46 g of carbohydrates 
  • 4.68 g fiber
  • 4.38 g of protein
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 81.1 mcg vitamin A
  • 88 mg vitamin C
  • 1.9 mg vitamin E
  • 127 mcg of vitamin K
  • 1.26 mg iron
  • 331 mg potassium
  • 0.749 mg zinc

Broccoli raab, raw

Serving size: 1 cup

  • 8.8 calories
  • 0.196 g of fat
  • 1.14 g of carbohydrates 
  • 1.08 g fiber
  • 1.27 g of protein
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 52.4 mcg vitamin A
  • 8.08 mg vitamin C
  • 0.648 mg vitamin E
  • 89.6 mcg of vitamin K
  • 0.856 mg iron
  • 78.4 mg potassium
  • 0.308 mg zinc

Broccoli raab, cooked

Serving size: 1 bunch cooked

  • 109 calories
  • 2.27 g of fat
  • 13.6 g of carbohydrates 
  • 12.2 g fiber
  • 16.7 g of protein
  • 0 g of cholesterol
  • 992 mcg vitamin A
  • 162 mg vitamin C
  • 11.1 mg vitamin E
  • 1120 mcg of vitamin K
  • 5.55 mg iron
  • 1500 mg potassium
  • 2.36 mg zinc

Geographic origin: Broccoli finds its origins in the Mediterranean region, where it has been relished since the era of ancient Rome.3 Subsequently, its appeal spread to other parts of Europe, gaining prominence in France around 1650 under the moniker “Italian Asparagus,” before being embraced by the British about seven decades later.3

Across the United States, a fondness for broccoli has persisted since the 1922, a time when ice-packed broccoli heads embarked on cross-country train rides from their first American farm in San José, California, and then later all across southern California, to the eastern reaches of the country.3 

History of use as medicine: Broccoli’s historical significance in medicine is prominent within its indigenous Mediterranean habitat.4 Ancient literature references reveal the historical use of broccoli-based remedies for gynecological conditions, such as endometriosis and uterine disorders. These historical formulations highlight the enduring recognition of broccoli’s capacity to support maternal health, especially in post-menopausal women.4 This beneficial effect is attributed to the anti-inflammatory properties found in broccoli, primarily within compounds like sulforaphane, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Contemporary understanding suggests that diets abundant in fruits, vegetables, Mediterranean diets, green tea, vitamin D, and naturally derived plant compounds may have a sustained, positive influence on the management of gynecological diseases.

Starting in the 3rd century BC, broccoli was used for its medicinal versatility, culminating in its conceptualization as a potential panacea, or a cure-all food.4 Its multifaceted utility encompassed diverse maladies, including gastric disturbances, tetanus, cutaneous infections, and intriguingly, the potential amelioration of dropsy—known contemporarily as edema.4 Edema, characterized by fluid accumulation, primarily within the lower extremities, is attributed to cardiac insufficiency.5 Broccoli was used for edema since it was thought to absorb fluids upon consumption. This perspective, although not entirely accurate, does align with the fact that broccoli serves as a valuable natural diuretic, aiding in the removal of excess fluid from the body.

The progressive historical evolution of broccoli’s therapeutic usage aligns with its multifarious bioactive constituents, hinting at its potential contribution to diverse medical applications.4 Today, broccoli is used to ameliorate conditions associated with type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and cardiovascular disease.4

Current Uses and Scientific Literature Review: 


The anti-cancer effects of broccoli constituents manifest through several mechanisms.4 Broccoli components demonstrate the capability to hinder the proliferation of cancer cells by instigating cell cycle arrest.4 Sulforaphane, an anti-inflammatory chemical founds in broccoli, has the capacity to stimulate apoptosis, a process of programmed cell death essential for curtailing aberrant cell growth.4 Broccoli’s bioactive compounds contribute to the suppression of inflammation and angiogenesis, pivotal factors in constraining the formation of new blood vessels that can support tumor expansion.4

  • Kaiser et al. (2021) investigated the anti-cancer properties of sulforaphane, a phytochemical found in broccoli. Among vegetables in the Brassica genus, broccoli stands out for having the highest accessible sulforaphane content. This compound demonstrates the unique ability to permeate nearly all body tissues, enabling it to target a wide range of cancer types. For individuals seeking to harness its anti-cancer benefits, a minimum daily consumption of ¾ cup of raw broccoli or ⅜ cup when cooked is recommended.
  • Nandini et al. (2020) focused on investigating the chemopreventive qualities of broccoli, specifically the benefits derived from isothiocyanates, which are antioxidant compounds present in cruciferous vegetables. Their research suggests that these compounds offer a readily accessible and cost-effective alternative for chemoprevention, with fewer side effects compared to traditional chemotherapeutic drugs. Consistently consuming an appropriate quantity of these vegetables contributes to overall health promotion and reduces the risk of cancer, making it a worthwhile dietary choice.
  • Elkashty et al. (2020) discovered that broccoli extract enhances the cytotoxic effects of cancer drugs on cancer stem cells in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. The broccoli extract used in the study contained a minimum of 3.5 micromoles of sulforaphane, the threshold amount required to influence cancer cell formation. The benefits observed with broccoli extract consumption were further amplified with higher doses of sulforaphane and extended usage. When integrated with other treatments such as chemotherapy, smaller doses of chemotherapy sufficed, as the sulforaphane in broccoli extract augmented the overall effectiveness of the treatments.

Cardiovascular Disease

Broccoli, broccoli sprouts, and broccoli powder all contain the nutrients necessary for reducing the risks associated with cardiovascular disease.4

  • Pereya et al. (2020) found dietary supplementation of a sulforaphane-enriched broccoli extract protects the heart from acute cardiac stress. Broccoli extract has a positive impact on the heart’s control systems. It reduces the “fight or flight” signals (sympathetic drive) to the heart, while increasing the calming signals (parasympathetic modulation) as shown by changes in heart rate variability (HRV). Additionally, when the heart is stressed using a substance that mimics the “fight or flight” response (isoproterenol), it causes a significant increase in arrhythmias (heart rhythm problems). However, the broccoli extract treatment almost completely prevents this harmful effect, demonstrating that taking broccoli extract as a dietary supplement can regulate the heart’s functioning and protect it from sudden stress.


Broccoli and broccoli sprout powder can reduce insulin levels in patients with diabetes.

  • Ma et al. (2022) found that broccoli microgreens improved hypoglycemic effects, including enhanced blood lipid profile, reduced inflammatory factors, and positive modulation of gut microbiota in mice with induced type 2 diabetes on an 18-week high-fat diet. Broccoli microgreens also improved body weight, glucose homeostasis, and reversed insulin resistance and pathological changes in mice organs. These findings support the conclusion that broccoli microgreens can regulate type 2 diabetes and alleviate symptoms in mice with high-fat diets.
  • Falleh et al. (2022) conducted a study focusing on the simultaneous impact of consuming broccoli powder and engaging in exercise on insulin resistance in obese men diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The study comprised a 12-week regimen, with exercise occurring three times a week, and participants taking a daily dose of 10 mg of broccoli powder in capsule form. The results yielded significant improvements in insulin resistance and blood glucose levels when analyzing participant’s blood samples. This outcome serves as compelling evidence that the supplementation of broccoli powder can effectively mitigate certain risks associated with type 2 diabetes, particularly when combined with regular exercise.
  • Similar to the above study, Saeidi et al. (2021) examined the effects of a 12-week intervention involving aerobic exercise training and 10g daily broccoli supplementation on men with type 2 diabetes. Participants were divided into four groups: (1) broccoli supplementation only, (2) aerobic exercise only, (3) both broccoli supplementation and aerobic exercise, and (4) neither supplementation nor exercise. The group that showed the most significant improvement in insulin resistance and lipid profile was the one receiving both broccoli supplementation and engaging in aerobic exercise.


Significant quantities of phenolic compounds, encompassing phenolic acids and flavonoids, are prevalent in broccoli, with the seeds and sprouts being particularly rich sources. 

  • Syed et al. (2023) conducted an in-depth review on the anti-inflammatory properties of broccoli, as well as its antimicrobial abilities and nutritional attributes. They concluded there are several specific compounds in broccoli that render it an anti-inflammatory food, including sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol, quercetin, and vitamin C, all of which are known as powerful antioxidants. This collective antioxidant prowess contributes to broccoli’s ability to combat inflammation effectively, making it a noteworthy addition to a health-conscious diet.
  • Holman et al. (2023) wanted to test whether broccoli consumption mitigated symptoms associated with inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD. Their results revealed compelling evidence that dietary bioactives, coupled with the modulation of the gut microbiota, play a significant and promising role in modifying the course of the disease for individuals affected by IBD. This finding suggests that a diet incorporating broccoli and other similar bioactive-rich foods could offer a valuable avenue for managing IBD symptoms and potentially influencing the disease’s progression.
  • Zandani et al. (2021) conducted a study to investigate the potential anti-inflammatory effects of broccoli in individuals with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). To assess this, the researchers employed a mouse model, subjecting mice to high-fat diets. The mice were divided into two groups: one group received broccoli supplementation, while the other did not. The study’s results demonstrated that the consumption of broccoli had a mitigating effect on inflammation. Furthermore, it was observed that broccoli consumption influenced the composition of the gut microbiome and factors related to gut integrity in mice that were fed a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet. This suggests that broccoli may offer beneficial effects in terms of reducing inflammation and influencing gut health in the context of a high-fat diet.

Liver Disease

Since broccoli contains many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals, it is great for reversing liver damage and can serve as prevention for both alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

  • Huang et al (2022), found broccoli operates to diminish the accumulation of liver lipids through its facilitation of lipolysis, the process of breaking down fats. Furthermore, broccoli plays a role in curtailing inflammatory damage by finely regulating the body’s inflammatory responses within the liver. Moreover, it delays the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by effectively managing the polarization switch of liver macrophages.
  • Chen et al. (2016) found eating broccoli mitigated the development of fatty liver and liver cancer in mice that were administered diethylnitrosamine (to induce liver disease) and fed a Western-inspired diet.
  • Wang et al. (2016) recognized broccoli for its potential to exert protective effects against a spectrum of chronic liver injuries, encompassing conditions such as viral hepatitis, hepatic steatosis, hepatic cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. This is due to the fact that broccoli contains indole-3-carbinol, which promotes inhibition of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, both of which cause prolonged liver damage.

Lung Health

Due to its antioxidant properties, broccoli has been known to help in people afflicted with lung diseases, since it boosts gene activity in cells. Especially for those in heavily polluted areas, broccoli can help detoxify the lungs.  

  • In 2022, Suryadinata et al. conducted a study analyzing the amount of alveolar macrophages, which serve as indicators of inflammation and the presence of free radicals, in the blood of individuals who smoked. The study included two groups: one that consumed broccoli and another that did not. The researchers found that the group of individuals who consumed broccoli exhibited significantly lower levels of alveolar macrophages compared to those who did not consume broccoli. This suggests that the consumption of broccoli was associated with reduced inflammation in the lungs of smokers.
  • Tsai et al. (2022) conducted a study where they induced lung injuries in rats as a simulation of ventilator-induced injuries in humans. The objective was to investigate whether the consumption of sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli, could reduce stress and inflammation throughout the body in this context. The study revealed that the sulforaphane from broccoli was effective in mitigating ventilator-induced oxidative stress, inflammatory responses, and pulmonary edema. This suggests a potential protective role of sulforaphane in the context of lung injuries, demonstrating its beneficial effects on oxidative stress and inflammation in this experimental model.
  • Thomas et al. (2020) identified a link between the dietary consumption of broccoli and the reduced risk of cancer in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian (PCLO) cancer screening trial. The sulforaphane in broccoli blocks histone deacetylase, an enzyme that plays a role in regulating gene expression by modifying the acetylation status of histones, which are proteins that help package DNA in the cell nucleus. When histone deacetylase is inhibited, it can lead to changes in gene expression, which can have various physiological effects, including reducing inflammation and inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.

Potential negative effects: Given broccoli’s rich vitamin K content, pivotal for blood clot formation, individuals taking blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin (known as Coumadin), should consult their physician to calibrate appropriate dosages based on their vitamin K intake. This caveat extends to other Brassica genus vegetables high in vitamin K.4 Notably, the presence of sulfur-containing compounds in broccoli may contribute to bloating and gas.4

Furthermore, an associated concern pertains to the potential risk of hypothyroidism, or low levels of thyroid hormone, attributable to broccoli consumption.4 Compounds with goitrogenic properties, or the potential to disrupt thyroid function, found in broccoli possess the capacity to enlarge the thyroid gland.4 However, cooking broccoli effectively deactivates and diminishes the impact of these goitrogens, thereby mitigating their potential adverse effects.4

Purchasing, storage, and cooking tips: 

According to Aliza Green, author of “Field Guide to Produce” (Quirk Books, 2004), you should choose dark green bunches — good color indicates high nutrient value. Florets that are dark green, purplish or bluish-green contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than paler or yellowing ones. Choose bunches with stalks that are very firm. Stalks that bend or seem rubbery are of poor quality. Avoid broccoli with open, flowering, discolored or water-soaked bud clusters and tough, woody stems. For storage, Green suggests refrigerating unwashed broccoli in an airtight bag for up to four days.

Super versatile, broccoli can be used raw in salads, cooked in soups or sauteed with garlic and a little olive oil for a wonderful accompaniment to many foods. Add a side of broccoli, and cut back on your main-dish portion to save calories. See the recipes below for more ways to use broccoli: 



Learn more: 

News articles: 

Peer-reviewed articles: 

Properties & Treatment

  • Lou J, Wu C, Wang H, et al. Melatonin treatment delays postharvest senescence of broccoli with regulation of carotenoid metabolism. Food Chem. 2023;408:135185. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2022.135185
  • Melatonin treatment delays postharvest senescence of broccoli with regulation of carotenoid metabolism – PubMed. Accessed August 7, 2023.
  • Latté KP, Appel KE, Lampen A. Health benefits and possible risks of broccoli – An overview. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2011;49(12):3287-3309. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2011.08.019

Sulforaphane & Cancer

  • Kwa FAA, Bui BV, Thompson BR, Ayton LN. Preclinical investigations on broccoli-derived sulforaphane for the treatment of ophthalmic disease. Drug Discovery Today. 2023;28(9):103718. doi:10.1016/j.drudis.2023.103718
  • Yagishita Y, Fahey JW, Dinkova-Kostova AT, Kensler TW. Broccoli or Sulforaphane: Is It the Source or Dose That Matters? Molecules. 2019;24(19):3593. doi:10.3390/molecules24193593
  • Liebman SE, Le TH. Eat Your Broccoli: Oxidative Stress, NRF2, and Sulforaphane in Chronic Kidney Disease. Nutrients. 2021;13(1):266. doi:10.3390/nu13010266
  • Abbaoui B, Lucas CR, Riedl KM, Clinton SK, Mortazavi A. Cruciferous Vegetables, Isothiocyanates, and Bladder Cancer Prevention. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2018;62(18):e1800079. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201800079
  • Vanduchova A, Anzenbacher P, Anzenbacherova E. Isothiocyanate from Broccoli, Sulforaphane, and Its Properties. J Med Food. 2019;22(2):121-126. doi:10.1089/jmf.2018.0024
  • Russo M, Spagnuolo C, Russo GL, et al. Nrf2 targeting by sulforaphane: A potential therapy for cancer treatment. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2018;58(8):1391-1405. doi:10.1080/10408398.2016.1259983
  • Broccoli, Kale, and Radish Sprouts: Key Phytochemical Constituents and DPPH Free Radical Scavenging Activity – PubMed. Accessed August 7, 2023.
  • Chartoumpekis DV, Ziros PG, Chen JG, Groopman JD, Kensler TW, Sykiotis GP. Broccoli sprout beverage is safe for thyroid hormonal and autoimmune status: Results of a 12-week randomized trial. Food Chem Toxicol. 2019;126:1-6. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2019.02.004
  • Ağagündüz D, Şahin TÖ, Yılmaz B, Ekenci KD, Duyar Özer Ş, Capasso R. Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Bioactive Metabolites: from Prevention to Novel Therapies of Colorectal Cancer. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022;2022:1534083. doi:10.1155/2022/1534083

Other Chemical Composition


Possible Risks:

  • Concentrations of thiocyanate and goitrin in human plasma, their precursor concentrations in brassica vegetables, and associated potential risk for hypothyroidism – PubMed. Accessed August 7, 2023.



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