Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and cabbage. Eating broccoli has many potential health benefits that have been established by the scientific community, as well as some that are still under investigation. Eating broccoli raw versus cooked may help to preserve its nutritional value.
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Raw vs. Cooked
Certain methods of food preparation may cause a vegetable to lose some of its nutritional value. Some of the vitamin, mineral and phytochemical content may be lost during cooking. Phytochemicals are plant compounds responsible for some of the disease-fighting actions of vegetables in the body.
The more water used to cook broccoli, the more water-soluble vitamins are lost. Therefore, eating broccoli raw ensures that nutrients are not lost during preparation. However, if you wish to cook broccoli, steam it using the smallest amount of water possible to limit loss of vitamins.
Fiber, Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin C is often associated with citrus foods, yet one serving of broccoli has 60 percent of the recommended daily value for a 2,000-calorie diet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 0.5 cup of broccoli contains the following recommended daily values of other nutrients: 4 percent of daily fiber, 20 percent of vitamin A, 2 percent of calcium and 2 percent of iron.
When you chew or chop broccoli, it releases a type of chemical in the food called glucosinolates. These chemicals give broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables their bitter or spicy taste. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, glucosinolates are powerful anti-cancer agents that neutralize cancer-causing substances before they can damage healthy cells.
Eating broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables may help to prevent cancers of the breast, colon, lung and prostate. While these vegetables are generally known to work against cancer-causing agents, your DNA influences just how powerful broccoli will be in protecting your body from cancer. To realize the anti-cancer benefits of cruciferous vegetables, the Linus Pauling Institute recommends at least five servings per week.
If you haven't been eating enough fruits and vegetables, then stocking your refrigerator with raw broccoli may be helpful. While not true for all vegetables, broccoli tastes good when eaten raw and is also portable so it makes a convenient and healthy snack. If you rinse it before an outing, you won't have to keep it cold or warm it in the microwave to enjoy it during travel. At home, if there's little time to prepare a healthy side dish, just rinse raw broccoli and eat.