Go to any bodybuilding competition, attend any Crossfit comp and take a look into any professional athletes regime and you will undoubtedly see broccoli in 99% of the Tupperware tubs on show. Broccoli is one of the most nutritious foods out there, and better still it’s relatively tasteless, easy to prep and cook, cheap, and VERY nutritious.
If you want to fully utilise the high levels of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Chromium, and Folate, as well as the cholesterol lowering properties thanks to the fibre, and anti- inflammatory effects from the kaempferol (flavonoid) content. On top of this broccoli can also lessen the immune response to potential allergens in our body, making broccoli a hypoallergenic food. Consider also that broccoli may help reduce the risk of certain cancers due to the indole- 3 carbinol (I3C) which helps to lower oestrogen levels. As if this isn’t enough, I3C also promotes fat loss attributed to the suppression of oestrogen.
So should you wish to make the most of these health promoting nutrients, consider the following:
- Ensure that the florets of the broccoli are compact and free from obvious damage and bruising
- Ensure the floret and stems are a vibrant, dark green
- Avoid broccoli with flowers coming through
- Leaves shouldn’t be wilting
- Stalks should be firm
In order to maximise the nutritional value of your broccoli, do not overcook it. Research shows that the optimal way to cook broccoli is to steam it for approx. 5 mins, or eat it raw. Excessive boiling in water can damage the vitamin C, as well causing most of the nutrients to leech out into the water (which often gets poured down the drain). Truth be told though, cook it in water should you need to, just don’t overdo it, a minute or two in boiling water should be enough. If you really want to make the most of the nutrition broccoli has to offer then either drink the boiling water, or add it to a soup or use it to make a gravy!
Broccoli & bone health
Not only is broccoli a good source of Calcium, it’s also pretty dense in vitamin K too. Vitamin K is arguably as important to bone health as Calcium is thanks to its role in augmenting the natural supply of a protein called osteocalcin. Recent research by Poundarik et al. (2012) from the National Academy of Sciences states that the protein osteocalcin plays a significant part in bone strength. The impacts associated with running, resistance training or falling can cause physical deformation of the protein osteocalcin and osteopontin which causes the formation of microscopic holes. These holes are also known as dilational bands and actually serve to protect the bone from further damage. If the bones are unable to form these dilational bands due to a lack of vitamin K (for example), then they have an increased fracture risk.
So if you’re not currently including broccoli in your diet, I would strongly recommend that you do. The benefit will profoundly outweigh any taste or preparation issues you have with it, this vegetable is a must have for any serious athlete so make the most of it where possible.
Poundarik AA, Diab T, Sroga GE, Ural A, Boskey AL, Gundberg CM, Vashishth D, Dilational Band Formation In Bone, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012, 109(47).