Natural Weight-Loss Food: Broccoli

Best nutritious vegetable? Broccoli wins hands down. Eat it raw or cooked -- as long as you don't cover it with cheese sauce, it can be part of your weight-loss repertoire. You simply can't get a bigger dose of more nutrients from any other vegetable, especially for so few calories. That's key for those who are trying to lose weight. You want to meet nutrient needs while eating within your plan.

Broccoli also helps fight obesity by being a low-fat, low-calorie vegetable option to any healthy meal plan. Eating lots of broccoli fills you up with the bulk of high-fiber, and without adding extra calories. Broccoli also plays a preventive role in many of the chronic diseases that often come with being overweight: diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.


Health Benefits

Broccoli's noteworthy nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin A (mostly as beta-carotene), folic acid, calcium, and fiber. While the calcium content of one serving doesn't equal that of a glass of milk, broccoli is an important calcium source for those who don't consume dairy products. Calcium does more than build strong bones. Research shows that this mineral may play a role in the control of high blood pressure, and it may work to prevent colon cancer.

Beta-carotene and vitamin C are important antioxidants that have been linked to a reduced risk of numerous conditions, including cataracts, heart disease, and several cancers.


Broccoli is a fiber find. Not only is it a rich source, but half of its fiber is insoluble and half is soluble, helping to meet your needs for both types of fiber. But the story doesn't end with broccoli's rich array of nutrients. Broccoli provides a health bonus in the form of protective substances that may shield you from disease. Botanically, broccoli belongs to the cabbage family, collectively known as cruciferous vegetables.

Health organizations have singled out cruciferous vegetables as must-have foods, recommending we eat them several times a week. Why? They are linked to lower rates of cancer. Like all cruciferous vegetables, broccoli naturally contains two important phytochemicals -- indoles and isothiocyanates. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore isolated from broccoli an isothiocyanate, called sulforaphane, that increases the activity of a group of enzymes in our bodies that squelch cancer-causing agents.

Selection and Storage

Look for broccoli that's dark green or even purplish-green, but not yellow. Florets should be compact and of even color; leaves should not be wilted; and stalks should not be fat and woody. The greener it is, the more beta-carotene it has. Keep broccoli cold. At room temperature, the sugar in broccoli is converted into a fiber called lignin, which is woody and fibrous. Store unwashed broccoli in your refrigerator's crisper drawer, in a plastic bag. Don't completely seal the bag, but make sure it is tight. Use within a few days.


Preparation and Serving Tips

Wash broccoli just before using. Peel away the outer layer of the stems because these are woody. Use as much of the stems as you like; they contain fewer nutrients than the florets anyway. Steaming is the best way to cook broccoli because many nutrients are lost when it's boiled. Preventing broccoli's unpleasant odor is easy -- don't use an aluminum pan and don't overcook it. Steam only until crisp-tender, while stalks are still bright green; five minutes is plenty.

Try this trick: Make one or two cuts through the stems before cooking. This helps the stems cook as fast as the tops. Or dice and steam with the rest of the broccoli. Cool and toss into a salad to boost the fiber.


When serving broccoli, skip the cheese sauce. Keep it simple; add a squeeze of lemon and a dusting of cracked pepper or a drizzle of olive oil. Broccoli florets can boost the nutrition, flavor, and color of any stir-fry dish. Raw broccoli tossed into salads boosts the nutrition of a midday meal. Served raw, broccoli is a great finger food. Children love it this way, perhaps because the flavor isn't as strong, or maybe just because it's fun. Double the fun by giving them a dipping sauce to dunk it in, like fat-free ranch dressing.

Broccoli is one of today's miracle foods. This veggie is high in antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and rich in folate. It also contains iron and potassium. Not only is broccoli the most nutritious vegetable available, it also helps you to lead a healthier, longer life.

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