Broccoli is an often ignored vegetable that is an excellent source of “whole” nutrients. Belonging to the cabbage family, its flowering head (also referred to as the florets or crown) is typically the part consumed as a part of our diet. While the crown is certainly tasty, did you know there is still a lot of benefit to be acquired by eating the rest of the broccoli plant? It’s possible you may not have even known that broccoli grows leaves, comparable to collard greens in many respects. The vegetables you buy at a local supermarket are generally stripped down to what is most easily marketable. With so many leafy greens already available (Romaine lettuce, kale, collard greens, and spinach just to name a few obvious ones), one can assume that broccoli leaves are often left off the shelf because of what we expect from broccoli in the store: that being just a short stalk and the flowering head. Today, I would like to dispel the notion that the rest of the broccoli plant can’t be consumed, and highly advise that you look to include this in your diet, and growing broccoli in your garden if you have the chance too!
These are the Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Eat the Leaves of Your Broccoli Plants:
1). Broccoli Leaves are Nutrient Dense
One of the reasons a whole food, plant-based diet is so attractive to a growing niche of people is because it is easy to get a lot of nutritional content from the food we grow and eat. Unlike highly processed foods which just contain a lot of fillers, high sodium and sugar contents, and often high fat content; fruits and vegetables provide a lot of real value to your diet. Broccoli leaves are no different, and by some are becoming known as a “new green superfood.”
Broccoli leaves are high in Fiber, Vitamin A, Thiamin, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Selenium, Vitamin C, Riboflavin, Folate, Potassium, and more! They serve as an excellent weight loss food (like most fruits and vegetables) as they are low in calories (just 8 calories per ounce), but high in satiety. This means: you will feel full quicker and be satisfied with what you are eating.
2). Broccoli Leaves can be Prepared in Many Different Ways
Like most green leafy vegetables, broccoli leaves can be utilized in the kitchen in a variety of way. As one might imagine, they taste similar to the broccoli head we are all familiar with, but with its own unique properties as well. Whether you decide to eat the leaves raw, sautéed, in a pressure cooker, grilled, or in some other fashion, the options are virtually limitless. A major reason I enjoy these leaves is because they add some well needed variety to my meals. Sometimes, even making a minor change in my salad preparations from a head of Romaine as the salad base to some broccoli leaves is sufficient to “change things up.”
Read More: How to Cook Broccoli in an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
3). Broccoli Leaves Provide an Educational Opportunity
As noted in the intro, some people don’t even realize that broccoli leaves exist. It is certainly not how broccoli is sold to us in grocery stores. If you can get your hands on some broccoli with leaves intact, it will make a great learning experience to pass on to your friends and family. I remember being a young boy and when originally shown broccoli in the early days of school, I was just shown what I would expect it to look like in the grocery store. To be able to share the knowledge that this vegetable is more than just what we buy in the store would be quite valuable, and make for some entertaining reactions, especially if you are passing this knowledge down to a young child.
This stands as one of those things where I find we can take things for granted because they are so readily available. Certainly the world is not going to end just because you are not aware of broccoli leaves, but by having this knowledge and sharing it, I believe it at least provides one more opportunity for people to be healthy and have some more variety to go with the health benefits!
4). Broccoli Leaf Nutrition Helps Prevent Cancer (and Other Diseases)
A plant-based diet is considered a simple miracle – you can change your life just by changing your diet to be vegan exclusive. Broccoli leaves, by providing a large number of vitamins and minerals (and many in dense quantities per serving), prove themselves to be a “miracle food.” Vitamin C, for example, is known to be correlated with lower levels of cancer. I like to think a healthy, vegan diet is firmly rooted in the notion of preventing disease instead of just treating it after it occurs. Of course, as I’ve learned during my transition to a WFPB diet, veggies can help do a lot to reverse the curse of aging on a Standard American Diet, and that does include reversing some common diseases such as diabetes and angina. Broccoli leaves, in conjunction with other quality, plant-based foods, help keep this process moving along well.
5). Dietary Fiber in Broccoli Leaves Help You Be More Regular
Western diets rich in dairy and meat leave many people feeling bloated and unable to go to the bathroom. At its most extreme, some are specifically allergic to these foods and the result can be a little unsettling to think about. It is never an easy topic to discuss our bowel movements, but it is an important one as the quality of our stool is often an easy tell regarding the quality of our overall health. A major problem with dairy and meat-based diets is that they lack in dietary fiber. Most dietary fiber is derived from plant foods, so unless someone is consuming animal products and a whole lot of plant-based foods, they will likely always have trouble feeling regular. Because broccoli leaves provide a high amount of dietary fiber per serving, they serve as a perfect veggie for helping to get this private aspect of our lives under control.
6). You Can’t Overeat Broccoli Leaves
Those who have struggled with losing weight will find that broccoli leaves are an excellent weight loss vegetable. The key to weight loss, as I’ve experienced a loss of 65 pounds since starting my plant-based journey, is learning to find foods that are healthy for you and that taste good too! The variety of vegetables I grow in my garden helps me to keep my meals fresh (both literally and metaphorically). Because of the nutritional content of broccoli leaves and 0g of fat, you can eat broccoli leaves for days-and-days and never gain weight. In fact, you can expect to start trimming pretty quickly.
Of course, most people are not going to just want to eat broccoli leaves, so mix them in a salad or similar recipe that enables you to pull on the nutritional profile of other plant-based foods. Considering eating the rest of the broccoli plant (the head and stalk), and pairing with veggies like carrots and tomatoes. All have valuable nutrients, and most are low in calories.
7). Broccoli Provides Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
A result of many negative factors such as poor diet, a lack of exercise, exposure to toxic substances in our food, air and water supply (I immediately think of Flint, Michigan’s water crisis), and other environmental concerns, the body encounters a phenomenon referred to as “chronic inflammation.” The cause of this is complex, but can be simplified like this: if our vital organs cannot keep up with the elevated level of toxicity and naturally detoxify, too many toxins will remain in our body and lead to the decay of our organs and health over time. Unfortunately, there some things we have limited ability to control on a daily basis, such as pollution in our areas. This isn’t too significant where I am in Pennsylvania, but in certain areas of a country like China, the amount of pollutants that fill the air and developing smog have a direct and visceral effect on health. But, with that said, there are many factors we can control, and these are the ones we should focus on.
We can start simple. By consuming healthy foods like broccoli (this includes the leaves, stalk, and head), we help our body to go through this detox process. As we age, this becomes increasingly important. Forming good dietary habits is the cornerstone for having a healthy life and fighting inflammation.
Note: You can buy Broccoli Seeds Online so You Can Start a Sustainable Garden Today!
8). Broccoli Leaves Support a Healthy Heart
What if I told you there was a way to reduce cardiovascular problems you are experiencing without prescribed medication? As you should know, I am not a medical doctor, but in my own experience I chose to find a natural solution to a problem that plagued me for a long time. High cholesterol will have a negative impact on your heart health, and for some even leads to premature death in the form of a stroke or heart attack. Foods high in cholesterol, such as red meat, should be actively avoided if you are experiencing this condition (and even if you are not). Broccoli functions to help reduce cholesterol levels naturally. Additionally, consuming broccoli can help reduce high blood sugar as well, which also leads to the same negative health consequences.
9). Broccoli Leaves Help Fight Macular Degeneration and Cataracts
We often neglect our eyes and sense of vision because it is one of the core ways we experience the world. Unless you have eye problems and have to visit a professional for care, you probably don’t even stop to think about the value your eyes provide you. If we stop once and a while and think about how we can improve our eyesight through our diet, it may make our experience of the world far better in the long run. As it pertains to macular degeneration, “risk of problems involving the macula of the eye..and problems involving the lens area of the eye (for example, cataracts) have both been shown to lessen with intake of foods (including broccoli) that provide significant amounts of the lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids.”
10). Broccoli Leaves Support Healthy Skin
There are so many skin care products available today, but most only serve to cover up “bad looking” skin. Did you know your skin is the “largest” organ that is a part of your body? When viewed like this, it becomes easier to accept that some of the foods we are eating, we should consume while keeping in mind how it is going to impact this highly visible organ. It is, in fact, the most exposed part of our bodies and directly reflects our self-esteem. If our skin looks good, we feel good about it. But if our skin looks bad, it can be detrimental to how we view ourselves.
Broccoli leaves are a great way to support your skin through a plant-based diet. Even sun-damaged skin can be cured overtime due to the glucoraphanin found in broccoli – which converts to sulforaphane by the body. This chemical helps along the detox process within the body, with visible results over time in the form of better looking, healthier skin.
Broccoli leaves are unique, tasty, and beneficial to your dietary health. They are just one important elements in my personal journey into the world of whole foods, plant-based living. As a gardener, broccoli provides a lot of flavor and texture variety in the form of the leaves, stalk, and florets.
If this Top 10 list and video has inspired you to try these out, let me know in the comments below!