Can I Eat Raw Broccoli?


If you’re searching for some low-calorie nutrient-dense food ideas, this article will hit home with you. I will cover everything you need to know about eating raw broccoli.

Can I eat raw broccoli?

In general, you can eat raw broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage, are non-starchy and can be easily digested in raw form. Consumption of raw broccoli results in faster absorption and higher bioavailability of its active compound sulforaphane.

Apart from that, eating raw broccoli also saves a lot of folate, vitamin C and chlorophyll. More on that later.

Raw Broccoli vs Cooked

The difference between raw broccoli and cooked is in nutrient retention. Eating raw broccoli demonstrate higher amounts of bioavailable sulforaphane (37%) comparing to cooked broccoli (3.4%). Sulforaphane is a powerful phytochemical with antioxidant and anti-aging properties.

Why such a difference between cooked and raw broccoli?

During the cooking process, an enzyme responsible for sulforaphane formation, myrosinase, is deactivated. This means the cooking process reduces the myrosinase interaction with glucosinolate, and it cannot form sulforaphane.

In fact, this enzyme is destroyed on cooking or even steaming or blanching for more than a minute. So all the health benefits that you hear about eating broccoli go out to the drain if you eat your broccoli boiled.

FUN FACT: Chopping broccoli enhances enzymatic reaction with myrosinase with glucosinolate.

Why Is Sulforaphane Good For You

Sulforaphane is good for you because sulforaphane has a wide range of health-enhancing properties. Sulforaphane has been found to be antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and antidiabetic compound.

  • Antioxidant

Sulforaphane participates in several physiological, biochemical, and cellular processes. It is been found to inactivate free radicals and prevent free-radical reactions (source).

  • Antimicrobial

Sulforaphane act against a selected group of microorganisms. It stops the growth of the bacterial pathogen Helicobacter pylori, and other fungal pathogens, including those that may have resistance to antibiotics (source).

  • Anti-aging

Studies show that some diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, gouty arthritis, type I and type II diabetes, atherosclerosis, and some autoimmune disorders can be potential targets for sulforaphane treatment (source).

In other words, its eating broccoli raw and thinly chopped saves you plenty of nutrients.

Is It Better To Eat Broccoli Raw or Cooked?

As a whole, it is better to eat broccoli raw rather than cooked. Raw broccoli contains high levels of vitamins, antioxidants, and anticarcinogenic compounds. Cooking broccoli, at the convenience of taste, significantly changes the chemical composition of broccoli and reduces the amounts of those nutrients.

Personally, I prefer the taste of the slightly cooked broccoli. Because eating broccoli raw feels a bit dry and bitter, which is unappealing when you eat a lot of them. However, raw broccoli has significantly more healthy nutrients and with just a bit of creativity, it can taste much better.

One way to make eating raw broccoli more appealing is to dip them in some type of hummus or homemade sauce. This way you can neutralize bitterness and benefit from all the nutrients.

What are the nutrients in broccoli?

Broccoli has a several health-promoting vitamins and minerals:

  • Vitamin C
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • Riboflavin
  • Carotenoids
  • Polyphenols
  • Calcium

Does Broccoli Lose Its Nutrients When Cooked?

On average, broccoli loses 27% of chlorophyll, 30% of vitamin C, and 55% of glucosinolates during the cooking process, depending on the cooking method. Boiling and stir-frying significantly reduces the number of nutrients, where steaming doesn’t cause any significant loss.

I wanted to show you exactly how cooking affects nutrient makeup in broccoli. After researching several papers, I’ve found that steaming broccoli seems to be the best way to preserve nutrients. In one fascinating study, researchers compared raw broccoli with:

  • Boiled
  • Steamed
  • Microwaved
  • Stir-fried

In conclusion, the amount of health-promoting nutrients is significantly affected by cooking processes. All cooking processes, apart from steaming, caused a huge decrease in vitamin C, carotenoids, chlorophyll, soluble proteins, and glucosinolates (source).

What Is The Best Way to Cook Broccoli without Losing Nutrients?

The best way to cook broccoli without losing nutrients is by sous vide processing. Sous vide is a low-temperature long-time processing method that gives the highest retention (97-100%) of ascorbic acid, vitamin B6, and folacin in broccoli, comparing to the steaming method (83-100% retention).

Sous vide processing is cooking your food in an airtight container or a vacuum bag in a low heat temperature around 55 to 60 °C. Sous vide not only prevents overcooking but also retains moisture and almost all vitamins and minerals.

Another study examined cooking broccoli in traditional methods compared to the sous vide process. They assessed:

  • Boiling
  • Steaming
  • Sous vide

In conclusion, the retention of minerals and nutrients was the highest from the sous vide process. If you’re wondering about the taste, data shows that “sensory evaluation” of sous-vide cooking and steaming broccoli had a similar taste, but it was much better than boiled broccoli (source).

What Is The Healthiest Way To Eat Broccoli?

The healthiest way to eat broccoli is raw. Raw broccoli contains the highest amount of nutrients, vitamins, polyphenols, and health-promoting bioactive compounds. Broccoli doesn’t contain many starchy carbohydrates, therefore, it can be eaten and digested in a raw form.

Not only that.

Eating raw broccoli enhances digestion and helps with bowel movements. Chronic oxidative stress inhibits regularity. Studies show that sulforaphane stops from an overgrowth of bad microflora and protects the small intestine from oxidative injury (source).

Also, eating raw broccoli decreases the percentage of Bifidobacterium (bad bacteria) in the stool.

Should You Eat Broccoli Everyday?

As a general rule, you should be eating vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or green beans every day. Having a diet high in low-calorie high-nutrient dense vegetables improves digestion, lowers blood sugar, controls appetite, and can significantly lower body weight.

So having broccoli, together with other veggies should be part of your regular diet. Because we already know that broccoli is good for you. We already know that eating raw broccoli is far superior that cooking or even steaming.

So with that in mind, the next step you should do is to find the best way to eat broccoli raw, so that you don’t have to force yourself. You should find some type of food combination that you like, can eat, and enjoy.

How To Eat Broccoli Raw

In general, the best way to eat raw broccoli is with a combination of other foods. Eating raw broccoli on its own may not be appealing to many people because of its bitter taste. However, with the combination of homemade sauces, dips, olive oils, dressings, or creams it can be much more enjoyable.

There are 9 ways you can eat broccoli raw:

  • Raw broccoli salad
  • Raw broccoli with a garlic sauce
  • Raw broccoli smoothie
  • Raw broccoli with cottage cheese
  • Raw broccoli with a hummus
  • Salted raw broccoli
  • Raw broccoli with olive oil
  • Greek yogurt with raw broccoli
  • Sprinkled on the food

Conclusion

There are many health benefits from eating broccoli and regardless if you choose to cook your broccoli or eat them raw, it will pay you in spades.

The most beneficial way is to eat your broccoli raw because this way you save tons of nutrients and vitamins.

If you don’t enjoy raw broccoli, then maybe you should consider some of the food combinations that can enhance the taste and deliver all the good nutrition at the same time.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.