Broccoli and kale are often touted to be “superfoods.” And, yes, they really are amazingly healthy for you.
If you’re wondering what exactly is in these green powerhouses that makes them so “super,” I’ve outlined the highlights to give you reasons to make these a staple in your diet.
What is a superfood? I’d define it as a food that has health benefit beyond the macronutrient and micronutrient profile. It’s like one of those foods that get a bonus point for doing something a little extra.
To start, they’re both considered cruciferous vegetables related to each other in the Brassica family. This family of super plants also includes cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts.
Broccoli and kale are full of nutrition: vitamins, minerals, fiber, etc. They’re both considered to be nutrient dense which is a measure of nutrients per calorie – and these both have a lot!
Broccoli and kale tend to taste a bit bitter – but that bitterness equals healthfulness! Did you know that broccoli has > 100% of your daily value of vitamin C?! Move over oranges!!
This bitter flavor is from some of the health-promoting compounds in these super plant foods. Things like glucosinolates (e.g., sulforaphane and isothiocyanates) and polyphenol flavonols.
There are a few different types of kale – from curly kale, to dinosaur kale, to red/purple kale. The different colors result from slight differences in the amounts of the compounds these plants contain.
One of the main active ingredients in cruciferous vegetables are glucosinolates. These antioxidant compounds are very useful to help detoxify, balance hormones, and protect against cancer.
Raw vs cooked
It’s the precursors to glucosinolates that are in cruciferous vegetables, not the compounds themselves. When fresh broccoli and kale are eaten (or even chopped/blended) raw, the active compounds are produced. So if you’d looking for detox and hormone balance- try to eat more raw.
When cooked, kale contains another anti-cancer compound called indole and less glucosinolates.
Note that glucosinolates may affect iodine absorption and thyroid health, particularly in people prone to thyroid disease. In this case, you may not have to ditch these superfoods altogether – just cook them first to reduce the glucosinolate content.
Other bonus points for kale and broccoli
These superfoods also contain flavonols like kaempferol and quercetin. Flavonols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and they decrease your risk of cancer.
Kale also contains carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are known for promoting eye health and are protective against many cancers.
There’s no debate that if you are looking for a food group that has a health promoting bonus point, look no further than broccoli and kale. Both are packed with nutrition and have a whole array of health-promoting compounds.
Almost everyone should be eating these regularly. Just be cautious if you’re taking blood-thinning medications; and, if you have thyroid issues, cook them first. Of course, they are also foods known to cause gas or bloating, so also be careful on the serving size or frequency of consumption if you notice gastrointestinal distress.