These mini trees are notorious for being pushed off the plates of kids around the world, but broccoli's reputation as one of the healthiest veggies still rings true. Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, rutabaga, and turnips. These nutrition powerhouses supply loads of nutrients for few calories. If you are trying to eat healthier, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli should be at the very top of your grocery list. If you or your kids are not big fans of broccoli, be sure to read the how to incorporate more broccoli into your diet section for tips and delicious recipes. This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of broccoli and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more broccoli into your diet, and any potential health risks of consuming broccoli. Possible health benefits of consuming broccoli Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions. Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like broccoli decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality. It may also promote a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight. Fighting cancer Eating a high amount of cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of cancer; particularly lung and colon cancer. Studies have suggested that sulforaphane, the sulfur-containing compound that gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter bite, is also what gives them their cancer-fighting power. Researchers have found that sulforaphane can inhibit the enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), known to be involved in the progression of cancer cells. The ability to stop HDAC enzymes could make sulforaphane-containing foods a potentially powerful part of cancer treatment in the future. Sulforaphane is now being studied for its ability to delay or slow cancer with promising results shown in melanoma, esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. Other easily recognized cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, and cabbage, as well as the lesser-known arugula, broccolini, daikon, kohlrabi, and watercress. Another important vitamin that broccoli contains, folate, has been found to decrease the risk of breast cancer in women. Adequate intake of dietary folate (in food) has also shown promise in protecting against colon, stomach, pancreatic, and cervical cancers. Although the mechanism behind the protection is not understood, researchers believe that it may have something to do with folate's role in DNA and RNA production and the prevention of mutations. Improving bone health Poor vitamin K intake is linked with a higher risk of bone fracture. Just one cup of chopped broccoli provides 92 micrograms of vitamin K, well over 100 percent of your daily need. Consuming an adequate amount of vitamin K improves bone health by improving calcium absorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium. Broccoli also contributes to your daily need for calcium, providing 43 milligrams in one cup. Improved digestion and natural detoxification Eating foods with a natural fiber like broccoli can prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and lower the risk of colon cancer. Adequate fiber promotes regularity, which is crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool. Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may also play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. Protection from chronic disease According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intakes are associated with significantly lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.