Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.
When you think of broccoli, you picture the lovely green florets that resemble tiny trees. That’s the part most broccoli lovers like to eat while leaving the huskier stem behind.
But why toss healthy food? They’re edible, but are broccoli stems healthy for you? If you’re concerned about not wasting food, take a closer look at broccoli stems, and don’t be too quick to discard them. As you’ll soon discover, they’re nutritious too!
Are Broccoli Stems Good for You?
Broccoli stems are a bit chewier and not as flavorful as the more graceful-looking florets, but they’re packed with nutrition. By weight, broccoli stems contain more calcium and iron than the more popular florets. Calcium is important for healthy bones, while iron is an essential nutrient that helps transport oxygen around your body.
Broccoli stems are also rich in fiber, a dietary component most people don’t get enough of. Research shows people, on average, only get about half the amount of fiber recommended for good health. So, if you’re tossing broccoli stems, you’re missing out on fiber and nutrients.
Broccoli is also rich in compounds called glucosinolates that some research shows may lower the risk of some types of cancer. Your body converts glucosinolates to compounds called sulforaphane that have potential anti-cancer benefits. You get these compounds whether you eat the stems or the florets or both.
How Can You Use Broccoli Stems?
Now that you know broccoli stems are nutritious, how can you add them to your diet? The idea of munching on raw broccoli stems may not sound appealing but there are other ways to enjoy their benefits.
One way to use broccoli stems is to add them to soups or stews. Cut the stems into small pieces and add them to your recipe at the same time as other vegetables when preparing soup.
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Stir-frying is another tasty way to prepare broccoli stems, which is why it's a common ingredient in Asian cuisine. Why not stir fry broccoli stems in black bean sauce with other vegetables, such as carrots and mushrooms for a tasty and nutrient-rich meal?
Add Protein for a Complete Meal
Stir-fry broccoli stems with chicken for a quick dinner packed with protein and fiber. (You can also add brown rice or quinoa for extra fiber and carbohydrates to give you sustained energy for the remainder of the day.)
Broccoli stems are also a natural addition to casseroles. They are equally delicious roasted until browned and caramelized—they have a sweeter flavor than florets do when cooked this way. You can also cut them into smaller pieces and roast them until tender before adding them to salads or using them as crudités.
Broccoli Noodles or Broccoli Rice
If you have a spiralizer and are a bit more adventurous, you can spiralize broccoli stems and create broccoli stem noodles! Use them as a healthier substitute for pasta noodles in dishes like spaghetti.
Pasta noodles are low in nutritional value and raise blood sugar levels more than broccoli noodles do. Plus, broccoli noodles are more nutrient-dense.
You’ve heard of cauliflower rice? If you have a grater or food processor, you can also make broccoli rice from the stems. The best way to do this is to cut broccoli stems (you can also use florets) into one-inch pieces. Place them in the food processor and use a setting that chops the stems into rice-like pieces.
Choose fresh stalks rather than ones that have been sitting out for a while; these will be fresher tasting because they won't have lost their nutrients yet. Broccoli stems lose vitamin C when you expose them to heat or light. Try to eat broccoli within a few days of purchasing it.
The Bottom Line
Are broccoli stems nutritious? Yes! Broccoli stems are a delicious and inexpensive way to add nutrients to your diet. When you purchase broccoli, it comes with stems attached. No need to waste them and their nutrients. Now you know how to prepare them so they’re the tastiest and most nutritious.
- "Broccoli 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits." 10 May 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/broccoli.
- "Broccoli, stalks, raw Nutrition Facts & Calories - Self." https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2817/2.
- Barba FJ, Nikmaram N, Roohinejad S, Khelfa A, Zhu Z, Koubaa M. Bioavailability of Glucosinolates and Their Breakdown Products: Impact of Processing. Front Nutr. 2016 Aug 16;3:24. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2016.00024. PMID: 27579302; PMCID: PMC4985713.