Its reputation as a superfood is firmly embedded in the public conscience; millions of parents worldwide force their kids to eat it, Barack Obama claims that it’s his favourite food, which is surely to make kids eat it.
Even McDonald’s tried to create a bubble gum flavoured broccoli, so that their young customers would be able to eat a healthy food that they could enjoy at the same time.
There’s no doubt that broccoli is indeed a top notch health food, because tons of studies have proven it. Broccoli is firmly established as a good way to prevent cancer, diabetes, heart disease…
Importantly for us, broccoli is also a fantastic food for your skin.
First you have to know, if you haven’t read the rest of this site, that diet is indeed a cause of acne. In fact, eating the wrong foods is the single biggest cause of acne there is.
The second step is to eat a good variety of healthy foods like fish, fruit and vegetables that provide the basic nutrition your body needs…
The final step is to load your meals with specific foods that have particularly strong acne-clearing powers, and this is where broccoli comes in. Broccoli is loaded with compounds and nutrients that are particularly good for clearing acne. Like any of the so called “superfoods”, simply focussing on broccoli alone will not give you clear skin, but nevertheless broccoli can improve your skin significantly and is one of the premier vegetables I recommend.
Broccoli is a great source of vitamin C
Vitamin C is a nutrient that’s famous for tons of benefits, such as healthy gums (through preventing scurvy) and accelerated wound healing. But it’s also fantastic for your skin and the good news is that broccoli is loaded with it.
100 grams of broccoli contains nearly 100% of the daily allowance for vitamin C. That’s much more than in an orange, which itself is considered to be a stellar source of vitamin C.
Vitamin C’s magic comes from its ability to 1) function as an antioxidant in your body, which protects your skin from free radical damage, 2) reduce the stress hormone cortisol, the villain behind stress related acne breakouts, and 3) function as a cofactor in the creation of collagen, a protein that is vital for strong skin.
You can enjoy all those acne benefits from broccoli because its vitamin C is excellently absorbed by the human body.
On top of that broccoli contains plenty of other nutrients. It’s got decent amounts of minerals like magnesium, and it’s a good source of vitamin A, which is massively important for preventing blocked skin pores.
Broccoli is anti-inflammatory
The vitamin C is already great for your skin, but like other green vegetables you cannot do broccoli justice by simply looking at a nutrition table. Green vegetables contain much more than vitamin C, calcium and all the rest; they also contain tons of smaller compounds and it is them that account for many of their reported health benefits.
One such compound in broccoli is sulforaphane and this is a particularly excellent acne-destroyer. Sulforaphane is a form of antioxidant that is found in various green vegetables, but it actually has health effects above and beyond what you would expect.
The key one for us is its strong anti-inflammatory power. In this study scientists fed mice just low doses of sulforaphane and found that there was significant inhibition of tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a), which is one of the main players in inflammation.
There’s also this study here that shows that green vegetables are generally very good at lowering inflammation. Scientists monitored the diets of 1005 middle-aged Chinese women and found that those who ate more servings of green vegetables per day (like broccoli, cabbage, sprouts, and kale) had significantly lower levels of inflammation.
There are also almost endless amounts of studies demonstrating the power of broccoli itself to reduce inflammation. If you’re new to this website, then chronic inflammation is basically a situation where your immune system is completely out of control. It pumps out far too many inflammatory chemicals (like the TNF-a referenced above) and when they reach your skin, they cause pimples to swell up and go red. Therefore you need to pack your diet with tons of anti-inflammatory foods and broccoli is one of the better ones for sure.
As for sulforaphane, broccoli’s chief anti-inflammatory agent, it has tons of other health benefits attributed to it…
- In this study scientists fed autism patients sulforaphane for 18 weeks, followed by four weeks of nothing in order to compare. They found that after just four weeks, some of the patients had improved social skills, such as the ability to look someone in the eye and hold a conversation better. After many more weeks almost all of the patients had some form of social improvement; they were less irritable, they were more motivated, and they were less prone to repetitive behaviour. The reason was the sulforaphane. The scientists came to the conclusion that the sulforaphane was improving the function of the patients’ brain cells, some of the ones which are normally malfunctioning in autism patients.
- This study found that sulforaphane can actually slow down the progression of arthritis. Like with autism, it accomplishes this by improving the function of cells. In this instance the changes to the cells slowed down the destruction of joint cartilage.
- Scientists in this study found that sulforaphane can even slow down prostate cancer. Supposedly the chemical reduces the activity of PTEN cells, which are defective cells that are often the cause of tumours developing in the first place.
It seems that sulforaphane is a miracle indeed, and when you consider that, it’s not hard to imagine that it could have other unknown acne benefits. Eating more green vegetables generally is one of the best things you can do for your health. Tons of studies show improvements in cancer, heart disease, and other afflictions which go far beyond the results you would expect judging from their nutrition tables.
The relevance for our skin? This means that if broccoli has health benefits beyond what you would expect, it could easily have hidden benefits for your acne as well.
We already know about sulforaphane, and there’s several other interesting compounds. One is kaempferol, a flavonoid antioxidant which has significant anti-inflammatory power. There’s also the rest of broccoli’s antioxidants, which neutralise free radicals in your body and prevent them from leading to blocked pores.
It’s very likely that there are other such compounds in broccoli that can benefit your acne. I highly suspect that this is the case based on my own experience with it. I always notice that my skin does well when I eat plenty of broccoli.
I can eat a food with similar levels of vitamin C, and other nutrients, and get good benefits, but broccoli always makes me feel particularly great despite, in theory, having the same level of nutrition as these other foods.
As well as being anti-inflammatory, broccoli can even control excessive estrogen levels in both women and men. It is an extremely good food to eat if you have the damaging condition known as estrogen dominance.
Broccoli contains a molecule known as indole-3 carbinol that cranks up the body’s ability to detoxify excessive estrogen levels. This is great for your acne because if your estrogen is too high, it can lead to DHT levels becoming too high as well, and for women in particular that’s a disaster. DHT is the androgenic hormone that is notorious for causing oily skin.
Thus eating broccoli and indole-3 carbinol is a good way to correct the problem of excessive estrogen. This should result in a fall in DHT and subsequently a good reduction in the oiliness of your skin.
This isn’t just some obscure molecule that nobody’s ever heard of either; broccoli has long been a favourite of bodybuilders, precisely because of indole-3 carbinol and its estrogen lowering effect.
Is broccoli a recommended acne clearer?
For the reasons above I certainly recommend that you make broccoli a part of your diet. You don’t have to eat it every day, in fact you don’t have to eat it at all because there are plenty of other nutritious vegetables like kale.
However it is an excellent food to eat to get a boost in multiple areas of your clear skin fight. I eat roughly a cup full of broccoli every day.
To push the clearness of your skin through the stratosphere you can combine broccoli with as many other “superfoods” as you possibly can. Broccoli is just one piece of the puzzle, albeit an extremely useful piece; the more foods with acne-fighting properties you can include the better.
Broccoli is a particularly good food to eat if you…
- Are in need of vitamin C. If the old acne on your face just refuses to heal, then you may well be vitamin C deficient (because it is vital for wound healing). If you’re stressed out then you will probably need more as well because vitamin C is used to clear the stress hormone, cortisol.
- You need to reduce your inflammation levels. Almost every acne patient does need to do this, but if you are in particular need for a boost then give broccoli a go.
It’s also vital that you cook broccoli in the right way, otherwise you could be eating a lot less nutrients than you think…
The best way to cook broccoli
The only real issue you’ll face with broccoli is cooking it the right way, because green vegetables are notorious for losing their nutrients when cooked. The wrong method can destroy both the fragile nutrients and the antioxidants, rendering a once healthy food useless…
Luckily you can easily prevent this by steaming your broccoli. Steaming hardly destroys any of the nutrients because it is very gentle compared to microwaving or boiling. This study shows that boiling reduced the vitamin C by 33%, it reduced the glucosinolates (a type of antioxidant) by 41%, and the carotenoids (also antioxidants) were reduced by 13%.
Meanwhile steaming only caused a very insignificant fall in all of those measures. Microwaved broccoli did not fare as badly as the boiled broccoli, but it was nowhere near as nutritious as the steamed vegetables.
Therefore you should always steam broccoli, as this will push the acne clearing benefits to the absolute maximum.
PS: green vegetables are ruined when you boil them, but don’t think the same applies to all foods. The potato, for example, is actually healthiest when boiled. It appears to be cruciferous vegetables like broccoli that are vulnerable to this phenomenon.
How to steam broccoli with no effort and no equipment
If you’re like me then you might not have steaming equipment, but there’s a simple solution that requires nothing more than a boiling pan. Cut a few of the heads off your broccoli, stick them in a boiling pan containing about an inch of water, and set them to boil.
The broccoli itself won’t be boiled, because there’s not enough water. However the resulting steam will fill the pan, engulf the broccoli and cook it just like if you used a steamer. Keeping the lid on the pan will allow the steam to gather and give the broccoli a good, thorough cooking.
The last thing you need to know is the length of time you should cook your broccoli for, as this is important for the nutrients as well. Scientists from the University of Illinois examined the absorbability of sulforaphane from broccoli when it was cooked for different lengths of time.
They found that broccoli should definitely be cooked at least slightly; raw broccoli contains too much of a protein called the epithiospecifier protein, which hoovers up sulforaphane before you can eat it. They also discovered that cooking broccoli too much will destroy the enzymes which are vital for the human body to actually use sulforaphane.
Their final conclusion? They decided that the ideal way to cook broccoli was to steam it for, very roughly, three or four minutes. This is their ultimate strategy for making broccoli as healthy as possible. You don’t have to time this exactly, just make sure it’s roughly three or four minutes.
Another useful test is the texture; if your broccoli is cooked to absolute perfection then it should still be fairly tough, but with sections of it beginning to turn soft. You need to avoid broccoli which is so soft that it falls to bits in your mouth; that means it is overcooked and nutritionally less valuable.
So there you have it: broccoli is one of the premier acne-busting foods out there. If you are on the hunt for foods that can pump some extra skin clearing power into your body, then for the advantages above I highly recommend that you eat it.
To recap, broccoli is highly anti-inflammatory, it can regulate excessive estrogen levels, and it is an excellent source of vitamin C. I eat roughly one cup of steamed broccoli per day, but if you eat more than that you can improve your acne even more.
Do that and combine it with other acne clearing superfoods (the pomegranate is a powerful and tasty one) and you’ll be closer to the skin you’ve always dreamed of.
Thanks for reading!