We have heard it since we were kids: “eat your vegetables if you want to grow up big and strong!” It’s an adage as old as time.
But that is because our bodies need the nutrients and health benefits that come with eating fruits and vegetables. Thankfully, we have many different options when deciding what veggies we plan to consume.
Two popular, and extremely healthy, vegetables are broccoli and asparagus. Though they are similar in many ways, they do have some differences that might make you choose one over the other when planning your meals for the week!
So, what is the difference between broccoli and asparagus? Broccoli is a part of the Brassicaceae family and has a thick stem with a cloud-looking top while asparagus is skinny and long with a spear-like head and a part of the Asparagaceae family. Broccoli is known to be high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium and asparagus is high in thiamin and iron.
Keep reading to learn more about broccoli and asparagus, their taste, texture and uses, as well as the big differences between the two vegetables.
What is Broccoli?
Broccoli is a part of the Brassicaceae family, or the cabbage family, and is related to other vegetables like cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens.
Broccoli has a light green, short but thick, stem with a dark green top that looks like a cloud or flower; the top of the broccoli is referred to as a floret.
Broccoli grows in the ground and is available year round but is freshest and in season between the months of October and April.
What Does Broccoli Taste Like?
Broccoli has a distinct earthy flavor to it. It also has notes of grassiness and can be mildly bitter at times.
What is the Texture of Broccoli?
When raw, broccoli has multiple textures depending on which part of the vegetable you are biting into.
The stem of the vegetable is hard and crisp and will make a “crunch” sound when being bitten into. However, sometimes, the bottoms of the vegetable become tough and fibrous making it hard to get through.
The top of the broccoli, also known as the florets, are soft when bitten into and can create an almost grainy texture in your mouth as the florets start breaking off into tiny pieces.
However, cooked broccoli has a very different texture than when raw. When broccoli is cooked, both the stem and the florets tend to soften making that crunchy bite turn into a smooth and soft texture.
What Does Broccoli Smell Like?
Similar to its taste, raw broccoli tends to have an earthy and grassy smell. When cooked, broccoli tends to smell a bit like eggs.
However, the smelliness of the broccoli does not mean it has gone bad! It is still safe to eat, even when a bit stinky.
Broccoli Nutritional Facts
It may be smart to add broccoli into your diet as it has many different types of nutrients.
In looking at a serving of 100 grams of the vegetable, you will notice it is extremely high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium specifically.
In a 100-gram serving, broccoli contains 81 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 108% of a daily serving! Though many people think vitamin C can only be found in citrus like oranges or grapefruits, broccoli proves them wrong.
Similarly, in the same serving size broccoli contains 92 micrograms of vitamin K, which is 103% of one’s daily serving.
Broccoli is also high in calcium for a vegetable coming in at 47 milligrams in a 100-gram serving.
Other important nutritional facts to note are broccoli’s 316 milligrams of potassium, and high flavonoids including Kaempferol, Quercetin, and Luteolin.
How Is Broccoli Used?
Broccoli is an extremely versatile dish that can be used raw or cooked.
As a raw vegetable, broccoli makes a great piece of a crudité board or vegetable spread or even as an addition to a salad or coleslaw.
To be cooked, broccoli can be baked, steamed, pan-fried, roasted on a grill (in a grill pan), or even in an air fryer—it truly is a versatile vegetable.
When cooked in any of these ways, broccoli makes an excellent side dish.
Simply add an oil of your choice (olive or avocado work well here) with some seasoning (lemon pepper, salt and pepper, garlic powder, etc.) to get the vegetable tasting the way you like it.
Broccoli is also versatile and is a great addition to soups (broccoli cheese soup is a favorite,) stir-fries, or even pasta dishes.
What is Asparagus?
Asparagus is a part of the Asparagaceae family and is related to other vegetables like onion and garlic.
Asparagus is normally a bright and lighter green color, (and can sometimes even have light shades of purple) and is long and skinny with a spear-like tip.
Asparagus, like broccoli, grows from the ground and, though you can buy them year around, they taste best when in season from the months of February to June (with them peaking in April.)
What Does Asparagus Taste Like?
Pinpointing the exact taste of asparagus can actually be quite difficult. Some argue it tastes like broccoli, others say it tastes strictly like green beans.
The best way to describe the taste of asparagus is a mixture of broccoli and green beans, with earthy notes.
The closest vegetable it will taste like is green beans, yet the earthiness makes it stand out and have a very distinct flavor.
What is the Texture of Asparagus?
The texture of asparagus tends to be hard, crunchy, and extremely fibrous when raw.
The bottom few inches of the vegetable are in fact so tough, that they are almost inedible therefore resulting in people cutting the bottoms off before cooking.
Depending on the cooking time, cooked asparagus can hold a crunch still (this requires less cooking) or it can be quite mushy (this happens when overcooked).
Both ways are fine and delicious; it all depends on your personal preference.
What Does Asparagus Smell Like?
Raw asparagus smells pretty earthy and almost dirt-like, but the scent is extremely mild.
When asparagus is cooked, it can have a sulfur or egg-smell to it, like broccoli. However, also like broccoli, this does not mean your vegetable has gone bad.
Asparagus Nutritional Facts
While asparagus is high in certain nutrients, one thing that makes it appealing to people is the low-calorie content. For a 100-gram serving, asparagus has only 34 calories while also containing a decent amount of vitamin K, iron, and protein.
Asparagus has 56 micrograms of vitamin K, which is 62% of one’s daily serving.
It also contains 2.9 milligrams of iron (16% of one’s daily serving) and 2.9 grams of protein (6% of one’s daily serving)
Other nutrients to note in asparagus are folate, 202 milligrams of potassium, and a high level of flavonoids including Isorhamnetin and Quercetin.
How is Asparagus Used?
Asparagus is a versatile vegetable, but one that should be consumed cooked, not raw.
It is not inedible raw, but the taste is poor, and it is extremely hard on your digestive tract, making it better used when cooked.
Asparagus can be baked, steamed, pan-fried, or thrown right onto a grill and it pairs well with your favorite seasoning, or a little bit of lemon juice, and works well like this as a side vegetable.
Asparagus is also a great addition to soups (hello cream of asparagus soup!), pasta, potato dishes, or stir-fries.
Broccoli vs. Asparagus
Now that you know all the ins and outs of both broccoli and asparagus let’s compare the two to see their differences:
(Based on a 1 cup serving)
Looking at the nutritional facts of both broccoli and asparagus, you can see they measure up pretty closely to one another.
Both vegetables are a great source of fiber and potassium.
Broccoli beats out asparagus by quite a lot in the vitamin K and calcium category whereas asparagus is lower in calories and is a bit more well-rounded with the nutrients.
Asparagus is a great source of iron, especially for a vegetable.
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C, coming in at 108% of your daily intake in just a 1 cup serving.
What Is Better: Broccoli or Asparagus?
When it comes to broccoli or asparagus there is no “better” vegetable. Both are nutritious and would make excellent additions to your diet.
Of course, if you are looking to supplement with certain nutrients, it might be better to choose one over the other. For example, if you are lacking vitamin C, broccoli may be a better option.
However, both vegetables are delicious and taste great by themselves or as an addition to a meal.
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