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Which is healthier: broccoli or broccolini (tenderstem)?

Broccoli and broccolini are both hugely popular vegetables, known for packing a nutrition punch and being incredibly versatile.  But is one healthier than the other?  Dietitian Juliet Kellow does a comparison.


This popular member of the brassica family (which also includes kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and pak choi) originates from the Calabria region of Italy. It used to be known as calabrese for that reason, but now it goes by the name broccoli from the Latin ‘brachium’ for branch or arm.

The nutritional lowdown

Broccoli contains close to twice as much vitamin C as broccolini/tenderstem, although most people in wealthy countries already get enough vitamin C. But the slightly higher folate content makes it particularly useful for women planning a baby and those in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, to help protect against neural tube defects. The marginally higher amounts of potassium and iron in broccoli are a useful boost, as intakes are low in around a quarter of teenagers and women under 65.


This brassica is a more recent addition to supermarket shelves. It originates from Japan and is a cross between broccoli and Chinese kale. As the name suggests, its stems are thin and tender, so you can eat the whole veg (you can, of course, eat the thick, woody, broccoli stalk, but you need to slice it and cook it for longer).

The nutritional lowdown

Broccolini has slightly more phosphorus, manganese and calcium than broccoli – all vital for bone health. But it really wins out in the vitamin A stakes, providing almost four times more than broccoli. Around 10 per cent of teenage boys and men, 20 per cent of women and 14 per cent of teenage girls have very low intakes of vitamin A, so adding broccolini to the menu will help to boost intakes. Plus you get all the goodness from the stem rather than throwing it in the bin.

The verdict

Broccolini – by a hair’s breadth! Nutritionally, the two brassicas are very similar. But the excellent vitamin A content of broccolini, together with the fact that it needs less prep and there’s no waste, gives it the edge over broccoli for us. That said, we recommend you enjoy both in your diet. Steam and serve as a side or in a salad, blitz into soup, eat raw with a dip, or add to stir-fries, pasta or risotto.

Date modified: November 23 2021
First published: Nov 2016

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