When it comes to ample-tasting nutrition, broccoli is an all-star food that bestows many all-important health benefits even when consumed in moderation. In addition to being rich in fibre, broccoli is very much full of essential vitamins and minerals.
And to top it all, the real blessing comes for people who consume broccoli in the form of low-calorie food.
Broccoli is a member of a family of vegetables called cruciferous vegetables whose close relatives include Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage.
Broccoli contains a sulfur-containing compound sulforaphane normally present in cruciferous vegetables.
Researchers are also into the study of the anti-cancer properties of sulforaphane and have come to some interesting conclusions, even though more research is needed to confirm the benefits.
As if it wasn’t enough, a cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as that of an orange and is a stable source of beta-carotene. Broccoli contains vitamins like B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium as well. It even has enormous fibre and hence is low in calories.
What Is Broccoli?
The name Broccoli got its name from the Italian word “broccolo” which translates itself as “cabbage sprout”. A hearty and tasty vegetable replete with dozens of nutrients, Broccoli is said to pack the most nutritional punch than any other vegetable.
Broccoli is among the foremost of green plants that come to our mind to have in our diet.
Coming from the cabbage family, broccoli very much resembles a cauliflower and is also categorized as an edible green plant whose large flowering head is consumed as a vegetable. Broccoli can be often boiled or steamed but may be eaten raw.
Broccoli is an outcome of careful breeding of harvested Brassica crops in the northern Mediterranean region originating in the 6th century BC.
Broccoli has emerged from wild cabbage during the Roman times and was enjoyed immensely by the Romans. Broccoli was found in the United States through colonial times but could not gain popularity until the 1920’s.
There are mostly three common types of grown broccoli. The most familiar is the Calabrese broccoli which is often referred to only as “broccoli”, named after Italy’s Calabria.
It is a fresh season annual crop that has large (10 to 20 cm) green heads and thick stalks. Sprouting broccoli consists of a larger number of heads with many thin stalks.
A variety of broccoli grown in Europe and North America, purple cauliflower has a head shaped like cauliflower and consists of tiny flower buds. It seldom, though not always, has a purple cast to the tips of the flower buds.
Broccolini or “Tenderstem broccoli” is a cross amidst broccoli and Chinese broccoli. Beneforté is a variety of broccoli that has 2–3 times more glucoraphanin which was mass-produced by crossing broccoli with a wild Brassica variety.
Is Broccoli Good For One’s Health?
The fat-free vegetable Broccoli has an impressive nutritional profile as it is high in fibre, very huge in vitamin C and has potassium, B6 and vitamin A.
Known to be a powerhouse of nutrients this non-starchy vegetable has a right amount of protein too.
Broccoli is also filled with phytochemicals and antioxidants. Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that are in control of colour, smell, and flavour. Antioxidants are chemicals released by the body or found in fruits, vegetables and grains.
The American Institute for Cancer Research proves that they have several healthful benefits. Following are some of them:
Phytochemicals in broccoli are great for the immune system as they hold glucobrassicin, carotenoids like zeaxanthin and beta-carotene; and kaempferol, a flavonoid.
It has a reputation for easing the digestion process, the cardiovascular system, and the immune system along with having anti-inflammatory and even cancer-preventing properties.
Broccoli is less in sodium and calories (at approx. 31 calories per serving) making it a fat-free vegetable.
Broccoli is packed with antioxidants which can help and neutralise free radicals that cause cell damage which even in some cases can lead to cancer.
Apart from that, it is also a good source of a compound antioxidant called lutein and sulforaphane which is a very potent antioxidant.
Broccoli also has additional nutrients including some magnesium, phosphorus, a little zinc and iron.
In general, broccoli is safe to consume, and there are no unknown side effects that were found to be serious.
The most usual side effect is gas or bowel irritation that is caused by broccoli’s high fibre content. In fact, any cruciferous vegetable is known to make one feel gassy. Similarly, those with hypothyroidism must also restrict their intake of broccoli.
What Are The Facts Of Broccoli
Here are some of the exciting and worth knowing facts about Broccoli:
Broccoli is a cool-weather crop that does not grow well in hot summer climate. Broccoli grows enough when exposed to a daily temperature mean between 18 and 23 °C (64 and 73 °F).
Broccoli is harvested in time well before the flowers on the head bloom yellow.
Broccoli was introduced in Italy, where it was produced from wild cabbage and has flourished since about sixth century B.C.
Broccoli’s Italian name is “broccolo” which means the flowering top of a cabbage. The word comes from “brachium,” the Latin word which signifies branch, an image of the vegetable’s treelike shape.
The plant reached to France in 1560. Until the early 1700s, broccoli was even then not widely known in England and was called “sprout Collie-flower” or “Italian asparagus.”
A fan of broccoli Thomas Jefferson imported broccoli seeds from Italy, planting them at his home, Monticello, as early as May 1767.
In 2013, President Barack Obama made everyone know that broccoli was his favourite food. California alone generates 90 per cent of the broccoli grown in the United States.
Going by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American eats over 4 lbs. of broccoli a year. It took Tom “Broccoli” Landers who held the world record for eating broccoli only 92 seconds to have a full pound of the vegetable.
The United States is the third largest producer of broccoli in the world. China, the top producer, grows above 8 million tons of the vegetable a year.
Nutrients And Nutritional Facts Of Broccoli
Broccoli is a great source for vitamins K and C, a vital source of folate (folic acid) and also provides potassium, fibre. Down below is the description of the health benefits that these nutrients found in broccoli plant promise to deliver:
Vitamin K is critical for the functioning of many proteins involved in blood clotting
Vitamin C – builds collagen that forms body tissue and bone, and help heal cuts and wounds. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that shields the body from damaging free radicals.
Fibre-rich diets high in fibre promote digestive health, and a high fibre intake has always been known to lower cholesterol.
Potassium is a mineral and electrolyte which is essential for the function of nerves and heart contraction.
Folate is crucial for the production and maintenance of new cells in the body.
Fans of broccoli may even want to try broccolini, also known as baby broccoli – a cross between broccoli and kale, or one might find broccoflower – a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, an appealing snack if one is a fan of both of these flowering vegetables.
No matter which variety one may get, broccoli is calcium-rich and has antioxidant properties which help prevent some kinds of cancer. The same sulfur that can produce gas from over-cooked broccoli also confers benefit antiviral and antibiotic properties.
As on the table, a 100 gram serving of raw broccoli supplies 34 kcal and is an exceptional source (20% or more than the Daily Value, DV) of vitamin C and vitamin K.
Raw broccoli also contains acceptable amounts (10–19% DV) of several B vitamins and relating to mineral manganese, whereas other necessary nutrients are in low content. Broccoli has a low protein, carbohydrates, fat, and dietary fibre content.
On the other hand, boiling broccoli decreases the sulforaphane levels. However, other methods of preparation like steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying had no significant effect on the compounds.
Broccoli also holds the carotenoid compounds lutein and zeaxanthin in about six times lower proportion than in kale.
Which Way Is Broccoli More Nutritious – Raw, Steamed Or Boiled?
The way that one prepares broccoli can affect the number of nutrients one gets, and which one they get. People looking for anticancer benefits in broccoli want to make sure not to cook the vegetable for prolonged periods of time.
A 2007 University study by Warwick has found that boiling broccoli can subvert the effects of the food’s good, cancer-fighting enzymes.
Researchers get to study the effects of boiling, steaming, microwave cooking and stir-fry cooking on fresh broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and green cabbage.
Boiling led to immense losses of cancer-fighting nutrients whereas on the other side microwaving for up to three minutes, steaming for up to 20 minutes, and stir-frying for up to five minutes offered no significant loss of cancer-preventive matter.
Raw broccoli sustains all of its nutrients, but it is also very likely to irritate one’s bowels and lead to gas.
Over the past 30 years, Broccoli has tripled in consumption due to the many ways that it can be made as well as all of the health benefits.
History Of Broccoli
When it comes to vegetables, Broccoli is a bit divisive – people may love it or loathe it, but its history as a favoured source of food and nutrition has always been in limelight since the times of Roman Empire.
Broccoli, botanically known as Brassica oleracea italica, is a homegrown crop in the Mediterranean. It was engineered from being known as a cabbage relative by the Etruscans who were regarded as the horticultural geniuses.
Its English name, broccoli, is derived from the Italian word ‘broccolo’, which means “the flowering crest of a cabbage,” and the Latin brachium which means an arm, branch, or shoot.
Broccoli has been thought of as a very valuable food by the Italians since the Roman Empire, but when it is first introduced in England during the mid-18th century, broccoli was mentioned as “Italian asparagus.”
There are even records of Thomas Jefferson, who was an avid gardener, conducting experiments with broccoli seeds brought over from Italy in the late 1700s, but the commercial refinement of broccoli dates back to the 1500s.
However, it was not a well-known foodstuff in the United States till Southern Italian immigrants brought it over in the early 1920s.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Broccoli?
There are several advantages and health benefits of regular intake of Broccoli in one’s diet including some miraculous healing benefits from rare diseases like Autism. The subsequent health benefits of consuming broccoli are:
Along with other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, broccoli shares cancer-fighting and immune boosting properties which can deplete cancer-causing estrogens in the body.
Studies also show that Broccoli is extremely fit to prevent cancers of breast and uterus.
Prevents Autism, Diabetes
For obese individuals classified under type 2 diabetes, broccoli extract may be ordered by the doctor sometimes.
Scientists, as described in an issue of the journal Science of Translational Medicine, discovered that a compound called sulforaphane in broccoli (and even in other cruciferous veggies) could put down the activity and expression of 50 genes associated with symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
The same compound (sulforaphane in broccoli) was also found to improve symptoms related to autism of those who took the extract comprising of sulforaphane noted improvements in verbal communication and social interactions, as reported by the researchers in one of the journals.
Reduction In Cholesterol
Like many whole foods, broccoli is packed with soluble fibre that draws cholesterol out of your body.
This is because the fibre in broccoli helps bind with bile acids in the digestive tract which makes it easy to exert cholesterol out of the body.
It is even found that a particular variety of broccoli can help reduce the blood LDL-cholesterol levels by 6 per cent.
Maintains Bone Health
Broccoli helps in prevention of osteoporosis as it contains high levels of both calcium and vitamin K, which are both vital for bone health.
Preserves Heart Health
Broccoli is excellent for heart health as it contains fibres, fatty acids, and vitamins that help maintain blood sugar levels in the body along with decreasing bad cholesterol thus leading to a healthy heart. It even protects blood vessels from damaging as well.
Excellent For Detoxification
Broccoli can help in getting rid of toxins along the digestive tract as it is rich in fibre. Plus being full of antioxidants is a great plus in helping in the overall detoxification of the body.
Broccoli also carries isothiocyanates, which helps in the detox process at the genetic level.
Apart from the aforementioned health benefits, Broccoli is good for skin care as it boosts the immunity and glow of the skin since it is a powerhouse of antioxidants and nutrients that will help one maintain healthy and glowing skin.
For the same quality, it is also good for eye health and protects eyes from macular degeneration, cataract and repairs damage done by harmful radiations that are gleaned from the mobile or computer screens.
On many grounds, Broccoli helps in boosting one’s immunity & health and is a major ingredient to have in one’s cooked or raw diet that prevents a lot of diseases. It is also a viable and economical option to buy Broccoli as is usually not expensive and readily available in the market.