Anyone that has been told this as a kid can truly relate to the feeling of being pressured to consume a vegetable that is less than appealing for them. What they fail to realize is that their parents have been right all along. The vegetable, not only nutritious, can also be a very delicious ingredient; depending on how it is cooked. If you’ve never enjoyed eating a broccoli, you’re about to discover just how good it is.
What is It?
The broccoli is a vegetable that falls under the same family as the cabbage and is largely similar to the cauliflower. Originally cultivated in Italy, Broccolo (its Italian name) refers to the vegetable as ‘cabbage sprout.’ The name was derived from brachium, a Latin word that translates to arm or branch. Considering its tree-like shape, the vegetable has a head of florets which connect small stems to its larger stalk.
Each component has an accompanying taste and texture, ranging from its florets (soft and flowery) and the stem and stalk (fibrous and crunchy). The color of the vegetable also ranges on its variety– from a deep sage to purplish-green and dark green.
In North America, the variety that is commonly sold is the Italian green or Calabrese; which has been named after Calabria, an Italian province it first originated from. The other vegetables that are related to it include the broccoflower, broccolini, and even broccoli sprouts.
Having originated in Italy, Broccoli has been used as early as the ancient Roman times. The vegetable was formerly developed from a wild cabbage plant that largely resembled collards. It spread through the United States during colonial times when it was popularized by the Italian immigrants.
Nutritional Components of Broccoli
Broccoli contains nutrients that have been proven helpful for any individual. Among these nutrients include carbohydrates, soluble and insoluble fiber, sugar, vitamins, sodium, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, and more. Because of the nutritional components found in broccoli, it is considered as a cruciferous vegetable; meaning, it should be included in your diet as much as 2-3 times each week. In doing so, you get the most out of the nutrients from the vegetable.
- Improves Eye Health – Broccoli contains a significant amount of both carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin; which have been known as an essential protection against cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Lessens Effects of Allergens – Kaempferol, a flavonoid that reduces the effect of allergens in the digestive tract, are commonly found in the vegetable. As a result, it is able to lessen chronic inflammation.
- Anti-Inflammatory Properties – Broccoli serves as a great anti-inflammatory because it contains isothiocyanates, which help in regulating inflammation before it causes further problems. At the same time, the omega-3 fatty acids found in the vegetable are also helpful against this. The anti-inflammatory compound sulforaphane helps in preventing or reversing the damage of chronic blood sugar issues to the blood vessel linings.
- Reduces Cholesterol – Broccoli contains soluble fiber that helps bind together the bile acids found in the digestive tract. Since they can be easily excreted from the body, they are able to flush out cholesterol as well.
- Detoxifies the Digestive System – Broccoli contains a triad of phytonutrients such as gluconasturtiin, glucobrassicin, and glucoraphanin. The presence of these three helps in promoting the detoxification process in the body, starting with the activation to the neutralization, and the actual elimination of free radicals. The isothiocyanates also help regulate the process of detoxification at a genetic level.
- Improves Digestion – Broccoli contains plenty of fiber, which helps in maintaining a healthy level of bacteria in the intestines. Another component found in the vegetable, sulforaphane, is responsible in maintaining the health of the stomach lining. It does so by preventing Helicobacter pylori (a stomach bacteria) from being too clingy to the stomach lining.
- Improves Heart Health – The vegetable also helps improve cardiovascular health by strengthening the blood vessels and regulating properties that may cause stroke or a heart attack. Since broccoli contains B-complex vitamins, it is able to reduce and regulate excessive homocysteine; which has been known to increase the risk for atherosclerosis, stroke, and heart attacks.
- Prevents Cancer – The most popular health benefit of the regular consumption of broccoli is that it can help prevent cancer from forming in the body. The isothiocyanates found in broccoli (sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol) have been known to boost detoxifying enzymes. As a result, they act as antioxidants and help reduce oxidative stress. Because of this, the consumption of broccoli has been linked to reducing the risks for certain cancers such as breast, colon, bladder, prostate, and ovarian.
Health Considerations of Eating Broccoli
Broccoli is generally safe to consume. The common side effects associated with consuming broccoli include gas or bowel irritation, which are a common effect due to the high amount of fiber found in the vegetable. However, health considerations are advised for those undergoing blood-thinning medication or have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. A limited daily serving should be observed among these patients.
Selection and Storage
When buying broccoli, make sure that you choose the ones with floret clusters that have not been bruised. These should be compact and have a uniform color depending on its variety– sage, dark green, or purple-green. There should be no yellow colors or blossoming flowers as these have already started to mature. In addition, the stalk and stems should still be firm and have no slimy spots. Any attached leaves should have a vibrant hue and not wilted.
To store the vegetable, it is best to place it in a plastic bag and to remove as much air from the bag. This can then be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Before storing, make sure not to wash the vegetable as it will promote spoilage. Avoid cutting broccoli before storage as this will promote the fast degrading of vitamin C.
Any leftover cooked broccoli can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days as long as it has been placed in an airtight container. Blanched broccoli can be frozen for up to a year’s time.
Before cooking, make sure to rinse broccoli thoroughly under cold running water. For even cooking, make sure to cut the florets into quarters. The stems and leaves can also be used in cooking so that there is a balance in flavors. Before cooking, however, make sure to peel the stem and cut it into ½” slices.
No matter what age, anyone enjoy eating broccoli as long as it has been cooked properly and immersed in a delicious sauce. This is the best way to include the vegetable into your weekly diet.