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Broccoli rabe nutrition facts

Spicy, zesty broccoli rabe is one of the favorite Mediterranean greens commonly featuring in Italian and French cuisine. Its greens recognized as rapini, raab, turnip rabe, rapa, rapine, Italian or Chinese broccoli, broccoli rape, broccoli de rabe, Italian turnip, turnip broccoli, etc. It features small, broccoli like flowering heads and broad jagged turnip like leaves.

Botanically, rapini belongs to the Cruciferous family, in the genus; Brassica and closely resembles to napa cabbage and turnips.

Scientific name: Brassica rapa, cultivar ruvo group.

broccoli raab
Fresh broccoli raab greens (Photo :by Naotake Murayama)

Broccoli rabe is a cool season crop. Well drained, fertile, moisture soil is essential for good yeild. In general, its stem trimmed at ground level when the plant reaches 12 to 15 inches tall. Completely grown up plant features broccoli-like tiny flowerheads. All parts of the rabe; stems, leaves and flowerbuds are edible. Exposure to excessive daylight and high temperatures can result in bolting of flowerheads.

Rabe features broad, frilly, jagged leaves somewhat bitter, spicy and mustard-like peppery flavor. Once baked or sautéed, however, its flavor becomes more acceptable, nutty and delicious.

Health benefits of broccoli rabe

  • Broccoli raab is one of its own kind, versatile greens. Its deep green leaves, and broccoli-like, small clusterhead stems are the storehouse of many phyto-nutrients that have proven health promotional and disease prevention properties.

  • Rapini is one of very low calorie greens; carrying just 22 calories per 100 g raw leaves. Nonetheless, it holds several vital vitamins like folates, and vitamin K. 100 grams of fresh leaves carry about 224 µg or about 186% of daily requirement of vitamin K-1 (phylloquinone). Vitamin K has been found to have potential role in bone strengthening function by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bone. It also has established role to play in prevention of Alzheimer's disease by limiting neuronal damage inside the human brain.

  • As a member of Brassica family greens, raab is rich source of anti-oxidant like flavonoids, indoles, sulforaphane, carotenes, lutein and zea-xanthin. Indoles, mainly di-indolyl-methane (DIM) and sulforaphane have proven benefits against prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.

  • Frash rapini has more folic acid than mustard and turnip greens. 100 grams of fresh leaves carry 83 ug of this vitamin (about 21% of RDA). Folic acid plays ital role in DNA synthesis, and cell division. When supplemented in women during their peri-conception time, this vitamin may help prevent neural tube defects in their newborn babies.

  • Fresh raab has good levels of vitamin-C. 100 of fresh leaves provide 20.2 mg (31% of RDA). Vitamin-C (ascorbic acid) is a powerful natural anti-oxidant that offers protection against free-oxygen radicals and flu-like viral infections.

  • Like kale and mustard greens, rabe too is an excellent sources of vitamin-A (provide 2622 IU or 87% of RDA per 100 g). Vitamin A is an essential nutrient required for maintaining healthy mucusa and skin and is required for good eyesight. Consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoids found to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

  • Fresh broccoli rabe greens are an excellent source of several essential B-complex group of vitamins such as pyridoxine, thiamin, riboflavin, and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and manganese.

  • Regular consumption of rapini greens in the diet is known to prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia and believed to offer protection from cardiovascular diseases, and colon and prostate cancers.

Selection and storage

broccoli rabe
Fresh broccoli rabe greens. Photo courtesy: cbertel

Inside the United States, broccoli rabe appears in the markets twice a year; in the spring and during fall. If you happened to be placed closer to its cultivation farms, buy them from local markets.

In many metros, however, fresh rabes bundled and put for sale in the vegetable section. Buy fresh, crispy bright green leaves featuring firm stems and compact broccoli like small cluster of flowerheads. Avoid wilted, yellow leaf and stems bolted flowerheads.

As in other greens broccoli rabe too used early. Otherwise, store unwashed greens inside a plastic bag and place in vegetable compartment of refrigerator for 1-2 days.

Preparation and serving methods

blanching rapini
Blanching Rapini greens
(Photo : by Naotake Murayama)

Fall and spring are broccoli rabe season in the US. To prepare, trim its stem side tough end. Rinse in cold water and swish to remove any dirt. Pat dry using a paper towel or soft cloth. Using a paring knife, cut the greens into desired length before cooking.

Bitter taste of broccoli rabe somewhat mellowed after blanching for few minutes in boiling water. Transfer blanched greens in ice-cold water to stop its further cooking and turning it to mushy.

Broccoli rabe complements well with many ingredients ranging from vegetables, pasta, cheese, and mushroom. Prepared rabe can be enjoyed in stir-fry, sautéed, grilled, etc.

Here are some serving tips:

orecchiette cime di rapa
Orecchiette alle cime di rapa
(Photo :by corrado forlno)
  • Broccoletti di rapa as the greens called inside Italy, rapini greens are one of the most sought after ingredients in the Southern Italian cuisine. Orecchiette alle cime di rapa is one of the Apulian pasta dish.

  • Chopped rapini sautéed in olive oil with garlic is a popular side dish in Europe.

  • Finely chopped rapini can be added in quiche.

  • It mixes well with other greens like turnip greens, musard greens, swiss chard, collards etc.

Safety profile

  • Broccoli raab greens contain oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in some cruciferous vegetables, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. It is therefore, people with known oxalate urinary stone disease advised to avoid eating vegetables belonging to Brassica/cruciferous family.

  • High phytate and dietary fiber content in the broccoli raab greens may interfere with the bioavailability of iron, calcium and magnesium.

  • Because of its high vitamin-K content, patients taking anti-coagulants such as warfarin are encouraged to avoid this food since it increases the vitamin K concentration in the blood, which is what the drugs are often attempting to lower. This may advertently raise the effective-dose of the drug.

  • Being brassica family greens, raab may also contain goitrogens, which may interfere with thyroid hormone production and can cause thyroxin hormone deficiency in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.

(Medical disclaimer: The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications.)

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Further reading:

1. Refer Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk (Link opens in new window).

2. USDA National Nutrient Database.

3. Cornell University-Home Gradening.

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