Broccoli is a cabbage family vegetable grown for its nutritious flower heads. Its green or purple florets have been known for several noteworthy, unique phyto-nutrients that have been found to have disease preventing and health promoting properties.
Scientific name: Brassica oleracea var. italica.
|Broccoli head.||Young broccoli in the field.|
Broccoli is a cool-season crop and demands fertile rich and well-drained soil to flourish. Technically, broccoli is categorized into two main types according to their appearance; heading and sprouting. Heading variety forms a large, solid head, whereas sprouting types forms many smaller heads or florets.
Once established, broccoli plant bears about 4-10 inches wide, dark green to purple color flower-heads depending up on the cultivar type. Its central thick stalk measures about 6-10 inches in length. Both stalk and fleshy flower heads are edible.
Several different hybrid-mix of broccoli have developed with other cruciferous family members such as broccoflower (hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower), broccolini (broccoli and chinese-kale), etc.
Broccoli is one of the very low calorie vegetables; provides just 34 calories per 100 g. Nevertheless, it is rich in dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants that have proven health benefits. Total antioxidant strength measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) of broccoli is 1632 Âµmol TE/100 g.
Fresh Broccoli is a storehouse of many phyto-nutrients such as thiocyanates, indoles, sulforaphane, isothiocyanates and flavonoids like beta-carotene cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zea-xanthin. Studies have shown that these compounds by modifying positive signaling at molecular receptor levels help protect against prostate, colon, urinary bladder, pancreatic, and breast cancers.
Fresh vegetable is exceptionally rich source of vitamin-C; providing 89.2 mg or about 150% of RDA per 100 g. Vitamin-C is a powerful natural anti-oxidant and immune modulator, helps fight against flu causing viruses.
Further, it contains very good amounts of another anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-A. 100 g fresh head provides 623 IU or 21 % of recommended daily levels. Together with other pro-vitamins like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and zea-xanthin, vitamin A helps in maintaining the integrity of skin and mucusa. Vitamin A is essential for healthy eye-sight and helps prevent from macular degeneration of the retina in the elderly population.
Broccoli leaves (green tops) are an excellent source of carotenoids and vitamin A; (16000 IU of vitamin A per 100 g) carrying these compounds several times greater than that in their flower-heads.
Fresh heads are an excellent source of folates; contain about 63 Âµg/100 g (Provides 16% of RDA). Studies have shown that consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits rich in folates during pre-conception, and pregnancy helps prevent neural tube defects in the offspring.
This flower vegetable is a rich source of vitamin-K and B-complex group of vitamins like niacin (vit B-3), pantothenic acid (vit.B-5), pyridoxine (vit.B-6), and riboflavin. Further, its florets also hold some amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Furthermore, it is also a good source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and phosphorus.
Fresh broccoli heads can be available year around. In the market, choose fresh, bright, compact, firm textured flower heads with rich flavor. Avoid those with overmature florets featuring yellow flower buds, excessive branching and hollow stem ones. Whenever possible, buy organic farm produces to get maximum health benefits.
Once at home, rinse flower head by dipping it upside down in salted water for up to 30 minutes and then wash again in running cold water before use in cooking in order to remove any pesticide residues and dirt. Broccoli greens should also be treated in the same way as you do in washing any other greens like spinach.
Eat broccoli while they are fresh. Otherwise, it can be placed inside the refrigerator wrapped in a zip pouch where it may keep well for few days.
Fleshy flower heads, stalks and leaves are edible. Broccoli sections are being used in varieties of delicacies. Tough stalks and thick leaves are trimmed using paring knife.
|Broccoli recipe(photo: The essential vegetarian cook book)|
Here are some preparation tips:
Extensive boiling and microwaving of broccoli has been found to destroy heat sensitive vitamins like folate, anti-oxidants like vitamin-C, and some of its anti-cancer phyto-nutrients. However, employing few of other brief preparation methods such as mild-steaming, and gentle braising may not alter much of the composition of these compounds.
Like other members of the cruciferous family, broccoli contains "goitrogens" which may cause swelling of thyroid gland and therefore, should be avoided in individuals with thyroid dysfunction. However, it may be consumed liberally in healthy persons. (Medical disclaimer).
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