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Broccoli rabe Nutrition facts

Spicy, zesty broccoli rabe is one of the favorite Mediterranean greens commonly featured in Italian and French cuisine. The 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 large jagged turnip-like leaves.

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

Scientific name: Brassica rapa, cultivar ruvo group.

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

Broccoli rabe is a cool-season crop. Well-drained, fertile, moist soil is essential for good yields. To harvest, trim its stem at ground level when the plant reaches 12 to 15 inches tall.

A completely grown-up rabe plant features broccoli-like tiny flowerheads. All parts of the rabe stems, leaves, and flower buds are edible. Exposure to excessive daylight and high temperatures may result in flowerhead bolting.

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

Chinese broccoli (Gai lan) (Brassica oleracea var. alboglabra) is a non-heading cultivar in the Crucifer family of leafy greens native to mainland China.

Health benefits of Broccoli rabe

  1. Broccoli raab (rapini) is its own kind of versatile green-leafy vegetable. Its dark-green leaves and broccoli-like small cluster-head stems are the storehouses of many phytonutrients that have proven health-promoting and disease-preventing properties.

  2. Rapini is one of the very low-calorie greens carrying just 22 calories per 100g of raw leaves. Nonetheless, it holds several vital minerals and vitamins like folates, and vitamin K.

  3. 100 grams of fresh leaves hold about 224 µg or about 186% of the daily requirement of vitamin K-1 (phylloquinone). Vitamin K has been found to have a potential role in bone-strengthening function by promoting osteoblastic activity. It also has an established role in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease by limiting neuronal damage in the human brain.

  4. As a member of the Brassica family of greens, raab is a rich source of antioxidants like flavonoids, indoles, sulforaphane, carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin. 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.

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

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

  7. Like kale and mustard greens, rabe too is an excellent source of vitamin-A (provide 2622 IU or 87% of RDA per 100 g).

  8. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient required for maintaining healthy mucosa and skin and is essential for good night vision. Consumption of natural fruits rich in flavonoids is found to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.

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

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

See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Rapini greens, fresh, raw, Nutrition value/100 g

(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient Value Percent of RDA
Energy 22 Kcal 1%
Carbohydrates 2.85 g 2%
Protein 3.17 g 5.5%
Total Fat 0.49 g 2.5%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 2.7 g 7%
Folates 83 µg 21%
Niacin 1.221 mg 5%
Pantothenic acid 0.210 mg 7.5%
Pyridoxine 0.171 mg 14%
Riboflavin 0.129 mg 10%
Thiamin 0.162 mg 13.5%
Vitamin A 2622 IU 87%
Vitamin C 20.2 mg 34%
Vitamin E 1.62 mg 11%
Vitamin K 224 µg 186%
Sodium 33 mg 2%
Potassium 196 mg 4%
Calcium 108 mg 11%
Copper 0.042 mg 5%
Iron 2.14 mg 27%
Magnesium 22 mg 5%
Manganese 0.395 mg 17%
Selenium 1 µg 1.5%
Zinc 0.77 mg 7%
Carotene-ß 1573 µg --
Crypto-xanthin-ß 0 µg --
Lutein-zeaxanthin 1121 µg --

Selection and storage

broccoli rabe
Fresh broccoli rabe greens. Photo courtesy: cbertel

In the United States, broccoli rabe normally arrives in the markets twice a year, in the spring and during the fall. If you happened to be placed closer to its cultivation farms, buy them from local markets for extra freshness and nutrition advantages.

In the farmer markets, fresh broccoli rabe is normally bundled and put for sale in the vegetable section. Buy fresh, crispy bright green leaves featuring firm stems and compact broccoli-like cluster head florets. Avoid wilted, yellow leaf and stems bolted flowerheads.

Likewise in other greens, use broccoli rabe early in cooking. If at all to store, keep unwashed greens inside a plastic bag, and place in the vegetable compartment of a refrigerator for 1-2 days.

Preparation and serving methods

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

Fall and spring are broccoli rabe seasons 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 the desired length before cooking.

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

Broccoli rabe complements well with many ingredients ranging from vegetables, pasta, cheese, and mushrooms. 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 are called inside Italy; rapini greens are one of the most sought-after ingredients in Southern Italian cuisine. Orecchiette alle cime di rapa is one of the Apulian pasta dishes.

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

  • Finely chopped rapini can be added to the quiche.

  • It mixes well with other greens like turnip greens, mustard 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, individuals with known oxalate urinary stone disease advised to avoid eating vegetables belonging to the 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. It might advertently raise the effective dose of the drug.

  • Being a brassica family of greens rabe may also contain goitrogens. Excessive amounts of goitrogens in the food may interfere with thyroid hormone production and can precipitate thyroxin hormone deficiency in individuals with thyroid dysfunction. (Medical Disclaimer.

Also read ≻≻

≺≺Broccolini nutrition facts.

≺≺Chinese broccoli (Gai lan) nutrition facts.

≺≺Broccoli nutrition facts.

≺≺Choy sum (Chinese flowering cabbage) nutrition facts.

≺≺Cauliflower nutrition facts.

≺≺ Back to Vegetables from Broccoli rabe. Visit here for an impressive list of vegetables with complete illustrations of their nutrition facts and health benefits.

≺≺ Back to Home page.

Further resources:

  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.

Broccolini ≺ Prev Next ≻ Brussel-sprouts