Broccoli and Beyond
Botanical name: Brassica
As the leading member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, the word “broccoli” means “branch” or “arm” for the cross-shaped stems, like mini trees bearing the blossoms. Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale also are crucifers.
A popular food of the ancient Romans, broccoli once grew wild on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Its use can be traced to 16th century France and England in the 1700s, with commercial growth beginning in the U.S. in the 1920s.
Broccoli has branched out, so to speak, to a number of its closest relatives: Broccoli raab doesn’t have the tree-like “heads” we’re used to, but resembles broccoli florets on long, thin stems. Its cousin, broccoli rapini, has fewer florets and a mustard-like flavor. Broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, is pale green with densely packed heads like cauliflower, but tastes like broccoli. Chinese broccoli has broad, glossy, blue-green leaves with long, crisp, thick stems and a small head. If you run across Broccolini (baby broccoli), it’s a trademarked name for a broccoli and Chinese kale hybrid, with a long, juicy stem topped with tiny florets.
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Eaten raw, broccoli has a number of nutritional elements. It’s important to note that broccoli is best when eaten raw, because cooking and processing destroys some of its antioxidants. It has twice the vitamin C of an orange, almost as much calcium as whole milk (with a better rate of absorption), and contains anti-cancer and anti-viral properties with its selenium content.
Mercola.com offers a number of important articles on the health benefits of broccoli. Here are just a few:
Broccoli Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: One bunch (608 grams) of Broccoli
Amt. Per Serving
|Dietary Fiber||16 g|
Studies Done on Broccoli
Eating broccoli and broccoli sprouts may enhance your body’s ability to detoxify after exposure to food- and air-borne carcinogens and oxidants, thanks to the phytochemical sulforaphane, according to a recent study.1
Broccoli is widely studied for its apparent ability to fight and even prevent many different cancers and other ills of the body. However, the bioavailability (ability to be absorbed into the system) of isothiocyanates (a phytochemical, or plant chemicals) from fresh broccoli is approximately three times greater than that of cooked broccoli.2
A study conducted on a group of 10 smokers and 10 nonsmokers ingesting broccoli indicated the importance of consuming cruciferous vegetables to protect cells against DNA damage.3
Broccoli Healthy Recipes: Broccoli Sauce
This can be used as a sauce, dressing, or dip.
- 1 large bunch of fresh broccoli
- 2 to 4 cloves crushed garlic
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. crushed coriander seeds
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- A pinch of black pepper
- 3 tsp. lemon or lime juice
- 1 cup water
- Place half an inch or less of water into a large saucepan to a boil. Chop the broccoli into large chunks and place into the boiling water, stirring until each chunk is wet, until just tender and still vibrant green.
- Transfer broccoli to the bowl of a food processor and add remaining ingredients, processing until pureed.
- Return mixture into saucepan and warm over medium heat for about 3 minutes for a thick sauce that can be thinned with water if preferred. Adjust seasonings accordingly. Makes 6 servings.
Broccoli Fun Facts
In “A Treatise on Gardening by a Citizen of Virginia,” penned in 1775, John Randolph described broccoli this way: “The stems will eat like asparagus, and the heads like cauliflower.”
Broccoli doesn’t just taste good. It’s been proven over and over to contain amazing compounds that heal the body and prevent cell damage. While tests indicate that eating it raw is the way to get the most out of it nutritionally, “tender-crisp” cooking to a bright green color still has very good-for-you attributes. This may be why broccoli has been around and all over the world for the last 2,000 years.