Broccoli heads are rich source of phyto-nutrients that help protect from prostate cancer and stroke risks. It is actually a flower vegetable and known for its notable and unique nutrients that are found to have disease prevention and health promoting properties.
Botanically, the vegetable is the member of large cruciferous (brassica) family of vegetables, which also include cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, arugula etc. Scientific name: Brassica oleracea var. italica.
Broccoli is a cool season crop and demands fertile rich and well-drained soil to flourish.Technically, broccolis are differentiated in to two main types according to their appearance; heading and sprouting. Heading variety forms large, solid head, whereas sprouting types forms many small heads or florets.
Mature plant bears about 4-10 inches wide, dark green to purple color flower head depending up on the cultivar type. Central thick stalk measures about 6-10 inches in height. Both thick stalk and fleshy flower heads are edible.
Many different hybrid-mix developed with other cruciferous family members such as broccoflower (hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower), broccolini (broccoli and chinese kale) etc.
Health benefits of broccoli
- Broccoli is very low in calories, provides just 34 cal per 100 g. However, it is rich in dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and anti-oxidants that have proven health benefits.
- Fresh Broccoli is a storehouse of many phyto-nutrients such as thiocyanates, indoles, sulforaphae, isothiocyanates and flavonoids like beta-carotene cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Studies have shown that these compounds by modifying positive signalling at molecular receptor levels help protect from prostate, colon, urinary bladder, pancreatic, and breast cancers.
- Fresh vegetable is exceptionally rich source of vitamin-C. Provides 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.
- Furher, it contains very good amounts of another anti-oxidant vitamin, vitamin-A. 100 g fresh head provies 623 IU or 21 % of recommended daily levels. Together with other pro-vitamins like beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and zeaxanthin, vitamin A helps maintain integrity of skin and mucus membranes. Vitamin A is essential for vision and helps prevent from macular degeneration of retina in the elderly population.
- It is also a good source of minerals like calcium, manganese, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and phosphorus.
- Fresh broccoli heads are an excellent source of folates; contains about 63 mcg/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.
- Broccoli leaves (green tops) are an excellent source of carotenoids and vitamin A; (provide 16000 IU of vitamin A per 100 g) contain these compounds several times more than in the roots.
- This flower vegetable is also rich source of other vitamin-K and B-complex group of vitamins like Niacin (vit B-3), pantothenic acid (vit.B-5), pyridoxine (vit.B-6) and riboflavin. The flower heads also have some amount omega-3 fatty acids.
Selection and storage
Fresh broccolis are available year around. In the store, choose fresh, bright, compact, firm textured flower heads with rich flavor. Avoid those with over matured featuring yellow flower buds, excessive branches and hollow stem. Whenever possible, go for organic farm products to get maximum health benefits.
Once at home, rinse flower heads by dipping it upside down in salt water for up to 30 minutes and then clean in running cold water before use in order to remove any pesticide residues and dust. Broccoli greens should also be treated in the same way as you do in washing any other greens like spinach.
Whenever possible, eat broccoli while they are fresh. Otherwise, it can be placed in the refrigerator wrapped in a zip pouch where it may keep well for a 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.
Here are some preparation tips:
- Broccoli may be eaten raw or as salad to gain its maximum nutrients.
- Its are most preferred in stir-fries alone or with other vegetables, beans and poultry mixed with sauce, oil, onions, pepper and garlic.
- Although boiling and microwaving has been shown to destroy anti-oxidants like vitamin-C, folates and some anti-cancer phyto-nutrients in broccoli, the other preparation methods such as mild steaming and mild frying have shown not to reduce the composition of these compounds.
Like other members of the cruciferous family, broccoli contain “goitrogens” which may cause swelling of thyroid gland and therefore, should be avoided in individuals with thyroid dysfunction. However, it may be used liberally in healthy person.
Here are some of my healthy recipes that feature Broccoli:
Source : www.nutrition-and-you.com