What is Broccoli?
Broccoli is one of the first vegetables you think of when you hear the term “cruciferous”. Cruciferous vegetables are from the family of plants called “Brassicaceae”, which also includes vegetables such as Cabbage, Bok Choy, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Kale and Collards.
Cruciferous vegetables are often known as “Super Vegetables” due to their many health benefits.
How to choose & storage recommendations?
The best heads of Broccoli have floret clusters which are compact. The florets should be of a uniform colour and the darker the green the better. Studies have shown that the deepness of the green colour of Broccoli florets directly correlates to its carotenoid content e.g darker florets means more carotenoids. The Broccoli stalks should be free of slime and firm and any attached leaves should not be wilted and should be vibrant in colour.
Organic Broccoli is always the better option if available. Organic certification drastically reduces your potential exposure to contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides.
Broccoli is best stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Before storing, try to remove as much of the air from the bag as possible and do not wash the Broccoli before storing, as the moisture can encourage bacterial growth and spoilage. Broccoli can generally be kept for up to 10 days when stored in ideal conditions like these. This is the reason it is advisable to rinse, and cut Broccoli only before you are about to use.
Refrigerating Broccoli is the most ideal method of storage as it reduces exposure to light, heat and air. Not only this, but some of the nutrients contained within Broccoli are highly susceptible to heat. These include Vitamin B, Carotenoids and Vitamin C.
So, what are the main health benefits of Broccoli?
Consuming fruits and vegetables in general is associated with reducing the risk of many lifestyle and diet related health conditions. Broccoli consumption in particular has been associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity, whilst also improving energy, hair quality, hormonal health and overall weight reduction.
Cruciferous vegetables possess a sulfur-containing compound called “sulforaphane” which is what gives them their anti-cancer properties. Research has shown that sulforaphane has the ability to inhibit a specific enzyme known as histone deacetylase (HDAC) which is known to facilitate cancer cell progression. Promising results have been shown using sulforaphane to fight melanoma, prostate, eosophageal and pancreatic cancer.
Another important anti-cancer vitamin contained within Broccoli is Folate. Folate has been shown to decrease the risk of several cancers, most notably breast cancer. Researchers believe that Folate found in Broccoli has something to do with preventing unwanted mutations during production of DNA and RNA. It is to be noted that there the same benefits do not exist if you were to take a supplemental form of Folate.
Broccoli is rich in the anti-oxidant Vitamin C. When consumed in its natural form (i.e from foods) Vitamin C can assist in helping to combat skin damage caused by pollution and the sun, improve overall skin texture and decrease wrinkles.
Generally when people think of Vitamin C they think of fruit, specifically Oranges. Broccoli actually contains 89mg of Vitamin C per 100g, compared to only 53mg per 100g of Orange. The recommended daily intake of Vitamin C is 30-180mg per day. So just 100g of Broccoli pretty much gets you your days worth of this powerful Vitamin!
Vitamin C is very important in the production of Collagen also, the main component of the skin. Broccoli also contains Vitamin E and Vitamin A which are also both pivotal for healthy skin.
3. Disease Protection.
Studies have shown that a diet high in fiber is associated with a reduction in the risk of developing chronic diseases including diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease, obesity, hypertension and many gastrointestinal diseases. Not only that, but increased fiber intake lowers cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as increases insulin sensitivity which is important for weight reduction in individuals who are obese. Broccoli has a high fiber content, containing 2.6g of dietary fiber per 100g.
4. Boosted Bone Health.
Bone fractures are linked with poor Vitamin K intake. Consuming adequate amounts of Vitamin K per day improves calcium absorption and reduces excretion of calcium via the urine. Thus, improving bone health. Broccoli contains around 124 micrograms of Vitamin K per 100g, which is more than enough for an entire day.
Broccoli also contains 47mg of Calcium per 100g, thus further improving bone health.
5. Healthy Digestion & Natural Detoxification.
Consuming high fiber vegetables like Broccoli can assist in preventing constipation and help to maintain a healthy digestive tract. Adequate fiber intake promotes regular bowel movements which are crucial for the daily removal of toxins through the stool. Fiber has also recently shown to play a role in reducing inflammation and assist in regulating the immune system.
6. Estrogen Metabolism.
Another powerful phytochemical found within Broccoli is known as diindolylmethane (DIM). When you eat cruciferous vegetables, during the break down process within your body, DIM is produced. DIM has shown immune system boosting properties as well as anti-cancer properties also.
DIM has powerful effects on Estrogen metabolism and in small amounts is able to inhibit the aromatase enzyme (preventing testosterone converting into estrogen), as well as acting on more potent forms of estrogen and breaking them down into less potent forms which then reduces estrogens overall effects on the body.
How to best cook Broccoli?
The best method of cooking Broccoli to retain the most amount of beneficial vitamins and nutrients is quick steaming. This basically means steaming for 1-5 minutes, with 4 minutes being shown as the most ideal amount of steaming time. Retention of Vitamin C and Sulforaphane are better with the quick steaming method as opposed to boiling. Not only are vitamins retained better, but Broccoli retains better firmness and its more vibrant green colour when quick steamed, as opposed to longer steaming or boiling.
Of course you can enjoy your Broccoli raw also!
The Bottom Line?
Broccoli is a “superfood” by all accounts and is one food I personally keep in my diet pretty much every single day, all year long. Not only is it delicious and versatile but it carries a plethora of health benefits and is readily accessible in pretty much every supermarket or farmers market. It is relatively cheap, easy to source and is abundant in healthy vitamins, minerals and micronutrients.
If you are like me and want to look after your body as best as you can, then I definitely recommend the addition of Broccoli to your diet (if you don’t already do so).
“Eat for your Physique!”