Children may not be very excited about it, adults may only cook it every so often, but broccoli has unmatched health benefits when compared to other vegetables. It is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, it boosts fiber-related components, it is low in calories, and it helps fight allergies due to the presence of kaempferol, a type of flavonoid* also found in cabbage, apples, grapes, cucumbers and spinach.
*Flavonoids are important phytochemicals with a significant role in creating a strong immune system and antioxidant support.
Broccoli originates in Ancient Rome
It is assumed that broccoli developed from cabbage in Italy, Ancient Rome and that the French and the Italians were consuming the vegetable in the 16th century. In England, however, broccoli wasn’t introduced until the early decades of the 18th century, and later on, assumingly in colonial times, into America.
Mostly popular among Italian immigrants, broccoli gained recognition among Americans later into the first half of the 20th century, when distributors started pushing more “aggressive” marketing strategies to encourage and convince people to eat broccoli.
But the love-hate relationship that Americans developed with this vegetable continued into the 1990s and when President George H.W. Bush declared his aversion to the tiny-tree broccoli, this set the scene for new “I hate broccoli” series, among children and among adult picky eaters alike.
However, America’s most hated vegetable isn’t, according to market statistics, so hated after all. The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) states that “broccoli is now the 11th most consumed fresh vegetable,” consumption of fresh broccoli per individual having increased from 1.4 pounds in 1980 to 6.7 pounds in 2014.
Broccoli’s disease preventing properties
The nutrients found abundantly in broccoli have the ability to flush carcinogens out of the body, which is why one of the vegetable’s most notorious health benefits is related to prevention of cancer. But there are other properties too that broccoli presents related to human health.
- Broccoli is rich in soluble fiber which reduces the bad cholesterol in the body, and also promotes proper digestion.
- Broccoli has anti-inflammatory properties brought about by kaempferol and isothiocyanates, nutrients with a high positive impact on allergy-related substances in the body.
- Broccoli promotes healthy bones due to the large dose of vitamin C and vitamin K that help prevent osteoporosis.
- Broccoli is a good protein source, which makes it highly adequate for a vegetarian or plant-based diet.
- Broccoli is a good detoxification vegetable with glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin and glucobrassicin forming a potent nutrient trio.
- Broccoli promotes heart health and can even reverse damage to blood vessels due to the sulforaphane in the vegetable.
- Because it contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two important antioxidants, broccoli is also excellent for maintaining eye health.
- The glucoraphanin compound in broccoli prevents and fights cancer.
Cooking broccoli the great way
To retain most of the nutrients, broccoli must not be cooked too long. Although raw broccoli will provide all the good effects of the food, eating it raw can also cause some side effects such as gas and bowel irritation.
The best way to enjoy broccoli is by steaming the vegetable, stir-fry for up to 5 minutes or roasting it for about 15 minutes. This will enhance the vegetable’s flavor and give it a more enjoyable texture.
Broccoli can be added to cheesy pasta dishes or be served as a side dish with lemon and butter dressing. It pairs well with pork chops, eggs, cheese, Asian dishes, beef, and chicken.