Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family (family Brassicaceae, genus Brassica) whose large flowering head and stalk are eaten as a vegetable. Broccoli is known to be a hearty and tasty vegetable that is rich in dozens of nutrients. It is said to pack the most nutritional punch of any vegetable. Broccoli is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants can help prevent the development of various conditions.
There are two distinct forms of broccoli: sprouting broccoli and heading broccoli. Heading broccoli is the form most commonly grown in the U.S. It is characterized by its branching cluster of green flower buds atop a thick, green flower stalk, with smaller clusters that arise like sprouts from the stem.
Broccoli provides an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C, chromium, and folic acid. It is a good source of dietary fiber, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, Beta-carotene, potassium, and copper. Broccoli in the diet also supplies vitamin B1, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin, and selenium. One cup of broccoli contains 54 calories, 0.64 grams of fat, provides 135% of the daily vitamin C requirement, and 245% of daily vitamin K requirement of a 2000-calorie per day diet. Vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, and other antioxidants in broccoli are anti-inflammatory and prevent damage to the body caused by free radicals.
Leading broccoli-producing states are California (90 percent of the crop), Arizona, Texas, and Oregon. Broccoli also is grown on a large scale in Italy, northern Europe, and the Far East.
Uses of broccoli in cooking:
Steaming- Steamed broccoli is best. It is low in calories too ( ½ cup contains just about 31 calories). But overcooking should be avoided as it enhances its strong flavor, wipes out the color and leaches the nutrients. Broccoli should be cooked for a short duration until it becomes tender but remains crisp.
Blanching- Fill a bowl with ice water and bring it next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of salt and broccoli florets. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ minutes until the florets turn tender and crisp. Allow the water to boil and cook the stems till they become tender for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Your broccoli is ready and can be served as vegetable platters.
If you want to freeze broccoli, blanching is the way to go about it. Freezing broccoli raw can make it bitter and leave it with shriveled stems. But blanching preserves the bright color and flavor.
Saute-Rinse the broccoli properly to ensure that it is completely dry. Heat some oil in a skillet at medium to high heat. Add the broccoli along with salt and toss to coat with oil. Continue to cook and stir till the broccoli is bright green and tender.
Health benefits of broccoli:
- Reducing the risk of cancer- vegetables contain a range of antioxidants, which may help prevent the type of cell damage that leads to cancer.
- Contains Potent Antioxidants That Offer Health-Protective Effects- Broccoli contains multiple potent antioxidants that may support healthy cells and tissues throughout your body.
- Improving bone health- Calcium and collagen work together to make strong bones.
- Bioactive Compounds May Contribute to Reduced Inflammation- Broccoli contains several bioactive compounds that demonstrate an anti-inflammatory effect in animal and test-tube studies. However, more human research is needed.
- Boosting immune health- Vitamin C is an antioxidant that provides a range of benefits.
- Aiding digestion- Dietary fiber can help promote regularity, prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and lower the risk of colon cancer.
- Antioxidants and Fibre May Aid Blood Sugar Control- Eating broccoli may lower blood sugar and improve diabetic control. This is likely related to its antioxidant and fiber content.
- May Help Slow the Aging Process- Sulforaphane, a compound found in broccoli, may be able to slow the aging process. More human research is needed to better understand this function.
- May Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage- Small animal and human studies showed significantly reduced tumor growth when broccoli extract was used as a protective therapy against UV radiation.
Side effects of broccoli:
The most common side effect is gas or bowel irritation, caused by broccoli's high amounts of fiber. "All cruciferous vegetables can make you gassy.
People taking blood-thinning medications should watch their broccoli intake, since the vegetable's vitamin K content may interfere with the medication's effectiveness.
Broccoli should be kept unwashed in a plastic bag, removing as much air from the bag as possible.
It should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Do not wash it before storing as it might get spoilt due to exposure to water.
Blanched broccoli can be frozen and refrigerated for up to a year.
Cooked broccoli should be kept in a tightly covered container and stored in a refrigerator for a few days.
Researchers found that Glucosinolates are the main compounds in Broccoli and isothiocyanates which present in Broccoli have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activity. To help prevent bacterial contamination, the Broccoli can be heated, but high temperatures can affect the conversion of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates.
Phytonutrients are highly concentrated in broccoli, especially glucosinolates, which are under scientific investigation for their role in cancer prevention.