Broccoli Has Lots to Offer As a Healthy Vegetable With Great Potential
Broccoli is a part of the cabbage family, and its large flowering head is the part of this perennial favorite we consider edible. You’ve seen them on many vegetable snack trays at parties, usually in close proximity to some Ranch dressing for dipping.
The truth is, broccoli has so much more to offer than most consumers know. Let’s have a look at some interesting facts and ideas concerning the world’s favorite flowering veggie that looks like a tiny tree.
What is it?
The word broccoli stems (pun intended) from an Italian plural, broccolo, which means "the flowering top of a cabbage." Broccoli has a distinct, large flowering head, usually green in color, which resembles a tree with several branches sprouting from a thick edible stalk. Broccoli is similar in composition to cauliflower, a different variety of virtually the same species of vegetable. Those who cook it often comment on the aroma of broccoli as being very 'cabbage like.'
Broccoli evolved from wild cabbage plants located somewhere in Europe. The earliest documentation of this small green, edible tree comes from about 2,000 years ago. Broccoli has been considered a valuable food item among Italians since Romans ruled much of the world. It was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants, but had not become widely known until the 1920s.
Broccoli contains many helpful nutrients, and is high in fiber and vitamin C. These potent cancer-fighting nutrients include diindolylmethane and small amounts of selenium. A single serving offers more than 30mg of Vitamin C and the half-cup consumed by the average party dipper provides nearly double that. Broccoli also contains a compound called glucoraphanin, which has been processed into another anti-cancer compound called sulforaphane.
Broccoli’s benefits are said to be greatly reduced when the vegetable is boiled, but remains an excellent source of fiber and other nutrients that boost DNA repairs in our cells. Broccoli also contains some of the highest levels of carotenoids and is particularly rich in beta-carotene and lutein.
Broccoli has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer and heart disease at high intake levels. The vegetable has a compound that appears to be more effective than modern antibiotics against the creation of peptic ulcer causing bacteria. All of these qualities make broccoli one vegetable everyone should include in their diet.
The word broccoli comes from the Latin word brachium and the Italian word braccio, which means 'arm.' It comes in a variety of colors, from a deep sage all the way to dark green and purple-green.
Tom Landers holds the world record for eating broccoli – he devoured 1 pound of broccoli in 92 seconds. This healthy vegetable is even popular with kids, due to its interesting tree-like shape. Kids will gobble them up like hungry giants, if you set a collection of broccoli trees out with a little Ranch style dressing as 'snow' for a fun eating experience.
How to eat
Broccoli is most often served boiled or steamed in America, but as mentioned before, has become popular as a raw vegetable for creamy dips at gatherings. Boiling gradually reduces the levels of anti-cancer compounds in broccoli.
After five minutes, it loses 20% to 30%; after ten minutes, 40% to 50%; after thirty minutes, a whopping 77%. To retain the most value from these potential anti-cancer compounds, it is recommended to steam broccoli for a maximum time of 3 to 4 minutes.
Adding broccoli to a stir fry dish helps retain a majority of its beneficial properties. Another cooking method becoming more popular today is oven roasting. Simply spread some broccoli florets (the uppermost bush-like shapes cut from the branches) and diced stem pieces on a baking sheet, coat with cooking oil, and put in an oven to roast. The end result is a lightly toasted broccoli dish that's slightly nutty in flavor, retaining the vital nutrients that won’t get washed down the drain when cooked.
Raw broccoli goes well in many popular salads, such as the classic Broccoli Raisin Bacon Salad found at many potlucks. You can give your green lettuce salad a crunchy nutrition boost by tossing in some tiny raw broccoli florets. Broccoli Slaw is another modern interpretation for serving broccoli. The stalks are peeled to remove all the woody fibers, and then the light green insides are cut into long, thin strips. These can be tossed with cabbage and carrots for a delightful healthy slaw, or eaten as is for a quick snack.
Chicken Divan is another popular main dish that includes broccoli in the recipe. This classic dish features whole broccoli spears buried beneath a creamy, cheesy layer of chicken. Don’t forget about classic Broccoli Cheese Soup, either. There are a number of other tasty dishes that can include this nutrient-dense, delicious veggie, if you’re willing to discover them.
For the ultimate health food, eat some raw broccoli whenever you can. If you do decide to cook broccoli by steaming it, keep the cooking time short for the best health benefit. Remember, you can throw it in the oven for a few minutes for a quick roast. Grab a big bunch of broccoli at your market and enjoy the hundreds of ways to eat it up today.