A relative of cabbage, the broccoli gets its name from the Italian word ‘broccoli’ which translates to ‘cabbage sprout.’ It looks like a little tree, with green or purple florets and is a member of the Brassicaceae family of vegetables.
Its green leaves are also edible but not palatable to many people who cite the bitter taste of the leaves as the reason for disliking them. However, you don’t need to eat the leaves as the vegetable itself contains all the nutrients and antioxidants that your body needs.
The three main varieties of broccoli are:
Calabrese broccoli – which is the most known and eaten
Purple yellow flower
Like most vegetables, the broccoli is versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked, though it tastes much better when cooked. It is easy to prepare, simply by steaming or shallow frying.
Broccoli can be eaten as a side dish by itself or steamed together with other vegetables like carrots.
The nutritional value of broccoli
Broccoli is a power house of nutrients such as:
- Folate which is necessary for the formation of new cells in your body
- High in dietary fibre necessary for many of the body’s processes
- The mineral potassium which aids in the functioning of your body nerves and your heart
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
Where did broccoli originate?
Broccoli is famed for being an Italian vegetable and was cultivated and eaten in the Roman times for a long period before it spread to other areas in Europe. It later spread to America and the rest of Europe in the eighteenth century.
The health benefits of broccoli
Prevention of cancer
Broccoli has been shown to prevent with several types of cancer for example:
Breast cancer – The folate present in the vegetable has been shown to decrease the risk of contracting breast cancer in women.
Colon and lung cancer – Consuming large quantities of broccoli can protect you against these types of cancers due to the presence of the sulphur compound which gives broccoli that tangy, almost bitter taste.
Broccoli promotes a healthy digestive tract, which helps to reduce your risk of contracting colon cancer.
Pancreatic, prostate and other cancers – sulforaphane, the sulphur compound in broccoli, inhibits and enzyme known as histone deacetylase, which accelerates the growth of cancer cells.
Aiding with allergies and inflammations
Broccoli contains a flavonoid known as kaempferol, which studies have shown has the ability to lessen the effect of allergies on our body.
Prevention of cataracts
If you want to keep your eyes free of muscular degeneration, then by all means incorporate broccoli into your diet. The vegetable contains beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, phosphorous, Vitamins A, B and C; all of which of which protect against the degeneration of the muscles in your eyes and the growth of cataracts.
A healthy heart
Broccoli helps to reduce bad cholesterol in your body because of its high fibre content as well as omega three fatty acids and beta- carotenes. These nutrients and vitamins help to regulate blood pressure, thereby ensuring that your heart functions properly.
To get the full benefits of the fibre, steam broccoli rather than eat it raw. This way the fibre in the vegetable combines better with the bile in the digestive tract.
A reduction of bile means that the cholesterol levels in your body are reduced too, impacting your heart health.
The isothiocyanates in broccoli have also being known to actually reverse the damage already caused to the linings of the blood vessels. The damage is mostly caused by inflammations due to the imbalance of blood sugar levels in the body.
A poor intake of Vitamin K in your diet results to weak bones which easily break. To prevent this, incorporate broccoli into your diet, to avoid the risk of bone fractures.
Vitamin K aids in the absorption of calcium in the body.
Broccoli is also very rich in minerals such as phosphorous, zinc and of course Calcium. To prevent the onset of bone disease (osteoporosis), especially on older people, a daily intake of broccoli will protect you.
It is also very healthy for lactating mothers, children and pregnant women who are at a risk of calcium deficiency.
Detoxification of the body
High fibre broccoli is a natural detoxifier. It promotes removal of toxins and waste from your body through the stools.
Broccoli also contains three phytonutrients in perfect proportions, which support the body’s detoxification system. The vegetable also contains isothiocyanates, which further aids in detoxifying the body and ridding it of toxic waste.
The broccoli is among the few vegetables which contain very little calories while very high in nutrients.
For people eager to watch or lower their weight, it’s a good inclusion into your diet, as it makes you feel fuller for a longer period.
The Vitamin A in broccoli helps to maintain the healthy look of your skin.
Broccoli also contains Vitamin C, a known antioxidant, which helps to combat the skin damage caused to the skin by external elements such as the sun and pollution, as well as internal factors such as aging.
Vitamin C also helps in the formation of collagen, a protein that is the foundation of the skin and muscles, which gives it its firm feel.
Most stomach problems have their root cause in food. Broccoli, rich in dietary fibre, ensures that problems like constipation and irritable bowel syndrome are done away with.
The roughage in broccoli ensures regular and healthy bowel movements, by adding to the bulkiness of the food in the digestive tract and retaining water to ensure that passage of waste from the body is smooth.
Overall body immunity
A source of Vitamin C, Broccoli is a natural antioxidant which helps your body to ward of viruses and seasonal infections.
The compounds present in broccoli, including those that give the vegetable their bright colour, are great immunity boosters, giving your body overall great health.