• Nicki

Brilliant Broccoli

Updated: May 5, 2021

Most of us are aware that broccoli is one of the top foods that we can eat to benefit our health. It’s often called a superfood, and has been recognised as such, even as a primitive cultivar, during pre-Roman times. Broccoli contains over 20 nutrients that promote good health, is really low in calories and is a great source of fibre.

Although it is classified as a cruciferous vegetable or as a brassica, this beautifully textured vegetable contains many similar health promoting properties as the dark leafy green vegetables such as a kale, to which it is related. It’s amazing how many children are drawn to these beautiful little “green trees”. The head of the broccoli, like the artichoke is actually the flowering part of the plant.

The ancient versions of broccoli, a member of the mustard family, began in Asia Minor before 8BC, when it was spread to the area of Rome now known as Tuscany. The Romans actually ate the purple sprouting version that was available before the Calabrese version which we generally eat today. The spread of broccoli to northern Europe in the 18th century and then on to USA began in the 19th century. After the second world war, new hybrids with higher yield and growth rate began to be developed, to become the varieties with which we are familiar today.

It is one of the few vegetables that need to be harvested by hand. In some countries it is important to wash broccoli thoroughly as it may be contaminated with salmonella, E. Coli or Norovirus. These food-born illnesses can emerge at any stage of the agricultural or packing process where unhygienic conditions prevail. To avoid any issues, wash broccoli before using it, especially if you are eating it raw.

Broccoli is rich in calcium and is high in anti-oxidants, that purportedly aid in reducing the risk of some cancers. The sulphurous compounds in this vegetable are both anti-viral and anti-biotic.

Some of the most important nutrients to be found in broccoli include Vitamin A, especially in the dark green leaves. A 150g (one stalk) portion provides up to:-

  • · Folates – 24%DV

  • · Vitamin C- 224%

  • · Vitamin A – 19%

  • · Vitamin K – 192%

  • · Potassium – 14%

  • · Calcium – 7%

  • · Manganese – 16%

Despite being a non-starchy vegetable, broccoli even contains low levels of protein which is quite unusual.

The phyto- chemicals in broccoli are of interest to scientists as

they are beneficial to the immune system, particularly the anti-oxidants which can aid in the neutralisation of free radicals, which helps in preventing cellular damage that can lead to a number of cancers. The fibre in broccoli not only helps to keep you regular, but the levels of non-soluble fibre support lowering of cholesterol levels.

Chromium, a trace mineral, can be found in broccoli and this has been closely associated with reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in adults.

Boiling broccoli is the most damaging in terms of destroying key nutrients, so it is advisable to steam, stir fry or quickly (3 minutes) microwave it to preserve as many of the nutrients as possible. Because the bulk of broccoli breaks down during the cooking process, it is easier to consume larger quantities of the cooked vegetable than the raw vegetable.

The fresher that your broccoli is when you eat it, the higher the level of nutrients will be available, as like many fruits and vegetables, the nutrient content will start to break down after it is harvested. It is one of the reasons that frozen broccoli has high nutritional content – it is frozen very quickly after being picked.

Although many people discard the stalks, they are really rich in fibre and very easy into incorporate into a number of dishes. The leaves, though very slightly bitter can be cooked or used the same as any other leafy green.

Some of the best ways to use the broccoli stalks are to grate them into a coleslaw or chop them into batons and add them to a stir-fry exactly as you might carrot. They can also be blitzed as part of a savoury smoothie.

This lovely verdant vegetable pairs really well with other cruciferous vegetables, as well as, peppers, chilli, onion, garlic, almonds, soya sauce and tahini to name a few.

A really simple method to present broccoli as a side is to lightly steam it with other firmer greens such as kale of cavolo nero. Thereafter pop in into a small amount of hot olive oil with a pinch each of salt and chilli. Mix the ingredients together rapidly over a high heat for about a minute.

If your broccoli has gotten a little old or you have a few stalks left after another meal, simply add what you have into a soup with other vegetables.

The florets can be used on their own, or their stalks can be included in any dish, it is simply a matter of personal preference. One of my favourite dishes, creamy broccoli salad uses lovely fresh large florets that have been quickly steamed or cooked in the microwave with a tiny bit of water for 2 minutes, so they retain a high level of crunchiness.

The florets can be sliced in half or use tenderstem broccoli in a gorgeous broccoli stir-fry. Adding a little ginger with this delicious recipe really helps to set off the flavour of the broccoli.

One way to use the florets, or even the stalks is to put them into pakoras. The spices and the fluffy batter work brilliantly against the soft but crunchy texture of the broccoli.

With so many ways to prepare this wonder veg, you should be able to add this to your meals at least 3 to 5 times a week. By doing so, you will be helping your heart, your eyes, your stomach, your bones and both blood pressure and cholesterol.

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