Broccoli has the botanical name Brassica oleracea, and is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables which includes kale and cabbage. The name means ‘branch’ due to the plant having cross-shaped stems.
There are a number of Broccoli varieties:
- Raab has florets on long stems.
- Rapini has fewer florets and tastes like mustard
- Broccoflower is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower
- Chinese broccoli has a small head.
- Broccolini (baby broccoli) is a broccoli and Chinese kale hybrid
The taste of the vegetable varies from person to person. It depends on the tongue’s sensitivity to bitter flavours. The level of bitterness perceived might be a genetic thing. This could explain why people who are very sensitive to bitter tastes may not like eating this vegetable.
Broccoli is actually best eaten in raw form because any heat or processing destroys some if not most of the goodness in this vegetable. Chief among the susceptible nutrients are delicate antioxidants.
Broccoli has double the vitamin C content of an orange, which is quite surprising. It has virtually as much calcium as milk from grass-fed cows, and is a good source of the mineral selenium.
Like all green leafy vegetables, this one provides ample dietary fibre, so it is excellent for the digestive system.
This vegetable is also a potent bad-cholesterol reducing vegetable, especially when steamed rather than when eaten raw. That might sound rather odd, but it is much to do with its texture when it is gently heated and the way that bile acids bind in the gut.
The flavonoid kaempferol is present in this cruciferous vegetable. This compound seems to reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions by making the body less sensitive to allergens. Perhaps this explains why this vegetable has good anti-inflammatory properties.
Never over-cook broccoli. Once it becomes soft it will have lost most of its nutritional benefits. So eat at it either raw or after gentle steaming. Besides, over-cooking it destroys the anti-cancer compound myrosinase, as well as vitamin C.
Broccoli is a good source of vitamins A, B, C and E, and the minerals manganese, copper, chromium, phosphorus and potassium. It is also a source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
This vegetable is known for its ability to maintain normal blood pressure and to keep blood vessels in good shape. A compound called glucoraphanin is the active ingredient.
An interesting thing about this crucifer is that a compound called sulforaphane present in it prevents damage to cartilage tissue. So eating this vegetable may help to slow down or even prevent arthritis. Sulforaphane is thought to help normalise blood pressure, too, and assist renal function.
To get the most out of eating broccoli it will be best to eat the sprouts rather than the mature plant. Like all sprouts, these will contain more nutrients.
Anyway, a study has shown that eating either the adult plant or the sprouts will help to detoxify the body because of the presence of the phytochemical sulforaphane.