“Broccoli” comes from the Latin word “brachium,” meaning “strong arm” or “branch,” and the Italian “piccoli bracci,” meaning “little arms.” The Roman farmers called it the “five green fingers of Jupiter” because of its curative and preventive properties. These are due to the presence of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber.
Introduced in England in the early 16th century, broccoli is universally recognized today as a vegetable that is highly nutritious, tasty, and easy to cook.
Composition of Broccoli
There are some vital vitamins in broccoli.
- Vitamin A is present in the form of beta carotene, which is an antioxidant.
- Another antioxidant present in broccoli is Vitamin C. A medium sized broccoli has more Vitamin C than is present in one orange.
- Broccoli is a rich source of Vitamin B Complex, especially B2 or Riboflavin, B3 or Niacin, and B6 or Pyridoxine.
- Finally, it has Vitamin K.
Essential minerals found in broccoli are iron, folic acid, calcium, selenium, and potassium. The amount of calcium is equal to that in one glass of milk.
Broccoli is a source of high fiber and phytochemicals.
Health Benefits of Broccoli
The health benefits of broccoli stem from its composition and high nutritional value.
Vitamin B complex contributes to the formation of red blood cells, healthy skin, and eyes.
Vitamins B3 and B6 prevent cardiovascular diseases.
Vitamin C boosts the immune system, and delays aging. Therefore, broccoli also fights Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin K is responsible for protein production and the clotting of blood.
Iron and folic acid prevent anemia, while folic acid also helps to prevent heart diseases.
Calcium, vital for strong bones, prevents osteoporosis and alleviates arthritis.
The high potassium content keeps blood pressure in check, while selenium maintains the elasticity of tissues. Though selenium is a trace mineral required only in small amounts, it plays a valuable role in making antioxidant enzymes when incorporated into proteins. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals that cause cellular damage.
The phytochemicals (like indoles and sulforaphane) and antioxidants in broccoli are high in cancer-fighting properties. Therefore, broccoli prevents cancers of the stomach, colon, lung, and breast.
Lutein, a fat soluble plant carotenoid and antioxidant, prevents macular degeneration.
Fiber content is beneficial for diabetes and digestive problems.
Measures to Ensure Maximum Health Benefits from Broccoli
Broccoli has a number of culinary uses and is a tasty ingredient in salads, pasta, or vegetable dishes. Broccoli soup is tasty and refreshing.
However, a few measures will ensure that broccoli yields maximum health benefits.
- Boiling reduces the vitamin C content by half, so it is best to steam or stir fry broccoli.
- The water-soluble nutrients are lost if the vegetable is soaked in water, so it should be washed under cold running water.
- Overcooking results in loss of taste and some vitamins.
- The florets should be cut into uniform pieces, to ensure even cooking.
The presence of essential nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants makes broccoli a potent weapon against cancers, heart diseases, digestive problems, and degenerative conditions. Judicious use prevents loss of its nutrients and enhances the taste.