There are so many brightly coloured exotic offerings out there, from shiny smooth yellow peppers to inky purple aubergines, that we’re spoiled for choice this time of the year, when these vegetables are best in season. But it’s the deep green colour of broccoli that accounts for its star qualities.
It’s easy to be blasé about broccoli, it’s been widely available and accessible for years and we’re comfortable with it on our plates. it wouldn’t be a normal week without broccoli making an appearance on the menu in many households, either steamed or stir-fried.
Having said that there may be some parents who find it more than a little tricky to get their kids to try a mouthful. ‘Yuck, I’m not eating that’ is a common enough refrain, as their three year olds dismisses those “little trees”. But don’t give up! Keep persevering. It can take 11 exposures to a new food, especially a slightly bitter green vegetable, before children actually like it. So persist gently and praise, praise, praise when they DO try it!
Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family, and is closely related to cauliflower. It was cultivated originally in Italy. Broccolo, its Italian name, means “cabbage sprout.” Because of its different components, ones of the things that is great about broccoli is its mix of tastes and textures, from soft and flowery (the floret) to fibrous and crunchy (the stem and stalk). It’s fantastic either raw in a salad or swiftly stirfried with a delicious Asian dressing.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage contain phytochemicals and other compounds that can help to prevent DNA damage, and they are also sources of many nutrients including beta-carotene, vitamin C and folate. The tissues of cruciferous vegetables contain high levels of the active plant chemicals glucosinolates. These are metabolised by the body into isothiocyanates, which are known to be powerful inhibitors of DNA damage.
Broccoli’s noteworthy nutrients include beta-carotene (converted to vitamin A), vitamin C, and folate. A serving of 80 grams makes a significant contribution to these nutrients, as well as being low in calories with only 26 calories per serving. Broccoli has a high level of antioxidant activity1, and this could explain some of the many health benefits associated with the vegetable, including its immune-boosting properties, largely due to the sulphoraphane content2.
A research paper published in 2008 linked sulphoraphane in broccoli with the reversal of damage caused to the blood vessels of people with diabetes3.
Broccoli is also beneficial for the eyes. It contains lutein, a carotenoid also present in corn and spinach. Lutein protects the maculae, tiny spots in the centre of the retina that give us central vision. Studies have shown that people who frequently include lutein-rich foods in their diets have a significantly reduced risk of age related macular degeneration. Broccoli’s antioxidant properties may also help prevent cataracts from developing4.
When preparing and selecting fresh broccoli, look for signs of yellow buds; this will indicate that the broccoli is spoiling. Darker heads with a purplish hue will be the freshest. All you need to do then is rinse it thoroughly. Steam broccoli lightly or stir-fry it quickly in order to retain all that powerful nutrition. Enjoy!
- Sprinkle lemon juice and sesame seeds over lightly steamed broccoli.
- If you’re cooking pasta, add in some broccoli florets for a few minutes towards the end of cooking time. You’ll save on washing up and get in one of your five-a-day too!
- Purée cooked broccoli and cauliflower, then combine with seasonings of your choice to make a simple, yet delicious, soup.
- Add broccoli florets and chopped stalks to stir-fries, frittatas and omelettes
- Try raw broccoli in salads to add crunch, colour and flavour
- For a tasty lunch or teatime snack, dip lightly steamed broccoli florets into a soft boiled egg
- Antioxidant and antiproliferative activities of common vegetables. Chu YF, Sun J, Wu X, Liu RH. J Agric Food Chem. 2002; 50(23):6910-6.
- Nrf2 activation by sulphoraphane restores the age-related decrease of T(H)1 immunity: role of dendritic cells. Kim HJ, Barajas B, Wang M, Nel AE. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008; 121(5):1255-1261
- Activation of NF-E2-related factor-2 reverses biochemical dysfunction of endothelial cells induced by hyperglycemia linked to vascular disease. Xue M, Qian Q, Adaikalakoteswari A, Rabbani N, Babaei-Jadidi R, Thornalley PJ. Diabetes. 2008; 57(10):2809-17.
- The potential role of dietary xanthophylls in cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Moeller SM, Jacques PF, Blumberg JB. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Oct;19(5 Suppl):522S-527S
|Per 80g serving||Calories||Fat (g)||Sat fat (g)||Protein (g)||Sugars (g)||Fibre (g)||Others|
|Broccoli||26||0.7||0.2||3.5||1.2||2.1||70mg vitamin C
148µg vitamin K