History of Broccoli – Health Benefits and Side Effects
Broccoli is a nutritious, heart-healthy, vividly green vegetable that resembles a small tree and is grown for its healthy, edible flower buds and stalk. Raw broccoli is a form of cabbage and a member of the mustard family, or Brassicaceae family, along with cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kohlrabi, and many others. These are known collectively as cruciferous vegetables
Broccoli is a human invention, meaning it was bred from the wild cabbage plant to become the nutrient-rich plant it is today. This process began ages ago in the 6th century BC by the Etruscans, an ancient people who lived in Italy in what is now Tuscany. The Etruscans were legendary horticultural geniuses and are responsible for cultivating many cruciferous vegetables and other plants.
From its origins in the Mediterranean and Asia Minor, raw broccoli, as we know it, became more honed and standardized. Many cruciferous vegetables were bred from the same wild cabbage strain, an early form of kale. For broccoli, they selected larger flower clusters and encouraged that type of growth for generation after generation, eventually forming the green veggie we are familiar with in our neighborhood grocery stores.
This vegetable was brought to both England and the United States in the 1700s where it was fairly popular right away. People were increasingly saving, storing, and sharing seeds that made ocean voyages and long land commutes a possible transport method.
In 2017, the worldwide tonnage for broccoli and cauliflower was 26 million tonnes. China and India combined to account for 73% of this mass. In second place, each with about one million tonnes annually, were the USA, Spain, Mexico, and Italy.
Cultivation of Broccoli – Health Benefits and Side Effects
Broccoli is an annual that is fast-growing and relatively easy to cultivate. It can reach up to 24-35 inches tall with a wide circumference due to its large leaves. When planting seeds or seedlings, be sure to space them about a yard apart to allow plenty of space for them to stretch out. In ideal growing conditions, they will become almost a small shrub during a growing season.
There are three types of broccoli grown and sold globally. The first, known simply as broccoli, is the Calabrese broccoli, named after the region in Italy, where it was first developed. The second is called Sprouting broccoli and is purple or white in color with longer, thinner stalks. The third varietal is known as Purple cauliflower, which resembles a cauliflower but is technically a type of broccoli.
Broccoli grows best in cool to moderate climates in full or partial sun. You can grow them from seed, although many gardeners like to purchase seedlings from their local nursery.
Leaves stretch outward and in a precise, symmetrical manner, and they are edible. However, they have a slightly leathery texture that many prefer cooked. They pack many health benefits, nutrition, and antioxidants themselves, so do not overlook them.
However, the plant’s main focus is the central cluster of bright green, dotted broccoli heads that are compactly tucked together in the formation of a small bush or tree in the center of the mature plant. When a recipe calls for broccoli, this is generally what they mean. A newly planted broccoli sprout will reach maturity and maximum ripeness in 60-150 days, depending on the weather and the varietal grown.
Once the primary shoot is harvested, offshoots will continue to bloom for several weeks and can be snipped off individually and added to your recipes. These cruciferous vegetables are just as healthy and nutritious as their main counterpart and have as many vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants as the rest of the plant.
Another interesting edible occurrence is when the clusters go to flower after a growing season. Tall shoots will spring from the center of the plant and develop both edible flowers and seed pods. Before the seeding is set, it can be fun and heart-healthy to munch on those pale-yellow flowers for a mild broccoli flavor, a little bonus nutrition, and very few calories.
The seed pods will then form, signaling the end of the broccoli’s life span. If you plan on harvesting the seeds, allow them to dry out on the plant itself until you can hear them rattling around in the dried pod. You will be shocked at how many pods and seeds are available from a single broccoli plant. Hundreds and hundreds of small, dark, round seeds are awaiting patient gardeners.
Cooking with Broccoli – Health Benefits and Side Effects
Before we begin discussing how to cook with broccoli, it’s important to note that raw broccoli can be enjoyed with little to no complications. In fact, many people prefer this vegetable in its raw form. Many salads and slaw recipes call for it diced up.
When selecting a new head of broccoli at the store or farmer’s market, look for dark green examples with firm, unblemished stalks, and compact, tightly clustered buds. Try to avoid any yellow- or brown-tinged broccoli or clusters that have started to branch out too far, as they can be examples of plants that are past their prime.
Steaming broccoli heads is a popular and time-honored method of cooking it. It makes it softer and more palatable for certain recipes while retaining much of its nutrition. It’s also a healthy way to fill up with that good fiber without consuming many calories.
Adding a bunch of chopped broccoli to a sauté is a marvelous way to add vitamins, minerals, and a general burst of nutrition to your next dinner. Tossing it into a broth-based or batch-blended soup is also an easy way to consume antioxidants and heart-healthy fiber in your diet.
Some complementary foods to broccoli in the taste department are rice, peanut sauces, red peppers, and cheese. Look up some recipes featuring these ingredients, and you won’t be sorry.
It’s also good to note that nutritionally, some foods complement broccoli by enhancing its benefits and by making its vitamins and minerals more absorbable in the body. For example, iron-rich foods such as black beans or red meat are more easily absorbed into the bloodstream when paired with a food high in vitamin C, like broccoli. Get the most out of your vitamins and minerals by looking into complementary foods.
1. High in Fiber
There are between 2 and 3 grams of fiber in every cup of broccoli, which is critical for your digestion and overall gut health. The fiber is nature’s broom, and it sweeps digested food through our system, improving mood and immunity as well. Fiber also helps with insulin regulation, so you can count on a nice even release of energy after eating it.
2. High in Water
Broccoli is 89% water, which is fascinating. A serving size portion of a cup contains over two ounces of water. The combination of both water and the fiber mentioned above makes you feel fuller, longer and can contribute to a healthy weight loss regimen.
3. Contains Folic Acid
Both raw and cooked broccoli provide the body with folic acid, particularly for pregnant or nursing women.
4. Has Vitamin A
Eating one cup of these cruciferous vegetables will give you over 10% of your daily needed intake of vitamin A.
5. High in Vitamin C
One cup of nutritious broccoli provides 135% of the daily goal for Vitamin C, so you can knock it off your list. Vitamin C is a natural immune booster, so it will help you fend off disease. It is also a well-known collagen-supporting vitamin.
6. Has Vitamin E
If you would like to get nearly 15% of your daily goal for vitamin E, simply add a cup of broccoli to your next dinner.
7. High in Vitamin K
One cup of cooked broccoli contains nearly 250% of the daily target for Vitamin K, which is useful in blood clotting and necessary for bone health.
8. Contains Other Vitamins Too
A cup of these cruciferous vegetables has plenty of other vitamins, including nearly 10% of the daily goal for vitamins B2 and B6.
9. Chock Full of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Broccoli has ALAs, or alpha-linolenic acids, which help fight inflammation and improving circulation. ALAs, are also linked to overall heart health and the ability to help the body ward off disease.
10. Low in Calories
One cup of raw, nutritious broccoli contains just 24 calories, so it is a wonderful option for recipes calling for heart-healthy vegetables.
11. Low in Carbohydrates
One cup of healthy, raw broccoli contains less than 5 grams of carbohydrates.
12. Has No Fat
You read that correctly. Like most nutritious vegetables, broccoli does not contain any fat whatsoever, so it can be enjoyed without guilt.
13. High in Folate
If you eat a cup of broccoli, you will consume over 40% of the daily goal for minerals like folate. Folate is linked to memory and mood, as well as for healthy fetus development in pregnant women.
14. Has Chromium
One cup of broccoli added to a recipe will allow you to hit over 50% of the target goal for daily chromium consumption. Minerals like this support healthy metabolism function and help to regulate blood sugar.
15. Contains 10% Of Daily Goals For Many Minerals
Just one cup of cooked broccoli added to your next favorite recipes will get you 10% of the daily target for the following minerals: phosphorus, choline, manganese, copper, and potassium.
16. Contains 5% Of Daily Goals for Many Minerals
Adding a cup of cooked broccoli to your next meal will get you 5% of the daily target for these minerals: magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium.
17. Helps Fight Cancer
That is not a typo, for it’s true that broccoli is a known cancer crusher. In fact, all cruciferous vegetables are beneficial in this manner, which is why they should always be included regularly as part of a healthy diet. Specific cancers affected include breast, prostate, colorectal, stomach, kidney, and bladder cancers. This means that broccoli and other Brassicas help protect against these cancers, and more are being studied every day.
18. Has Antioxidants
Antioxidants are molecules that reduce or neutralize cell damage sustained by free radicals. In clearer terminology, it is an anti-aging benefit for your body, inside and out. Broccoli is especially high in glucoraphanin, a powerful antioxidant that helps with digestion. Other antioxidants in these cruciferous vegetables are lutein and zeaxanthin, which help relieve oxidative damage in your eyes.
19. Reduces Inflammation
Antioxidants and Inflammation go hand-in-hand, but it is important to note this as another health benefit because inflammation is the source of so much disease and sickness in our bodies. To be able to eat something delicious and nutritious, and to know these are fending off inflammation, is a lovely feeling indeed. One example of a specific flavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties is called kaempferol.
20. Aids in Blood Sugar Control
Broccoli has been shown to help regulate blood sugar processes in the body, which helps those with and without diabetes. General regulation of blood sugars and energy is important for healthy body function.
21. Contains Protein
One cup of uncooked broccoli will give you 2.6 grams of protein, and as we all know, protein helps build and develop muscles in our bodies. Many people do not consider vegetables to be reputable sources of protein, but they would be mistaken.
1. Gastrointestinal Distress
Due to its high fiber content, roughage may cause a little discomfort in your belly. Fiber is, indeed, crucial to a functional digestive tract, but if you’re not used to it in high quantities and then feast on broccoli, it might be bothersome. General symptoms include gas and bowel irritation. However, it is generally understood that the health benefits outweigh the side effects in this case.
2. Contains Goitrogens
In one study, broccoli was touted as potentially toxic due to the number of goitrogens, particularly one group called thiocyanates. While eating large quantities of thiocyanates increases the potential of developing hypothyroidism, this has never been linked directly to broccoli.
A Brief Summary of Broccoli – Health Benefits and Side Effects
Broccoli comes from a famous family of nutrient-rich, heart-healthy, cancer-fighting cruciferous vegetables called Brassicas, and it is a smart idea to be familiar with all of them due to their antioxidants and high levels of both vitamins and minerals. Truly, broccoli can be considered one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.
From its humble beginnings as a wild cabbage plant, broccoli has been nurtured and cultivated for hundreds and hundreds of years. It has traveled around the planet and back, offering amazing health benefits with very few serious side effects.
Broccoli should be included in your regular recipe regimen because by adding it to your diet, you are getting ample fiber and disease-fighting ingredients with very few calories whatsoever. It is delicious and healthy enough to be added to your weekly grocery list, so enjoy it every chance you get.