Yes, for years parents have been right – it really is a very good idea to eat your broccoli! This versatile veggie is a powerhouse of goodness, packed full of nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, which is why we use it so often in our gourmet diet delivery menus.
Fresh broccoli at the farmers’ market – Photograph by Market Manager
Broccoli Nutrition Facts
Broccoli has its roots in Italy, with the word “broccoli” coming from the Latin word “brachium” meaning “branch”, and the Italian “piccolo bracci” meaning “little arms”. It was first cultivated in ancient Roman times and Roman farmers called it the “five fingers of Jupiter” because of its curative and preventative properties:
- Broccoli has excellent cancer-fighting properties. It is a particularly rich source of a phytochemical called sulforaphane, which is a natural chemical that stimulates our bodies to produce enzymes and destroy carcinogens.
- Broccoli is a fantastic source of vitamin C – ounce for ounce, broccoli provides more than is present in an orange! Vitamin C is a key nutrient in supporting the immune system and may help to ward off or ease the symptoms of the common cold. Vitamin C also aids iron absorption in the body.
- Broccoli is a good source of calcium, which as well as supporting bone health also plays a key role in the control of high blood pressure. It is also bursting with other essential minerals including iron, folic acid, selenium and potassium. It is a rich source of the flavanoid kaempferol – which has been shown to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on the body. This suggests that broccoli may also have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Broccoli is an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fibre – it provides 1g of dietary fibre for every 10 calories. Fibre is essential for maintaining the health of the gastrointestinal tract and supporting digestion, and helps to bind excretory products such as cholesterol for elimination. Fibre also helps to keep you full, making it essential for weight loss management. Recent studies have also shown that broccoli may boost the body’s natural defences against stomach infections, which could be beneficial for patients suffering from Crohn’s Disease.
For maximum nutrition and flavour, here are a few tips for enjoying broccoli:
- The vitamin C content will degrade quite quickly once broccoli has been cut, so try to use it within a couple of days.
- Cut the broccoli into even sized florets and make sure you include the leaves and stems (these may take a little longer to cook but are full of goodness!)
- Broccoli is full of water-soluble nutrients such as B-carotene and vitamin C which will be lost if the broccoli is soaked in water. Instead wash under cold, running water.
- Steaming is the best way of keeping the maximum nutrients in your broccoli. As well as maintaining the maximum amount of vitamin C, the fibre components of broccoli will do a better job of binding and excreting cholesterol when steamed.
- Include broccoli and other vegetables from the cruciferous (cabbage) family at least 4-5 times a week for maximum health benefits.
Now we know that broccoli is absolutely bursting with goodness, what is the best way to cook it for maximum benefit? Here is a quick tip on how to steam and reap the rewards.
Bowl of roasted broccoli – Photograph by jules
Steamed Broccoli Recipe Ideas
Rinse your broccoli and break into bite-sized florets. Cut off the stem, peel of the thick layer of skin and quarter (or half for a smaller stem).
Put broccoli in a steamer over an inch of boiling water, reduce heat and cover. Leave to steam for 6-8 minutes until broccoli is tender but not over-cooked.
There are lots of delicious ways you can serve your steamed broccoli:
- Simply with a squeeze of lemon juice and some sautéed garlic.
- A dash of olive oil, some chilli flakes and finely chopped anchovies.
- Toss with some crumbled feta, sliced black olives and a dash of olive oil.
- Toss with a pumpkin seeds and balsamic dressing. (For the balsamic dressing sauté 2 tablespoons of chopped shallots with 2 teaspoons of minced garlic. Mix with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard).
Broccoli is also fantastic added to salads, stir-fries and pasta dishes. This high fibre, low calorie super food is bursting with nutrients, and is a fantastic addition to any weight loss management programme.
What are some of your favourite ways of including broccoli as part of your dishes? Let us know in the comments below.