What is Broccoli?
Broccoli is an edible green plant in the cabbage family whose large flowering head is eaten as a vegetable. The word broccoli comes from the Italian plural of broccolo, which means “the flowering crest of a cabbage”, and is the diminutive form of brocco, meaning “small nail” or “sprout”. Broccoli is often boiled or steamed but may be eaten raw.
Broccoli is classified in the Italica cultivar group of the species Brassica oleracea. Broccoli has large flower heads, usually green in color, arranged in a tree-like structure branching out from a thick, edible stalk. The mass of flower heads is surrounded by leaves. Broccoli resembles cauliflower, which is a different cultivar group of the same species.
Broccoli is a result of careful breeding of cultivated Brassica crops in the northern Mediterranean starting in about the 6th century BC.Since the time of the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was brought to England from Antwerp in the mid-18th century by Peter Scheemakers. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Southern Italian immigrants, but did not become widely popular until the 1920s.
Broccoli contains sulforophane, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc too. It also provides fiber and is low in calories.
History Of Broccoli
Much of our knowledge about food plants and food plant biology is tied in with our understanding of cruciferous vegetables. The Cruciferae (Brassicaceae) family of plants is found on virtually all continents and it is particularly diverse and plentiful in the Mediterranean area of Europe, the central and western areas of Asia, and the western half of North America. Some of the more recent aspects of this vegetable’s history involve its cultivation in Europe and transport to North America. Within a broader historical context, broccoli started out as a form of wild cabbage, and it took centuries of selective planting and agricultural practice to allow for its evolution into the familiar varieties that we enjoy today.
While broccoli is grown commercially in many states throughout the U.S., about 90% of U.S. production takes place in the state of California. Cultivation of broccoli in California makes use of about 115,000 acres of land throughout the state, and about 1.8 billion pounds of broccoli are produced each year. U.S consumers average about 6.75 pounds of broccoli consumption per year. While this amount may not seem like a large amount, it has increased consistently over recent decades. After California, the next largest U.S. producer of broccoli is Arizona. In terms of U.S. imports, the largest amount of broccoli brought into the country is from Mexico.
Types Of Broccoli
Broccoli comes in different varieties, and the most popular ones are:
- Calabrese broccoli, named after Calabria in Italy. This type has large green heads and thick stalks. And it is a cool season annual crop.
- Sprouting broccoli, which has a large number of heads with several thin stalks.
- Broccoflower, which is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower. The taste is mild and more like cauliflower than broccoli.
- Broccoli rabe (also called broccoli rob in certain places), which is a different cruciferous species and is also called rapini. Its yellow flowers are edible.
- Gai-lan, which is also known as Chinese broccoli. It is longer and leafier and more pungent/bitter than the normal green broccoli.
- Purple cauliflower is another popular type of broccoli grown in North America and Europe. This one has a head shaped like a cauliflower and has tiny flower buds.
There is also broccolini, which people confuse with the other types. Well, not exactly – broccolini is just a lanky vegetable that is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli, and not a separate variety in itself.
Facts About Broccoli
- Broccoli gets its name from the Italian word “broccalo”, which means “cabbage sprout”.
- The most common type of broccoli is Calabrese broccoli – named after Calabria (Italy), its place of origin.
- If you want to eliminate the smell of broccoli, you can add a slice of bread to the pot.
- California produces almost all of the broccoli consumed in the United States.
- And though available all year round, the vegetable is most nutritious from October to May.
- The American sign language has no sign for broccoli. You only have to spell it out.
- Broccoli was brought to America by Thomas Jefferson. In fact, in 1767, he imported the seeds from Italy and planted them in his own garden.
What Does Broccoli Taste Like?
Raw broccoli generally has a mildly bitter taste like a cabbage. People with a particular receptor gene are sensitive to some flavors and hence, find it extremely bitter and unpleasant. This taste is actually because of the presence of natural compounds called glucosinolates.
Nutrition Content in Broccoli
Raw broccoli contains almost 90% water, 7% carbs and 3% protein, and almost no fat. Broccoli is very low in calories, providing only 31 calories per cup. The table below contains information on all the main nutrients in broccoli.
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Broccoli is highly rich in dietary fiber and proteins like tryptophan. It also consists of vitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein zeaxanthin, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid. Along with that, it contains vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B1, and vitamin K. Minerals in it include calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, sodium, potassium, selenium, chromium, choline, manganese, and phosphorus. It also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
In terms of unique organic compounds, broccoli is a rich source of phytonutrient glucosinolates, isothiocyanate, flavonoids like kaempferol, and various other antioxidant compounds that boost our health in a major way!
|NUTRITION FACTS SERVING SIZE 91 G|
|AMOUNT PER SERVING|
|Calories 31||Calories from Fat 3|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0g||1%|
|Saturated Fat 0g||0%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
|Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)||0.7mg||4%|
|Amounts Per Selected Serving||%DV|
Amount per 100 g
- Calories 34
- Fat 0.4 g
- Sodium 33 mg – 1% RDA
- Potassium 316 mg – 9% RDA
- Carbohydrate 7g
- Dietary fiber 2.6 g 10%
- Protein 2.8g – 5% RDA
- Vitamin A 12% RDA
- Vitamin C 148% RDA
- Calcium 4% RDA
- Iron 3% RDA
- Vitamin B-6 10% RDA
- Magnesium 5% RDA
The carbohydrates in broccoli mainly consist of fiber and sugars. The sugars are fructose, glucose and sucrose, with small amounts of lactose and maltose. However, the total carbohydrate content is very low, with only 3.5 grams of digestible carbohydrate per cup.
Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet. It can promote gut health, help prevent various disease, and is linked to reduced body weight. 1 cup of raw broccoli (91 g) provides 2.3 grams of fiber, which is about 5-10% of the recommended daily intake.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body, and are needed for both growth and maintenance. Broccoli is relatively high in protein compared to most commonly consumed vegetables (29% of its dry weight). However, because of the high water content of broccoli, a cup of broccoli only provides 3 grams of protein.
Vitamins and Minerals
Broccoli contains a variety of vitamins and minerals. The most abundant ones are listed below.
- Vitamin C: An antioxidant, important for immune function and skin health. Half a cup of raw broccoli (45 grams) provides almost 70% of the recommended daily intake.
- Vitamin K1: Broccoli contains high amounts of vitamin K1, which is important for blood clotting and may promote bone health.
- Folate (B9): Particularly important for pregnant women, folate is important for normal tissue growth and cell function.
- Potassium: An essential mineral, beneficial for blood pressure control and preventing cardiovascular disease.
- Manganese: This trace element is found in high amounts in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
- Iron: An essential mineral, which has many important functions in the body, such as the transport of oxygen in red blood cells.
Broccoli also contains numerous other vitamins and minerals, in smaller amounts. In fact, it contains a little bit of almost everything we need.
A 100 gm serving of broccoli has approximately 34 calories, making it an excellent addition to a weight loss diet.
Rich Source of Sodium
Since potassium comes with sodium and chlorine in broccoli, it guarantees the transportation of nutrients to the cells. You’ve probably heard that a large portion of sodium comes from salt, but it’s essential for this nutrient to come from vegetables as well, as it promotes normal liver and heart function.
Contains Amino Acids
Broccoli is also rich in amino acids, which are so essential for your health. For example, it contains tryptophan, the amino acid from which serotonin (the “happiness hormone”) is made.
One hundred grams of broccoli contains about fifty mg of calcium, which is the same amount of calcium as in forty ml of milk. Calcium is an essential mineral, which makes up about 1%–2% of a human’s body weight. Calcium is also important for bone structure as well as regulating muscle and nerve function. Instead of getting calcium from dairy products, you can eat broccoli. In fact, broccoli would be a perfect source of calcium if you are lactose intolerant.
Rich in Potassium
One hundred grams of broccoli contains 316 mg of potassium, which is so essential for normal functioning of the human body. If you want to keep your blood pressure in check and prevent cardiovascular disease, try to eat this vegetable every day. Potassium found in broccoli is essential for the transmission of nerve impulses, which means your brain wouldn’t be able to function properly without getting the recommended daily amount of potassium.
If you’re an athlete or a bodybuilder, including broccoli in your everyday diet would be one of your best dieting choices. First of all, potassium is linked to weight reduction; second, it’s essential for muscle contraction, and it also promotes normal heart function.
High in Magnesium
This crunchy vegetable is also high in magnesium, which is an irreplaceable trace element for normal functioning of the brain. One hundred grams of broccoli contains twenty-one mg of magnesium.
Great Source of Phosphorus
Phosphorus, which is critical for regulating bone structure in the human body, is also found in broccoli.
Beta-carotene is great for keeping your skin glowing: not only does vitamin A keep your skin moisturized from the inside, but it also regulates function of your sebaceous gland. Vitamin A also provides your body with antioxidant protection, promotes rejuvenation of the cells, and improves eye health.
Dietary Source of Vitamin B1
Vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential for adenosine triphosphate synthesis as well as reduplication of DNA and RNA molecules. One hundred grams of broccoli contains 0.07 mg of vitamin B1.
Rich in Vitamin B2
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) is an essential antioxidant vitamin, which fights free radicals in the human body. It’s also essential for the development of red blood cells. One hundred grams of broccoli contains 0.12 mg of vitamin B2.
Contains Vitamin B6
Broccoli is also rich in vitamin B6 (0.18 mg in one hundred grams of broccoli), which is important in the production of antibodies and is an essential vitamin for normal functioning of the immune system.
Unique Source of Vitamin B9
Broccoli is best known for its high content of vitamin B9 (folate), which is a crucial element for pregnant women, as it promotes normal development of the offspring’s nervous system. If you’re pregnant and wondering whether or not it’s safe to include broccoli in your everyday diet, the answer is Yes! It’s safe and highly recommended! Folate also stimulates normal tissue growth and regulates cell function.
Contains Vitamin C
The most surprising feature of broccoli is that it has more vitamin C than citrus fruits! Exactly one hundred grams of broccoli covers 100% of the daily value of vitamin C, which is so necessary for boosting the immune system and improving skin health.
More Vitamin E than in Olive Oil
Broccoli is also high in vitamin E, which is important for heart health as well as protecting cellular membranes from breaking down. One hundred grams of broccoli (0.78 mg) contains more vitamin E than a teaspoon of olive oil (0.65 mg).
Rich in Vitamin K1
Broccoli is also rich in vitamin K1, which is crucial for bone health as well as blood clotting. One hundred grams of broccoli contains 85% of the daily recommended intake of this vitamin.
Other Plant Compounds
Broccoli is rich in various antioxidants and plant compounds, which contribute to its health benefits.
- Sulforaphane: One of the most abundant and extensively studied plant compounds in broccoli. It can have protective effects against various types of cancer.
- Indole-3-carbinol: A unique nutrient found in cruciferous vegetables, which may have beneficial effects against cancer.
- Carotenoids: Broccoli contains lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, which may all contribute to better eye health.
- Kaempferol: An antioxidant with many benefits for health. It may protect against heart disease, cancer, inflammation and allergy.
- Quercetin: An antioxidant with numerous benefits, including lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.
Health Benefits of Broccoli
1. Prevents cancer
Broccoli has strong anti-carcinogenic compounds like glucoraphanin, diindolylmethane, beta-carotene, selenium and other nutrients like vitamin C, A, and E, zinc, potassium and certain amino acids, which are also good anti-cancer agents.
Broccoli has vitamin-C, sulfur and certain amino acids which helps remove free radicals and toxins like uric acid from the body, thereby purifying the blood and keeping away toxin-related problems such as boils, itches, rashes, gout, arthritis, rheumatism, renal calculi, skin diseases like eczema, and hardening of the skin. The sulforaphane in broccoli sprout protects the aerobic cells from damage by inducing a network of detoxification enzymes. In addition, it also suppresses the inflammatory responses.
Broccoli has antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin C, as well as other helpers like vitamin B complex, vitamin E (the one that gives shine to your skin and hair while reviving skin tissues), vitamin A and vitamin K, omega 3 fatty acids (which add glamor), amino acids, and folate present in broccoli. They all help take very good care of your skin and leave it glowing, healthy, and radiant.
3. Promotes Skin Health
Broccoli contains a substance called glucoraphanin that gets converted into sulforaphane, aiding skin repair and resulting in healthy skin. Thus, eating broccoli renews your skin more quickly and gives your complexion a beautiful natural glow. Studies show that extracts of broccoli sprouts protect against skin damage and cancer caused by UV radiation. The vitamins A and C in broccoli also contribute to skin health.
4. Helps Slow Down Aging
One compound in broccoli, called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), has been found to offer anti-aging benefits. NMN produces another compound important for energy metabolism – this compound fuels energy in our bodies, potentially eliminating some of the signs associated with aging. And the vitamin C in the veggie fights free radicals that otherwise tend to speed up the aging process. Vitamin C also contributes to collagen production, which improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles.
Broccoli is often considered better than sunscreen in protecting the skin against skin cancer. In fact, you could smear broccoli extract over your skin before bath. The sulforaphane in it works wonders on your skin.
Broccoli Benefits For Hair
The B vitamins and vitamin C make your hair stronger and strengthen the hair follicles. Vitamin C also combats free radicals that otherwise cause hair loss.
5. Improves Hair Health
Dark green vegetables like broccoli are loaded with vitamins A and C that help produce sebum – a natural scalp oil that keeps the hair conditioned.
6. Treats Hair Loss
The vitamin C in this wonder veggie eliminates free radicals and helps make your hair thicker and healthier. It also is a good source of B vitamins, which reduce stress and in a way combat hair loss (29).
7. Imparts Luster To Hair
Broccoli seed oil contains a unique fatty acid composition that is similar to silicone found in shampoos, which is responsible for imparting shine to your hair. Also known as erucic acid, this omega-9 fatty acid gives your hair a smooth, natural sheen without leaving a residue of harmful detergents or chemicals in your hair follicles. Thus, it has an advantage over commercial shampoos and conditioners in this respect.
We saw the many broccoli benefits. But you also need to know about the selection process and storage.
8. Helps in digestion
Broccoli is rich in fiber which adds bulk to the food material, retains water and helps in bowel movement preventing constipation. Magnesium and vitamins present in broccoli cure acidity, facilitate proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from the food and soothe the stomach by reducing inflammation.
9. Prevents Heart Diseases
Broccoli has a high fiber content, beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids which help reduce low density lipoprotein and keep the heart functioning properly by regulating blood-pressure.
Studies have shown that the fiber components combine better with bile, making it much easier and efficient to excrete. Reducing bile has a strong impact on cholesterol levels, thereby helping your heart health. Furthermore, the potassium found in broccoli is a vasodilator that can boost blood flow and oxygenation of essential organs by relaxing tension and stress of veins and blood vessels.
One study found that broccoli intake could improve your heart’s blood-pumping ability. It also reduces damage to the heart during oxygen deprivation. Numerous other studies have also associated broccoli consumption with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease. The vegetable can reduce inflammation and oxidation of the arteries in stroke-prone individuals
10. Eye Health
Broccoli contains Zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, vitamin A, phosphorus, and other vitamins such as B complex, C, and E which are good for ocular health. These substances protect eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts, while also repairing the damage caused by radiation.
11. Improves Bone Strength
Broccoli is rich in calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus which helps maintain bone mineral density.
12. Regulates Blood Pressure
Broccoli has chromium which helps in the proper functioning of insulin and regulates blood sugar, thereby regulating blood pressure as well.
13. Treats Anaemia
Anemia is directly related to a lack of iron and certain proteins. Broccoli is rich in both of these and hence forms an
excellent remedy against anemia. Eat them and feel the blood surge powerfully through your body. Copper is also found in it which is another essential mineral in the production of red blood cells, along with iron.
14. Improves Immunity
Broccoli has vitamin C, beta-carotene, and other vitamins and minerals, particularly selenium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. These compounds present in it are really great immune system strengtheners that can protect you from numerous infections.
15. Improves Brain Health
Broccoli has Vitamin K and chlorine which are important in brain health. Vitamin K enhances cognitive abilities and chlorine improves memory. Broccoli also has folic acid that helps prevent Alzheimer’s and depression.
16. Improves Men’s Sexual Health
According to a Spanish study, an increased intake of folate can enhance semen production, leading to stronger orgasms and improved fertility. And the vitamin A in this veggie can enhance the sperm count. Broccoli has also been found to prevent bladder cancer, which is three times more common in men than women.
17. Improves Metabolism
The calcium and vitamin C in broccoli, together, can boost metabolism. And the fiber in broccoli increases TEF (also called the Thermic Effect of Food, or your metabolic rate after eating). The fiber in broccoli is also responsible for healthy metabolism and maintenance of the major body functions.
18. Helps in Weight Loss
Broccoli is low in calories, and hence can be an ideal addition to a weight loss diet. And yes, broccoli is a good source of fiber – it keeps you full for a long period and discourages binging.
19. Enhances Liver Health
Broccoli has been found to prevent liver cancer and even aid in its treatment. Broccoli sprouts can raise the levels of detoxification enzymes and protect the liver from damage. The vegetable might also prevent liver failure. Eating 4 servings of broccoli a week can do wonders to your liver health. Dietary broccoli has also been found to prevent fatty liver disease, as per another stud.
20. Can Cure Allergies
Research has found that taking broccoli just for 3 days can lead to a 200 percent increase in the production of proteins that generate antioxidants in the nasal cells. And this can help cure allergies.
According to another study, broccoli sprout attenuates nasal allergic response. It also reduces the effects of particulate pollution on allergic disease and asthma. Broccoli is also rich in quercetin and kaempferol, polyphenols known for their anti-allergic immune response. Quercetin is so potent in treating allergies that it is one of the main ingredients in most anti-allergic drugs.
Broccoli can even help treat other allergic (and respiratory) conditions like asthma. The sulforaphane in the veggie triggers the release of antioxidant enzymes in the human airways – this offers protection from the free radicals and other pollutants that we breathe in every day.
21. Are Great During Pregnancy
Proper nutrition is more important during pregnancy than any other period in a woman’s life. And broccoli, being a powerhouse of nutrients, can offer just that. While the calcium in broccoli helps prevent osteoporosis in pregnant women (as they are more prone to the disease during this phase, given their bones are more vulnerable), folate ensures a healthy pregnancy – it eliminates neurological defects in the baby.
And the fiber in broccoli helps prevent gestational diabetes, a disease pregnant women are more often prone to. Supplementation with broccoli sprout also prevents brain injury in the newborn, as per a Canadian study.
22. Balances The Body’s pH Levels
Broccoli, like most vegetables (and fruits), is an alkaline food and helps balance the body’s pH levels.
23. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Broccoli is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which help prevent amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Recent research suggests that intake of diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce or delay the onset of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
24. Protects from UV Rays
Glucoraphanin, a phytonutrient found in significant amounts in broccoli, has been connected with reversing the negative effects of sun exposure. You can turn back the clock on your skin by eating plenty of this beneficial vegetable.
25. Prevents Chronic Diseases
Broccoli contains certain phenolic compounds that help keep chronic diseases at bay. This lowers your chances of suffering from cancer, diabetes, asthma, heart disorders and many other lethal diseases, thereby, decreasing mortality.
26. Anti-inflammatory Properties
Antioxidants like vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, sulforaphane, kaempferol, and many others are present in abundant quantities in broccoli. They make this cruciferous vegetable good for relieving inflammation and reducing your chances of cancer and heart attack.
How to Select and Store Broccoli
Choose broccoli with floret clusters that are compact and not bruised. They should be uniformly colored, either dark green, sage or purple-green, depending upon variety, and with no yellowing. In addition, they should not have any yellow flowers blossoming through, as this is a sign of over maturity. The stalk and stems should be firm with no slimy spots appearing either there or on the florets. If leaves are attached, they should be vibrant in color and not wilted.
At WHFoods, we encourage the purchase of certified organically grown foods, and broccoli is no exception. Repeated research studies show that your likelihood of exposure to contaminants such as pesticides and heavy metals can be greatly reduced through the purchased of certified organic broccoli. In many cases, you may be able to find a local organic grower who sells broccoli but has not applied for formal organic certification either through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or through a state agency. (Examples of states offering state-certified organic foods include California, New York, Oregon, and Vermont and Washington.) However, if you are shopping in a large supermarket, your most reliable source of organically grown broccoli is very likely to be broccoli that displays the USDA organic logo.
To store, place broccoli in a plastic bag, removing as much of the air from the bag as possible. Store in the refrigerator where it will keep for 7 days. Do not wash broccoli before storing because exposure to water encourages spoilage. Partial heads of broccoli should be placed in a well-sealed container or plastic bag and refrigerated.
Here is some background on why we recommend refrigerating broccoli. Whenever food is stored, four basic factors affect its nutrient composition: exposure to air, exposure to light, exposure to heat, and length of time in storage. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, and carotenoids are good examples of nutrients highly susceptible to heat, and for this reason, their loss from food is very likely to be slowed down through refrigeration.
Since some nutrients (for example, vitamin C) can be lost once broccoli has been cut, it is best to use cut broccoli within a couple of days. Broccoli that has been blanched and then frozen can stay up to a year. Leftover cooked broccoli should be placed in tightly covered container and stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for a few days. Broccoli that has been blanched and then frozen can stay up to a year. Leftover cooked broccoli should be placed in tightly covered container and stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for a few days.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking Broccoli
Rinse broccoli under cold running water. Cut florets into quarters for quick and even cooking. Be sure to enjoy the stems and leaves of broccoli; they provide a good balance of flavors. Peel the broccoli stem and cut the stem into 1/2″ slices. To get unique health benefits from broccoli, let it sit for several minutes before cooking.
The Nutrient-Rich Way of Cooking Broccoli
Studies have examined many different ways of cooking broccoli, and from a nutritional standpoint, there appear to be different strengths with different methods. For example, we’ve seen one recent study where 5 minutes of boiling was best for retaining the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin. For retention of the carotenoids lutein and beta-carotene, 5 minutes of boiling also provided good results. In another recent study, microwaving turned out better than steaming for retention of vitamin C and chlorophyll, and interestingly, pressure cooking turned out to be the best of all methods for retention of vitamin C in broccoli.
With respect to the glucosinolates present in broccoli, boiling appears less desirable than steaming. In addition, retention of glucosinolates in broccoli seems best with shorter steaming times. In one study, the different between 1 minute of steaming and 2 minutes of steaming turned out to be a significant difference, with better retention after 1 minute only of steaming. Finally, with respect to total antioxidant capacity (as measured by “FRAP,” which stands for “ferric reducing antioxidant potential” and is a commonly used lab method for measuring antioxidant activity), one recent study has shown 5-10 minutes of steaming to produce the best results. The value of steaming for total antioxidant capacity appears closely related to broccoli’s total phenol content.
As you can see by the research results above, the nutritional impact of various cooking methods for broccoli depends on the specific nutrient in question, and different methods have different strengths in terms of nutrient outcome. At WHFoods, we recommend Quick Steaming as the best cooking method for broccoli. We chose this method because we believe it provides the best possible trade-off between flavor, texture, and nutrition. Studies make it clear that short duration steaming is a great way to preserve total antioxidant capacity and total phenol content. And while other cooking methods may do a better job preserving specific nutrients like quercetin and kaempferol —or even vitamin C—we still like the overall results of steaming best, and believe that some of the nutrient trade-offs are definitely worth making given the superior results in terms of flavor and texture. For most every cooking method, some nutritional trade-offs can be found in the research. At WHFoods, we believe those trade-offs should leave you more delighted with the final results and enjoying these wonderful foods more frequently!
Here are some specific steps you’ll need to take when cooking broccoli. Since the fibrous stems take longer to cook, they can be prepared separately for a few minutes before adding the florets. For quicker cooking, make lengthwise slits in the stems. While people do not generally eat the leaves, they are perfectly edible and contain concentrated amounts of nutrients.
Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a rapid boil prepare broccoli florets and stems. Steam stems for 2 minutes before adding the florets and leaves. Steam for 4 more minutes. Toss with our Mediterranean Dressing and top with your favorite optional ingredients. For details see, 4-Minute Broccoli with Feta Cheese and Kalamata Olives.
In general, we try to avoid the stir-frying of foods in oil due to risk of nutrient damage in the oil from high heat. That being said, we have seen a study of broccoli stir-frying that produced some encouraging results with respect to nutrient retention in the broccoli. (The study did not measure nutrient damage in the oil.) The stir-frying took place for 3-1/2 minutes in a frying pan heated to 248°-284°F (120°-140°C). Approximately two-thirds or more of the nutrients examined (including vitamins, minerals, phenols, and glucosinolates) were retained after stir-frying. Given these results, if you are planning to stir-fry your broccoli, we’d recommend a lower-heat skillet (at approximately 250°F/121°C) and a relatively short stir-frying time of about 3 minutes or less.
Raw Broccoli and Broccoli Sprouts
Both cooked and raw broccoli can make excellent additions to your meal plan. If you enjoy raw broccoli, by all means include it in your diet! There may be some special advantages for your digestive tract when broccoli is eaten in uncooked form. And if you’re concerned about issues involving enzymes and sulfur compounds in broccoli—don’t be! With fresh raw broccoli, simple slicing a few minutes prior to eating or thorough chewing of unsliced pieces will help activate sulfur-metabolizing enzymes. Another form of broccoli you may also want to try in you enjoy raw broccoli is broccoli sprouts. Some of the nutrients found in broccoli—including vitamin C and glucosinolates—are especially concentrated in broccoli sprouts. Remember that all raw broccoli requires more thorough chewing than cooked broccoli, so take your time enjoying the textures and flavors of this amazing vegetable.
Nutrient and Health Benefits of Raw Broccoli
We’ve been especially impressed in the most recent research by the impact of uncooked broccoli—as well as uncooked broccoli sprouts—on the health of the stomach and stomach lining. Many stomach problems have been linked in research studies with overgrowth of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, and also with excessive attachment of this bacterium to the inner stomach lining. Raw broccoli sprouts appear to provide special stomach support with respect to these unwanted overgrowth and over-attachment circumstances. It’s not that steamed broccoli provides no support in this regard, because it does provide support. It’s just that uncooked broccoli and broccoli sprouts may be especially helpful in providing these benefits. We’ve seen several research studies using what’s called “HG broccoli,” or high glucoraphanin broccoli, to investigate genetic activities in the stomach lining cells. Glucoraphanin is one of the glucosinolates found in broccoli that it is clearly a key part of broccoli’s ability to support stomach health. “HG broccoli” is not a commercially marketed form of broccoli that you can find in the grocery store, but ordinary broccoli will still provide you with plenty of glucoraphanin and other health-supportive glucosinolates.
Steamed broccoli is best. It is low in calories too (½ cup contains just about 31 calories). But overcooking should be avoided as it enhances its strong flavor, wipes out the color and leaches the nutrients. Broccoli should be cooked for a short duration until it becomes tender but remains crisp.
Broccoli can be steamed either in a microwave or on a stove top. In case of the former method, place the broccoli florets in a dish and pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of water on the top. Cover the dish and microwave it at a high temperature for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the lid and check if it is tender. Microwave it for an additional minute if required.
For steaming it on the stove top, fill a pot with a few inches of water and place a steamer basket on top, such that the water does not touch the bottom of the steamer basket. Simmer over medium to high heat and add the broccoli florets and stems. Cover the pot and steam for 4 to 5 minutes until they become tender. Steamed broccoli can be enjoyed with olive oil, seasonings, salads, casseroles, and soups.
This is another method to make the broccoli tender. For this purpose, fill a bowl with ice water and bring it next to the stove. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a tablespoon of salt and broccoli florets. Cook for 1 to 1 ½ minutes until the florets turn tender and crisp. Allow the water to boil and cook the stems till they become tender for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Your broccoli is ready and can be served as vegetable platters.
If you want to freeze broccoli, blanching is the way to go about it. Freezing broccoli raw can make it bitter and leave it with shriveled stems. But blanching preserves the bright color and flavor.
Rinse the broccoli properly to ensure that it is completely dry. Heat some oil in a skillet at medium to high heat. Add the florets along with salt and toss to coat with oil. Add the stems after a minute. Continue to cook and stir till the broccoli is bright green and tender.
Your broccoli should be as dry as possible. Heat the oven to 425oF. Coat the broccoli florets and stem with a few tablespoons of oil and half a teaspoon of salt. Make a layer by spreading the broccoli in a thin layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast it for 20 to 25 minutes until it becomes crunchy and shows deep caramelized brown spots. It should be served immediately and can be used as a side dish or pizza topping.
How To Incorporate More Broccoli Into Your Diet
There are multiple ways of cooking and serving broccoli. It can be added to pastas, pizzas, and salads or made into soups to make them more interesting and nutritious.
- Pastas: Steamed broccoli can be added along with nuts to pasta tossed with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Soup: Broccoli can be pureed along with cauliflower and combined with seasonings of your choice to make a delicious soup. Chicken soup can also be prepared by pureeing broccoli and chicken broth with onion sautéed in olive oil.
- Omelet: Broccoli florets and chopped stalks can be added to omelets to make them more nutritious.
- Salad: Toss steamed broccoli with chickpeas, halved grape tomatoes, olive oil, crumbled feta, and red wine vinegar.
- Dip: Steamed broccoli can be pureed with sour cream and grated parmesan and served with raw vegetables.
- Frittata: Chopped garlic and steamed broccoli can be sautéed in olive oil and covered with beaten eggs. It can be sprinkled with grated cheese and baked at 350oF until puffed.
- Broccoli Slaw: This can be prepared by combining chopped raw broccoli with red onion and dressing it with cream, cider vinegar, and honey. Cooked broccoli can be dressed with yogurt, lemon juice, and garam masala.
- Broccoli With Chicken: Broccoli can be tossed with bone-in chicken pieces and whole garlic cloves in olive oil and roasted at 400oF for 35 to 45 minutes.
- Snack: Broccoli can be enjoyed as a snack. Steamed broccoli can be tossed with butter and lemon juice and sprinkled with toasted almond slices.
- Broccoli With Anchovies: Mash a few anchovies and a garlic clove in a mortar and pestle and mix with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. This can be tossed with steamed broccoli.
Quick Serving Ideas Of Broccoli
- Toss pasta with olive oil, pine nuts and steamed broccoli florets. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- 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 omelets.
Popular Broccoli Recipes
1. Broccoli Soup
- 2 tablespoons of butter (along with 3 other separate tablespoons of butter)
- 1 chopped celery stalk
- 1 chopped onion
- 3 cups of chicken broth
- 8 cups of broccoli florets
- 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
- 2 cups of milk
- Ground black pepper to taste
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized pot. Now, sauté the onion and celery until they are tender. To this, add the broccoli and broth and cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Pour the soup into a blender – ensure you fill the pitcher no more than halfway full.
- Start the blender, and use a few quick pulses to get the soup moving before leaving it on to puree.
- Puree the soup in batches until it’s smooth. Pour into a clean pot.
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the flour and add milk.
- Stir until the mixture is thick and bubbly, and then add it to the soup.
- You can season with pepper before serving.
2. Broccoli Smoothie
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of milk (dairy free)
- 1 cup each of broccoli florets and blueberries
- 1 banana
- 1 cup of oats
- 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
- 1/2 cup of raisins
- Blend the dry ingredients and the liquid for a short time.
- Now, blend the fruit and the rest of the ingredients until the mixture is smooth.
3. Peppery broccoli
- Broccoli – 1
- Olive oil – 1 tbsp
- Water – ¼ cup
- Garlic – 1 minced clove
- Red pepper, salt, and ground black pepper – ½ tsp
- Trim the broccoli’s stem, and cut the broccoli into long pieces.
- Add olive oil, water, salt, garlic, and red and ground pepper to a large saucepan.
- Put the saucepan at high heat and bring it to a boil.
- Add the sliced broccoli, and cover the saucepan.
- Turn off the heat after 3 minutes of steaming, and let it sit there for a few more minutes without heat.
4. Creamy broccoli salad
- Feta cheese – ⅓ cup
- Nonfat yogurt – ½ cup
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice – 1 tbsp
- Garlic – 1 minced clove
- Ground pepper – ¼ tsp
- Broccoli crowns – 3 cups
- Chickpeas – 2 cups
- Red bed pepper – ½ cup sliced into tiny pieces
- Trim and chop the broccoli crowns.
- Mix together feta cheese, yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, and pepper in a bowl.
- Add broccoli, chickpeas, and bell pepper.
5. Veggie pizza
- Whole-wheat pizza dough – 1 pound
- Broccoli florets – 2 cups, chopped
- Arugula – 6 cups, chopped
- Water – ¼ cup
- Pesto – ½ cup
- Mozzarella cheese – 1 cup, chopped
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Apply cooking spray to a large baking sheet.
- Start rolling out dough on a surfaced covered with flour.
- Place the dough on the baking sheet.
- Bake the dough until puffed and crisped on the bottom (about 10 minutes).
- Mix broccoli and water in a skillet and cook it at medium heat for about 3 minutes.
- Now add arugula and cook and stir for 2 more minutes.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spread pesto over the dough, add the broccoli mix, and then add the cheese.
- Bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese melts.
6. Broccoli salad with bacon
- Garlic – 1 minced clove
- Low-fat mayo – ⅓ cup
- Low-fat sour cream – ¼ cup
- Vinegar – 2 tsp
- Sugar – ½ tsp
- Broccoli crowns – 4 cups, chopped
- Walnuts – 2 cups, chopped
- Cooked bacon – 3 slices finely chopped
- Dried cranberries – 3 tbsp
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
- Mix together garlic, sugar, mayo, sour cream, and vinegar in a large bowl.
- Add broccoli crowns, walnuts, bacon, dried cranberries, and pepper.
- Stir it up.
7. Roasted broccoli and tomatoes mix
- Broccoli crowns – 4 cups, finely chopped
- Grape tomatoes – 1 cup
- Olive oil – 1 tbsp
- Garlic – 1 minced clove
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice – 1 tbsp
- Salt – ¼ tsp
- Pitted black olives – 10, chopped
- Dried oregano – 1 tsp
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Mix broccoli, tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic until combined.
- Spread the mixture in an even layer on a large baking sheet.
- Bake for 10–15 minutes until you see the broccoli turn brownish.
- Take a separate large bowl, mix lemon juice, olives, oregano, and salt.
- Add the vegetables from the oven to the bowl.
- Stir it up.
8. Broccoli-potato mash
- Potatoes – 1 pound, chopped
- Broccoli crowns – 4 cups, chopped
- Mozzarella cheese – ¾ cup, chopped
- Nonfat milk – ½ cup, heated
- Salt and ground pepper – ½ tsp
- Boil water in a large pot.
- Put potatoes into a steamer basket and steam for about 10 minutes.
- Now add broccoli to potatoes and steam for another 8 minutes.
- Take out the broccoli, and put it into a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher.
- Now add potatoes, cheese, milk, salt, and pepper and continue mashing until smooth.
9. Broccoli and creamy sauce
- Broccoli – 1 pound
- Flour – 1 tbsp
- Nonfat milk – 1 cup
- Parmesan cheese – ½ cup, grated
- Pinch of salt and ground pepper
- Trim off tough layers of broccoli using a vegetable peeler. Cut it lengthwise so that florets are between 1 and 2 inches wide.
- Boil water in a large pot.
- Put the broccoli into a steamer basket and steam for 5–7 minutes.
- Mix together flour and ¼ cup of milk in a small bowl until smooth.
- Put the remaining ¾ cup of milk into a saucepan and heat at medium heat.
- Add the flour mixture, and cook for 2–4 minutes until thick.
- Turn off the heat, add cheese, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with broccoli.
10. Broccoli-cheese pie
- Dry breadcrumbs – 2 tbsp
- Eggs – 4
- Nonfat milk – ¼ cup
- Hot sauce – ½ tsp
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
- Whole-grain bread – 2 slices without crusts
- Broccoli florets – 3 cups
- Olive oil – 2 tsp
- Bacon – 4 slices, diced
- Onion – chopped
- Mozzarella cheese – 1 cup, grated
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Apply cooking spray to a deep-dish pie pan.
- Add breadcrumbs, coating bottom and sides as well.
- Mix together eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
- Add bread and put the mixture into a fridge.
- Put the broccoli into a steamer basket and steam for 3–4 minutes.
- Put the steamed broccoli under cold water and drain well.
- Chop the broccoli finely.
- Heat olive oil on a nonstick skillet at medium heat.
- Put bacon and onion into the skillet and stir it up until golden and soft (about 5 minutes).
- Mix the broccoli, onion, and egg mixture together and add cheese.
- Now pour the combined mixture into the pan and let it spread evenly.
- Bake the mixture until light golden for about 50 minutes.
- Let it cool before serving.
Where To Buy Broccoli Sprouts?
You can get broccoli from your nearest supermarket. You can also buy broccoli online at Instacart or Amazon. We saw all that is good and glorious about broccoli. But not everything is so about it. Like any food, broccoli also has its share of side effects.
How Broccoli Grows
Summer harvest: You should plant broccoli seeds indoors six weeks before the last spring frost and transplant the seedlings that are about a month old to the garden.
If you prefer nursery beds, plant broccoli seeds directly into them, and then transplant the seedlings to the garden.
Fall harvest: You should plant broccoli seeds indoors twelve to fourteen weeks before the first fall frost, and transplant the seedlings when they are a month or a month and a half old.
- Broccoli requires lots of nutrition and care, which is why it should only be planted in soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
- It’s best to select sunny sites with well-drained soil to get the most out of broccoli plants.
- Before planting your broccoli, loosen the soil by mixing at least an inch of mature compost.
- If you’re certain your soil is highly fertile, mix in a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer.
- Before you transplant the seedlings, water the planting bed and allow about nineteen inches between the plants.
- Broccoli can be grown pretty much all around the world, but it’s best suited for a moderately continental climate with a temperature of about 73–77 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity.
Broccoli is usually well tolerated, and allergy is rare.
Broccoli is considered a goitrogen, which means that high amounts may have harmful effects on the thyroid gland in sensitive individuals Cooking (high heat) can alleviate these effects.
Individuals who are on the drug warfarin (blood thinner) should consult with a doctor before increasing their broccoli consumption, because the high amount of vitamin K may interact with the medication.
Applying broccoli to the skin can cause rashes in hypersensitive people. Stop its use if you notice any such effects.
Broccoli (and other cruciferous veggies) are said to contain goitrogens that can interfere with thyroid functioning. If you are on thyroid medication, the vegetable can interfere with its absorption. Hence, avoid its use in such a case.
Effects During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
In normal amounts, it is safe. But we don’t know what happens if broccoli is taken in excess. Hence, limit your intake.
Since it contains fiber, overeating broccoli can upset your stomach.