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Veggie of the Month: Broccoli

Posted Thursday, November 04, 2010

Originally cultivated in Italy, broccoli's name is derived from the Latin word brachium, which means branch or arm.  Broccoli, or broccolo in Italian, is a member of the cabbage family and is closely related to cauliflower.  

Because of its different components, broccoli provides a complex of tastes and textures, ranging from soft and flowery (the florets) to fibrous and crunchy (the stem and stalk). Its color can range from deep sage to dark green and purplish-green, depending upon the variety. 

Besides having a cool name, this green, tree-like veggie is fantastically healthy. For example, broccoli is an excellent source of:

  • Immune-supportive vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc
  • Anti-inflammatory vitamin K and omega-3-fatty acids
  • Free-radical-scavenging vitamin A
  • Heart-healthy folate
  • Digestive-health-supporting fiber
  • Energy-producing iron and vitamins B1,B2, B3, B5 and B6
  • Bone-healthy calcium
  • Enzyme-activating manganese
  • Muscular-system-supporting potassium
  • Protein, magnesium and phosphorus

Broccoli & Cancer Prevention: Eat 4 Cups a Week to Fight Cancer

Broccoli, which has been the subject of more than 300 research studies, is chalked full of anti-cancer nutrients that help to balance problems within the body that contribute to cancer.  Examples of these nutrients include:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids and a phytonutrient called kaempferaol for chronic inflammation;
  2. Vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, and carotenoids for oxidative stress; and
  3. Phytonutrients called glucosinolates, which help with inadequate detoxification.

The unique combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-detoxification components in broccoli make it a unique food in terms of cancer prevention.

The research is strongest in showing decreased risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer and ovarian cancer.

Recent studies have also provided us with a much better idea about the amount of broccoli that we need to lower our cancer risk. At the lower end of the spectrum, it looks like an average of 1/2 cup of broccoli per day-only 22 calories worth of broccoli -is enough to provide some measurable benefits. Few people have broccoli on a daily basis, but a 2-cup serving twice a week would still meet this minimum average amount.

Ready to start eating more broccoli?  Here are some quick tips on how to prepare and cook broccoli.

Tips for Preparing 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 flavours
  • 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 Healthiest Way of Cooking Broccoli

  • Steam: We recommend steaming broccoli for maximum nutrition and flavour. 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 5 more minutes. Toss with our Mediterranean Dressing and top with your favourite optional ingredients.
  • Stir-Frying:  We have seen a study on broccoli stir-frying that produced some fairly encouraging results with respect to nutrient retention. 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:  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 if you enjoy raw broccoli is broccoli sprouts. Some of the nutrients found in broccoli, like vitamin C, 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.