Broccoli's Italian Roots
Broccoli has been around for more than 2000 years, but Americans have grown it in their gardens for only about 200 years.
Broccoli has its roots in Italy. In ancient Roman times, it was developed from wild cabbage, a plant that more resembles collards than broccoli. Broccoli was introduced to the United States in colonial times, popularized by Italian immigrants who brought this prized vegetable with them to the New World.
Broccoli is a vegetable very much like spinach. Often people will tend to overcook it, and they end up with a very shriveled up, soft and unpleasant tasting vegetable. When cooked properly, broccoli is a crisp and sweet healthy vegetable.
- Broccoli is the superhero of the vegetable kingdom with its rich vitamin A content.
- Though a bit on the bitter side, broccoli leaves are edible and contain generous amounts of vitamin A.
- Broccoli that has been cooked still has 15 percent more vitamin C than an orange and as much calcium as milk.
- Frozen broccoli has twice as much sodium as fresh (up to 68 mg per 10 oz. package), about half the calcium, and smaller amounts of iron, thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin C.
- Folic acid is also abundant with one-half cup cooked registering 39 mcg and raw 31.2 mcg.
- Broccoli offers 71.8 mg of calcium for a whole cup of cooked, as much calcium as 4 oz. of milk.
- One cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange -- a cup of broccoli actually fulfills your daily vitamin C requirement.
- Broccoli (1 cup chopped) contains 90 percent RDA of vitamin A, 200 percent of vitamin C, 6 percent of niacin, 10 percent of calcium, 10 percent of thiamin, 10 percent of phosphorus and 8 percent of iron.
- Broccoli provides 25 percent of your fiber needs and to top it off, five grams of protein.
- Broccoli contains only 22 calories for one-half cup chopped and boiled and 12 calories for one-half cup raw.
- Across the nutrition scale, broccoli contains all the nutrients mentioned above in addition to vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
Broccoli too Bitter?
New research from two studies suggests that some people have a stronger aversion to bitter foods than others. A gene variat labeled TAS2R38 is to blame. In people with this gene variant, bitter compounds bind more tightly to taste buds. Instead of passing on broccoli or other bitter vegetables, roast them to bring out their natural sweetness. Add a bit of salt and oil, which blocks bitter receptors on the tongue.
Broccoli vs. Cancer
The green pigment in broccoli makes it a potent disease-fighter. Substances called isothiocyanates, found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, stimulate our bodies to break down potential carcinogens. Plus, ounce for ounce, broccoli contains as much calcium as milk. Vegetables in the crucifer family range widely in color, shape and flavor, from squat purple turnips to lanky, leafy nappa cabbage. Most crucifers are strong-flavored and require an assertive seasoning to bring out their best.
When purchasing broccoli, select ones where the stalks are tight and firm. The buds should be tightly closed and the leaves are crisp and very green. Also note that if the broccoli tends to have a very strong smell or if the leaves have a slightly yellow color, it can often suggest that it is old. Try and avoid broccoli where the buds are yellow in color. When purchasing broccoli, keep in mind that good color indicates high nutrient value. Avoid ALL broccoli with open, flowering, discolored, or water-soaked bud clusters and tough, woody stems.
With broccoli, it is best to store them in a plastic bag and then place them in the refrigerator. Do not rinse or wash the broccoli when storing. Of course, as with most vegetables, broccoli should be eaten as soon as possible to retain the freshness and nutrition.
To clean broccoli, simply rinse the broccoli with cold water but do not soak. Soaking the broccoli can cause it to lose some of its nutrients. Next trim the base of the stem. If you find the stem is quite tough, try removing the outer layer of the stem. Though most of the time, once the broccoli is cooked the stem is already tender.
Cooked broccoli should be tender enough so that it can be pierced with a sharp knife, and still remain crisp and bright green in color.
To eliminate the smell of broccoli, add a slice of bread to the pot.
Steaming Broccoli: The Best Choice
A study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture investigated the effects of various methods of cooking broccoli. Of all the methods of preparation, steaming caused the least loss of nutrients.
Boiling for typical time periods caused a loss of 56 percent of the folate in broccoli, and 51 percent of the folate in spinach, while boiling potatoes caused only minimal folate loss. Steaming spinach or broccoli, in contrast, caused no significant loss of folate.
Steamed Broccoli Florets
Freshly steamed broccoli florets are delicious as a side dish, especially when tossed with a unique dressing. For broccoli with a Mediterranean flair, combine 1/2 cup vinaigrette dressing, 1 tablespoon chopped sun-dried tomatoes and 1 tablespoon pitted kalamata olives; toss gently with the broccoli.
Microwaving broccoli resulted in a loss of 97, 74 and 87 percent of its three major antioxidant compounds - flavonoids, sinapics and caffeoyl-quinic derivatives. In comparison, steaming broccoli resulted in a loss of only 11, 0 and 8 percent, respectively, of the same antioxidants.
You probably do not need any convincing that broccoli, the classic "good for you" vegetable, is a healthy choice, so if you can, place an increased emphasis on dark green vegetables like broccoli and leafy greens such as spinach and kale.
Stir-fried Broccoli Recipe
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
1 clove of minced garlic
1 small onion - sliced
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 pound broccoli, washed and prepared
2 tablespoons water
Heat oil in saucepan or wok. Add sliced onions to wok. After a few minutes add the garlic. Mix for about one minute.
Add broccoli, 2 tablespoons water and cover. Cook over low to medium heat for about three minutes or until desired crispness and tenderness. Add oyster sauce, mix well and serve.
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