‘B’ is for Broccoli and for blissful health. This popular vegetable has a wide variety of nutritional and medicinal benefits, including its ability to prevent many types of cancer, improve our digestive system, lower cholesterol, detoxify the body, maximize vitamin and mineral uptake, prevent allergic reactions, boost the immune system, protect the skin, prevent birth defects, lower blood pressure, eliminate inflammation, and improve vision and ocular health.
Introduction to Broccoli
This green vegetable, which occasionally has some purple tinges, is a close relative of cabbage and cauliflower, and belongs to the Italica Cultivar group of Brassicaceae family. The most commonly eaten parts of broccoli are the flowering heads, which are shaped like a tree, coming off a thick, central, edible stalk.There are three main varieties which are popular in different parts of the world. Calabrese broccoli is the most common, and is typically simply shortened to “broccoli”, while sprouting broccoli and purple cauliflower are two other varieties of broccoli mostly found in Europe and the Mediterranean countries.
It is actually native to that region as well, and has been a part of cultural history dating back to the 6th Century BC. It was eventually spread throughout Europe and was widely cultivated. It didn’t make a significant appearance in the Americas until the early 20th century. The largest cultivator of broccoli in the world is now China, followed closely by India, but the main consumers remain western nations. Broccoli is very common all over the world, particularly in Europe, America, and Australia, but not as much in Africa. It can also be found in some South Asian cuisines like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Brocoli can be eaten cooked or raw, but the best ways are to steam them, shallow fry them, or eat them raw as salad greens, because that preserves the nutrients contained in them. Some ways of cooking this vegetable enhances certain health benefits, such as the increased cholesterol-lowering properties that are gained when broccoli has been steamed. Let’s take a look at some of the nutritional assets contained in broccoli that make it such an important part of our diet!
Nutritional Facts of Broccoli
The health benefits of broccoli are derived from the unique mixture of nutrients, organic compounds, minerals, and vitamins that are found in broccoli. These include significant amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, dietary fiber, folate, potassium, selenium, vitamin A, manganese, tryptophan, vitamin B6, and phosphorus. In terms of unique organic compounds, broccoli is a rich source of phytonutrient glucosinolates, flavonoids, and various other antioxidant compounds that boost our health in a major way!
Health Benefits of Broccoli
Cancer: Broccoli may prove to be a natural wonder drug for many types of cancer, including breast cancer, cancer of the uterus, prostate cancer, and cancers of various internal organs like the lungs, colon, liver, kidneys, and the intestines. That being said, it is particularly beneficial for breast cancer and uterine cancer, since it removes extra estrogen from the body. This is due to the presence of strong anti-carcinogenic compounds like glucoraphanin, diindolylmethane, beta-carotene, selenium and other nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E, zinc, potassium and certain amino acids, which are also good anti-cancer agents.
Detoxification: The presence of vitamin-C, sulphur and certain amino acids make broccoli a very good detoxifier. Broccoli helps to remove free radicals and toxins like uric acid from the body, thereby purifying the blood and keeping away problems related to toxins such as boils, itches, rashes, gout, arthritis, rheumatism, renal calculi, skin diseases like eczema and hardening of the skin.
Skin Care: The credit for keeping your skin glowing and young goes to expert 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 & K, omega 3 fatty acids (adds glamor), amino acids and folate present in the broccoli. They all help to take very good care of your skin and leave it glowing, healthy, and radiant. Furthermore, glucoraphanin, one of the phytonutrients found in significant amounts in broccoli, has been connected with reversing the negative effects of sun exposure, so you can turn back the clock on your skin by eating plenty of this beneficial vegetable!
Stomach Disorders: Broccoli is very rich in fiber or roughage, the primary dietary ingredient that can cure almost all stomach disorders by curing constipation, since constipation is the root of almost all the stomach disorders. The fiber adds to the bulkiness of the food, retains water and forms healthy bowel movements. The magnesium and the vitamins present in the broccoli also cure acidity, facilitate proper digestion and absorption of nutrients from the food and soothe the stomach by reducing inflammation.
Heart Diseases: Apart from the antioxidants mentioned above, broccoli has a very high fiber content, along with significant levels of beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids and other vitamins that help reduce bad cholesterol and keep the heart functioning properly by regulating blood-pressure. When you steam broccoli, 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.
Eye Care & Cataracts: Zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, vitamin A, phosphorus and other vitamins such as B complex, C and E found in broccoli are very good for ocular health. These substances protect eyes against macular degeneration and cataracts, while also repairing damage done from by radiation.
Immunity: The substances responsible for the green and purple color of broccoli are vitamin C, beta-carotene and other vitamins and minerals, particularly selenium, copper, zinc, phosphorus. There compounds are present in broccoli and are really great immune system strengtheners that can protect you from numerous infections.
Bone Health: Being very rich in calcium (present by 47 mg. per 100 grams) and other nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and phosphorus, eating broccoli can be very beneficial, particularly for children, old people, pregnant women or lactating mothers. That’s because these are the people most prone to osteoporosis, weakening of bones and teeth, and calcium deficiency.
Pregnancy: Since broccoli is so nutritious and is full of nutrients essential for pregnant women, such as proteins, calcium, vitamins, antioxidants, detoxifiers, iron, phosphorus and others, it is an ideal component of any diet for them. Being rich in fiber, this will also eliminate constipation, which is very common during pregnancy. Furthermore, the folate content in broccoli ensures that there are no birth defects, such as neural tube defects, which are a major problem for pregnant mothers who have a folic acid deficiency in their diet.
High Blood Pressure: An important mineral, chromium, found abundantly in broccoli, helps in the proper functioning of insulin and regulates blood sugar, thereby regulating blood pressure as well. Vitamins, which make all our systems function properly and are found in abundance in broccoli, along with fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, help regulate blood pressure even more, so pop some broccoli into your diet for some real heart health protection!
Anemia: 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, rich with oxygen to keep your systems functioning at a high level. Copper is also found in broccoli which is another essential mineral in the production of red blood cells, along with iron.
A Few Words of Caution: Although broccoli clearly has a wealth of health benefits associated with it, there is always room for caution. In some people, contact with broccoli can cause an allergic rash, as some of the powerful compounds in the vegetable can be irritating to the skin. Other than that, eat broccoli in moderation, according to proper serving guidelines, and you can start enjoying the health benefits right away!