Broccoli basically belongs to the family of green leafy vegetables like cabbage, spinach and Brussels sprouts whose stalks and large flower heads are edible. The plant grows up to a height of around 1 ½ to 2 ½ feet and somewhat resembles a cauliflower. The large flower heads are arranged in a tree like manner on branches sprouting from a thick stalk and are generally green in color, often with a purple tinge.
This plant is native to the Mediterranean where it was derived from the careful breeding of cultivated leafy cole crops. Its name broccoli has been derived from the Italian word Brocco and the Latin word braccium meaning arm, branch or shoot. Broccoli is related to the vegetables like cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. In England, it is also referred to as Italian Brussel Sprouts. It can be eaten raw or cooked but the raw ones have a higher content of vitamins and nutrients. The flower and stalks are edible whereas the leaves, being bitter in taste, are discarded. Other varieties of broccoli include broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauliflower and broccoli or baby broccoli, a cross between broccoli and kale. Today, it is a popular vegetable in the United States and is used in a variety of cuisines.
Benefits Of Broccoli
Broccoli Benefits: Skin
Like other green veggies, broccoli can do wonders for your skin because of the presence of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Thus, it is beneficial to our skin in many ways.
1. Maintains Skin Health:
Broccoli is rich in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. Vitamin C stimulates collagen production, thus keeping your skin healthy whereas vitamin A protects your skin cell membranes and prevents ultraviolet radiation damage.
2. Promotes Skin Regeneration and Repair:
Broccoli contains a substance called glucoraphanin which gets converted into sulforaphane resulting in healthy skin and repairing of skin damage. Thus, eating broccoli renews your skin more quickly and gives your complexion a beautiful natural glow.
3. Anti-Ageing Benefits:
As you know, vitamin C has antioxidant properties that fight the free radicals, thus preventing them from causing damage to the skin. Free radicals are responsible for causing skin problems and accelerating skin ageing. By eliminating free radicals, vitamin C prevents skin ageing, thereby reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and pigmentation. Eating broccoli is beneficial in this regard. Besides, it contains beta carotene, vitamin E and vitamin B complex that impart natural glow and keep your skin young.
4. Best Sunscreen:
This cruciferous veggie is more effective than sunscreen in protecting your skin from UV radiation. This is due to the fact that sunscreen absorbs UV radiation and prevents it from penetrating the skin whereas broccoli extract when applied topically gets directly absorbed into the cells of the skin by producing a matrix of protective enzymes that defend against damage from UV exposure. This can be attributed to the presence of a chemical substance called sulforaphane which reduces skin redness and inflammation caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Thus, it is far better than conventional sunscreens.
5. Protection from Skin Cancer:
Repeated sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer. As stated earlier, sulforaphane in broccoli provides protection against UV radiation by controlling the redness medically known as erythema. In this way, it significantly reduces the risk of skin cancer.
6. Improves Skin Immune System:
Vitamin C, beta-carotene and other vitamins and minerals such as selenium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus present in dark green vegetables like broccoli can greatly improve your skin immune system, thus protecting you from various skin infections. Vitamins A and K, omega-3 fatty acids, amino acids and folate, on the other hand, add glamour and shine to your skin.
[ Read: Benefits of Cardamom ]
Broccoli Benefits: Hair
As you know, healthy hair requires certain vital nutrients like Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B5, vitamin B12, iron, niacin, zinc, sulfur, silica and germanium to be delivered to the hair follicles. Dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli are super food for hair and their consumption strengthens the hair at the roots. Some of the benefits of broccoli for hair are as follows.
7. Promotes Hair Growth:
Broccoli contains vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium which promote hair growth. Vitamins A and C stimulate the production of sebum, an oil based secretion that acts as a natural moisturizer and conditioner for scalp and hair whereas calcium strengthens the hair follicles.
8. Strengthens the Hair Follicles:
Broccoli seed oil extracted from the seeds of broccoli is particularly beneficial for hair and skin. This natural oil is packed with hair-nourishing vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin B6 that make your hair strong and silky smooth, while eliminating hair frizz.
9. Combats Hair Loss:
The antioxidants in broccoli seed oil, particularly vitamin C prevent hair loss by eliminating the free radicals, thus contributing to healthier and thicker hair. B vitamins such as vitamin B6 help in reducing stress, a factor that can contribute to hair loss. These vitamins support mental and physical health which in turn supports a healthy hair system. In addition to these, broccoli contains a powerful substance that can inhibit dihydrotesterone or DHT which is closely related to hair loss and thinning.
10. Imparts Luster and Sheen:
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 residue of harmful detergents or chemicals in your hair follicles. Thus, it has an advantage over commercial shampoos and conditioners in this respect.
[ Read: Strawberry Fruit ]
Broccoli Benefits: Health
The health benefits of broccoli cannot be ignored. In addition to the skin and hair benefits here are the broccoli health benefits!
11. Cancer prevention:
Researchers have proven that broccoli can prevent cancer. Broccoli has certain properties that can remove estrogens that cause cancer from the body. It has anti carcinogenic properties that prevents cancer. Broccoli is highly suitable to prevent breast and uterus cancer.
12. Highly nutritious food:
Broccoli is a good source of nutrients like fiber, vitamin c, vitamin a, beta carotene etc. Broccoli is also rich in minerals and contains potassium, magnesium, manganese which are necessary for a healthy body. When it is consumed by pregnant women, it provides them with nutrients and prevents the problem of constipation. A cup of broccoli also boosts the immunity system
13. Skin re-generator:
Broccoli contains glucoraphanin that can regenerate the skin when the skin is prone to sun damage. It also contains beta carotene, vitamin E, vitamin B complex that helps the skin by giving it a glow and keeping the skin young.
14. Broccoli for a healthy heart:
Broccoli health benefits include it being good for the heart. It contains fibres, fatty acids and vitamins that regulate the blood pressure in the body and reduces bad cholesterol. Broccoli can protect the blood vessels from damages and regulate blood pressure that can prevent heart attack and stroke.
15. Healthy nervous system:
Potassium is essential to maintain a healthy nervous system. There is high amount of potassium in broccoli that provides health to the nervous system and also helps proper functioning of brain.
16. Great source of fibre:
Broccoli nutritional benefits are many and one of them its its capability to aid in dieting. It is a great source of fibre, and is one of the perfect vegetable that will aid in weight loss. It contains both soluble and insoluble fibres that prevents constipation and maintains blood sugar. A cup of broccoli contains the essential amount of protein need for a healthy diet.
17. Healthy vision:
Broccoli can provide eye health as it contains vitamin A which helps the retina to absorb light and provide proper vision. Broccoli also contains cancer prevention properties that prevents cataract which is an age related health problem.
18. Regulates blood pressure:
Broccoli is rich in fibre, magnesium, calcium, potassium and omega 3 fatty acids which reduces the blood cholesterol level. In addition to this, broccoli allows the blood to flow through the blood vessels in a proper manner that reduces blood pressure.
This is the process of eliminating the toxic and wastes from the body. Ffew vegetables and fruits have this property, broccoli is one among them. Broccoli contains glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiin and glucobrassicin which are special nutrients that help to detoxify the waste components from the body.
20. Healthy bones:
Broccoli is a good source of calcium and can provide calcium that is needed for a person more than dairy products can. It also helps in preventing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is very common in women during pregnancy or after pregnancy due to lack of calcium. In order to prevent this, they consume tablets or calcium supplements but the natural way to prevent the deficiency of calcium is to consume broccoli regularly.
21. Prevents Anaemia:
Healthy hair is a part of a healthy body and hair problems can be attributed to nutritional deficiencies. Anaemia, caused by the lack of iron, is one of the common causes of hair loss. Broccoli contains iron and folic acid that help in preventing anaemia.
[ Read: List of Citrus Fruits ]
How to Select and Store?
Selection: Broccoli is available all the year round in supermarkets so it is important to ensure that the variety you are buying is fresh. While purchasing broccoli, ensure that the floret clusters are compact with firm stalks and healthy leaves. Look for strong uniformly colored buds which are dark green, sage or purple green depending upon the variety with no sign of yellowing or bruises. Yellowing florets or woody stalks with holes at the base or open bud clusters indicate that the vegetable is not fresh and hence should be avoided. The stems and florets should be devoid of slimy spots and the leaves, if attached, should be vibrant in color and not wilted. There should be no yellow flowers blossoming from the vegetable as it is a sign of over maturity.
Storage: Broccoli should be kept unwashed in a plastic bag, removing as much air from the bag as possible. It should be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Do not wash it before storing as it might get spoilt due to exposure to water. Where whole broccoli has not been used, partial heads should be kept in a well-sealed container or plastic bag and refrigerated as it starts losing vitamin C quickly once it has been cut. Thus, it is advisable to use it within a few days. Blanched broccoli can be frozen and refrigerated for up to a year. Cooked broccoli should be kept in a tightly covered container and stored in a refrigerator for a few days.
Tips for Usage (Cooking/Eating)
Broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables and versatile as well which can be eaten in both cooked and raw form. Raw broccoli contains more sulforaphane than the cooked one and be a suitable addition to salads. Whether eaten raw or cooked, this vegetable provides your body with a plethora of nutrients and vitamins that protect you from various diseases.
Cooking: Before proceeding to cook broccoli, it should be washed and rinsed in cold running water. Cut the florets into quarters for uniform cooking. The stems and florets are the edible portions. So the stem should be peeled and cut into slices. To obtain the maximum nutrition from broccoli, it is advisable to let it sit for a few minutes before cooking. Broccoli can be cooked in many ways and can easily form part of many recipes to increase their nutrition quotient. Given below are some of the methods of cooking broccoli.
Steaming: Broccoli is best when it is steamed. 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 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 additional 1 minute if required.
For steaming it on the stove top, fill a pot with 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 tender. Steamed broccoli can be enjoyed with olive oil and seasonings, salads, casseroles and soups.
Blanching: 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 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.
Sautéing: 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.
Roasting: Your broccoli should be as dry as possible. Heat the oven at a temperature of 425F. Coat the broccoli florets and stem with a few tablespoons of oil and half 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.
Eating: 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 as well as 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. A chicken soup can also be prepared by pureeing broccoli and chicken broth with onion sautéed in olive oil.
- Omelette: Broccoli florets and chopped stalks can be added to omelettes to make them more nutritious.
- Salad: Broccoli salad can be prepared by tossing 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 350F 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 400 F for 35 to 45 minutes until cooked.
- 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.
This crunchy and crispy vegetable is extremely nutritious with proven health benefits both in raw and cooked form. Thus, you can make a healthy choice by adding it to your diet.
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