Broccoli is something of an enigma when it comes to the general public’s views on it. Some love it; some despise it. Most children avoid it at all costs, but they often change their minds about it as they get older. Whatever you think about broccoli, there is no doubt that it is a fully fledged member of the superfoods club.
Whether you eat it raw on salads or steamed with fish, broccoli delivers a heavy dose of essential vitamins and minerals. Tasty, versatile and easy to prepare, it is one of the most nutrient-rich vegetables around. Still not convinced? It might be time to learn more about the benefits of broccoli, and how to get the best out of it in the kitchen.
The health benefits of broccoli
Apart from adding a beautiful splash of colour to your plate, broccoli delivers a large dose of essential vitamins and nutrients. As well as being a rich source of vitamin C, broccoli is packed with calcium and fibre. Just five florets contains 54mg of vitamin C, two grams of fibre and 33mg of calcium. Other nutrients found in abundance in broccoli include vitamins A and K, beta-carotene, folate and various antioxidants.
According to the NHS, eating non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli on a regular basis reduces the risk of certain cancers, including those of the stomach, mouth, throat and intestine. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that eating broccoli regularly can play a role in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
But it doesn’t end there, as the combination of nutrients in broccoli also aids good digestion, milk production for lactating mothers, bone strength and protection from gene mutations. There is also a surprising amount of protein in broccoli — around 2.8g in every 100g.
Sourcing the perfect broccoli
Broccoli can be used in a wide range of dishes and cooking styles, but it needs to be of the highest quality if it’s going to deliver on flavour and health benefits. You should therefore search for bright green florets that have rigid stalks, firm stems, tight buds and brittle leaves.
TIP: Look for broccoli with a moist cut-end, as this is often an indication of freshness.
You have the option of buying a full broccoli or a broccoli crown. While the stems are tasty and nutritious, they have a tough outer layer that is sometimes difficult to cook. If you’re working on a recipe that includes florets, stick to a crown or buy them prepped.
A few interesting facts about broccoli
- Broccoli was introduced to Americans by Thomas Jefferson
- Other members of the broccoli family include broccoflower and broccolini
- More than 8 million tons of broccoli are produced in China every year
- The word “broccoli” is taken from the Latin word for “arm”
- Broccoli that isn’t harvested will eventually blossom into a bunch of yellow flowers
- Before broccoli was given its name, it was referred to as Italian asparagus
There are several ways to prepare broccoli, including simply boiling or steaming it — the peppery flavours that broccoli possesses means seasoning isn’t always necessary. If you want to be more adventurous, however, roast your broccoli with olive oil, garlic and a few of your favourite spices. This highly versatile vegetable is also perfect for shallow frying.
If you’re serving broccoli alongside a dip, make sure you boil it for two to three minutes first, before chilling it in iced water. Or simply boil up some florets, throw them into a blender with some cream, black pepper, salt and cheddar cheese to create a decadent, luxurious soup.
By eating more broccoli on a regular basis, you can drastically increase your consumption of essential vitamins and minerals.