Often referred to as a ‘superfood’ , Broccoli really does live up to the title, thanks to its mixture of high nutritional benefits and cholesterol-lowering properties.
Cooked properly (i.e. not over-cooked and mushy), it tastes great, with studies indicating that even children don’t mind eating their greens when it comes to this one. Below we’ve put together some information and recipes for you, to help you get the most from this vibrant veg!
WHAT IS A SUPERFOOD?
A ‘superfood’ is a nutrient-rich food that’s considered beneficial for health and well-being. These foods are mostly plant-based, but can occasionally include fish and dairy.
WE ARE FAMILY
For the gardeners and pedants amongst us, a bit of information before we get going! Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable. It’s a member of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes Arugula, Bok choy, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower and Collard Greens.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I EAT BROCCOLI?
At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy broccoli and other vegetables from the cruciferous vegetable group 4-5 times per week, and increase your serving size to 2 cups.
NUTRITIONAL CONTENT/HEALTH BENEFITS
Before we forget, it’s important to mention that the stem of the broccoli, which is often over-looked, is the most nutritious part. Cook it along with the rest of the veg, and then either eat the whole thing, or at least the softer ‘inside’ of the stem – it’s delicious.
Now for the science bit:
It’s a cancer-fighter: Eating a high amount of cruciferous vegetables is a possible way to lower cancer risks, especially in the case of colon or lung cancer. Studies have suggested that sulforaphane, (the sulfur-containing compound that gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter bite), is also what gives them their cancer-fighting power.
There are cholesterol-lowering benefits: when you steam the veg, the fibrous components in broccoli bind together better with the bile acids in the human digestive tract. When this happens, bile acids can be excreted more easily, with a resultant lowering of cholesterol levels. Raw broccoli still has cholesterol-lowering capabilities, but in reduced amounts.
It’s a detox mechanism: Thanks to its combination of glucosinolate phytonutrients, broccoli can support the body’s activation, neutralization and elimination processes.
It can help with Vitamin D deficiency: Broccoli contains an unusually strong combination of vitamins A and K. For people faced with the need to rebuild vitamin D stores through vitamin D supplements, broccoli may be an ideal food to include in the diet.
It has anti-inflammatory benefits: Ever heard of kaempferol? No – us neither, but on digging out more information, it’s been shown to lessen the impact of allergy-related substances on the body. Broccoli is a great source of kaempferol – good news for all!
It’s vitamin-rich: Just one cup of broccoli provides over 100% of your daily need for vitamin C and vitamin K, and is also a good source of vitamin A, folate and potassium.
Calories: 100g of broccoli contains just 34 calories
Raw: Great for snacking on if you’re being super-healthy, or if you’re caught hungry inbetween meals.
Steam: The best way to preserve the nutritional content of any vegetable, is to steam. Steamers are cheap and extremely easy to use – you can cook an entire meal inside of one (great for saving on dishes too). All the nutritional content stays inside your vegetables and doesn’t get lost in the water as it does when you boil a vegetable. Steam for 5 – 7 minutes max.
Stir-fry: Throw a few broccoli florets into a stir-fry. Whether it’s al-dente (‘to the bite’), or cooked right through, it will add textural interest to the dish. Why not try broccoli and peppers, stir fried with a bit of onion and hoi-sin sauce – delicious!
Boil: You can boil this veg, but only for around 4 – 5 minutes so be careful not to over-do it. Soggy broccoli doesn’t make for an appetising side dish!
Smoothie: This takes experimentation, but is worth it. Balance out the ‘bitter’ side to the broccoli with sweet fruits. Use only the florets and not the stalk. And you must use a high-speed powerful blender, as cheaper less-powerful models cannot adequately blend/mix the florets. Try recipes from this site
Leftovers: It’s great fried up in a small touch of olive or coconut oil. Or mash up with cooked potato and use in bubble and squeak.
Soup: Broccoli soup on its own is amazing. Either on its own, or mixed with a tasty cheese like stilton, there are tons of recipes on the internet. Below is one of our favourites:
EASY BROCCOLI SOUP
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
250ml/8¾fl oz chicken or vegetable stock (more if necessary)
200g/7oz broccoli florets
salt and freshly ground black pepper
drizzle cream, to serve
Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic for 1-2 minutes.
Pour the chicken or vegetable stock into the pan and add the broccoli florets.
Bring to the boil and reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the broccoli is tender.
Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a liquidizer. Blend until smooth.
Ladle the soup into serving bowls and drizzle with cream to serve.