Enjoy Health Benefits of Broccoli, Freshly Picked.

Do you know the benefits of broccoli? There’s something about this green cruciferous vegetable’s appearance that makes it look oh-so-healthy. But how easy is it to get your children to eat it? And is it really as healthy as they say?

Low in calories, broccoli is one of the cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, cabbage and cauliflower, well known for their phytochemical content. It grows best in the Winter and Spring in Australia. In the tropics it is suited to cooler, high altitude areas such as the Atherton Tablelands and further inland, where diurnal temperatures have a wider range than on the steamy coast.

Note that, if you suffer from a thyroid condition, which, for a very few people, may be caused by a nutritional deficiency (eg they cannot absorb iodine and selenium), you may be wise to limit the amount of raw cruciferous vegetables that you eat - check with your doctor. For most of us, though, it's 'full steam ahead', with an emphasis on very light steaming of two or three minutes only!

Broccoli head, rawHead of broccoli showing edible stems and dark green flowers

Benefits of Broccoli - Broccoli Nutrition

  • Antioxidants: Very high in Vitamin C, broccoli also contains Vitamin K 1 (which helps the absorption of Vitamin D), Vitamin A (beta carotene), Vitamin E and various B Vitamins.

  • Minerals in broccoli include calcium, chromium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, copper and iron.

  • It is high in fibre, both soluble and insoluble and helps to reduce cholesterol levels (when cooked) and aid digestion. Heart disease can be improved by a diet which includes broccoli several times a week, as can skin and eye health.

  • Interestingly, specific glucosinolate compounds in broccoli help to detoxify contaminants (useful in these days of chemical pollutants – but somewhat negated unless the broccoli is grown organically!).

  • Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties as well as those that counter oxidative stress, make the health benefits of broccoli even more attractive as these three processes, apparently, are implicated in the development of some cancers. A small amount of Omega 3 fats (ALA) in broccoli also contributes to its anti-inflammatory benefits.

How to eat broccoli

Buy organic broccoli as fresh picked as possible – or grow it yourself. If you can’t get hold of an organic product make sure to wash it well under running water to remove any pesticide residues.

Steaming or boiling/simmering lightly (2 – 5 minutes) will preserve nutrients or you could chop it into small pieces and use raw in a salad (or juice it). I frequently use broccoli in vegetable stir-fries, adding it just a few minutes before serving so its bright green colour is preserved.

Bright colour and crisp texture seem to be two of the secrets to ensuring that children enjoy this highly nutritious vegetable but you could also add a knob of butter or splash of flax oil, some pumpkin seeds or pine nuts sprinkled over, or a delicious and nutritious sauce, when serving.

Dark green broccoli flowersBroccoli flowers
Broccolini bunchesBroccolini bunches

Broccolini

Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and chinese broccoli or kai lan. Similar in appearance to broccoli it has longer, tender stems and small, yellow, edible flowers, with no wastage. Its benefits to your health are similar to those of broccoli's but it is generally more expensive.

Cauliflower Nutrition

Cauliflower's white florets don't look particularly nutritious, do they? But the benefits of cauliflower are similar to those of broccoli's, albeit not being as 'supercharged' as that miraculous vegetable. As with most cruciferous vegetables, steaming or lightly boiling for a few minutes is the best way of preserving nutrients. Traditionally, in Australia, cauliflower was served with a white sauce to which chopped parsley had been added but these days it is enjoyed in a variety of ways.

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