Latin name: Brassica oleracea L. var. italica
What is Broccoli?
A member of the Cruciferae family (also known as the Brassicaceae family), broccoli is related to kale, cabbage, collards, and Brussels sprouts. Broccoli has large flower heads, usually green, which are arranged in a tree-like formation on branches sprouting from a thick stalk. Broccoli’s name is thought to have derived from the Italian plural of broccolo, which refers to “the flowering top of a cabbage.” Its cultivation originated in Italy, approximately 2,000 years ago. Since the Roman Empire, broccoli has been considered a uniquely valuable food among Italians. Broccoli was first introduced to the United States by Italian immigrants, but was not widely popular until the 1920s.
What are the health benefits of Broccoli?
In traditional Chinese medicine, broccoli is considered to have a cooling effect, and is used to benefit vision health (especially conjunctivitis and nearsightedness), help protect against summer heat issues, and promote diuresis.
Nutritionally, broccoli is high in vitamins C, K, and A, as well as folate and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and the vitamins B6 and E.
Broccoli, like other cruciferous vegetables, is a rich source of the phytonutrients that help cleanse the body of cancer-causing substances. Recent studies show that those who eat more cruciferous vegetables have a much lower risk of a number of cancers, especially lung, colon, breast, ovarian and bladder cancer. Keep in mind that boiling has been found to reduce the levels of suspected anti-cancer compounds in broccoli, but lightly steaming, stir-frying or eating raw preserves most of these compounds.
New research reveals that crucifers provide significant cardiovascular benefits as well, and broccoli has been singled out as one of the few vegetables capable of significantly reducing heart disease. Some studies indicate that broccoli supports stomach health by virtue of its ability to eliminate Helicobacter pylori. In terms of bone-building, one cup of broccoli has more than 70 mg of calcium and 120 mg of vitamin C, which improves calcium absorption considerably. Broccoli is also high in choline, an essential nutrient for memory and brain health.
Where can I find Broccoli?
Broccoli can be found in most grocery stores and many outdoor markets in season; it is a cool-weather crop that is best in fall and winter.
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