Broccoli: My New Best Friend

Broccoli belongs to the Brassica oleracea species from the Brassicaceae family.  It is closely related to cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and Brussels sprouts — all edible plants collectively referred to as cruciferous vegetables.  Broccoli is rich in antioxidants and other plant compounds beneficial for various aspects of human health.

Broccoli’s nutrient content is one of its biggest advantages.  It’s loaded with a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds.

Vitamin C is a micronutrient which doubles as an antioxidant.  It’s probably the most important nutrient for the immune system.  Broccoli is an excellent source with 135% of RDI per serving.  (1 c. = 91 grams of raw broccoli will be the serving size referred to throughout this article.)  Vitamin C may also help prevent cancer, cardiovascular disease, cataracts and anemia.  It helps the body produce collagen which is the main support system for body cells and organs, including the skin which is the largest organ of the human body.   Studies suggest that Vitamin C may play a role in the prevention and treatment of skin conditions such as shingles and skin cancer.

Vitamin K is essential to our well-being.  Without it, our blood would not coagulate properly, increasing the risk of excessive bleeding.  Vitamin K is also believed to promote bone health.  Broccoli is a good source with 116% of the RDI per serving.

Folate (vitamin B9) is needed for normal grown and cell function and is particularly important for pregnant women.  Broccoli provides 14% of the RDI per serving.

Potassium is an important nutrient which may help prevent cardiovascular disease.  To reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which can lead to atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases, the American Heart Association recommends increasing the intake of potassium and reducing the amount of sodium added to food.  Broccoli is a good source, providing 8% of the RDI per serving.

Antioxidants prevent or neutralize free radical cell damage.  This can result in reduced inflammation and an overall health-protective effect.  Broccoli has high levels of glucoraphanin which is converted into sulforaphane during digestion.  Sulforaphane, a potent antioxidant, is thought to protect against various types of cancers.  Though more research is required, sulforaphane is believed to offer many benefits such reduced blood sugar, cholesterol levels, oxidative stress and chronic disease development.  Broccoli also contains kaempferol, an antioxidant which may protect against heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and allergies.  Another antioxidant found in Broccoli, Quercetin, has a number of benefits including lowering blood pressure in people with high levels.  Broccoli also contains measurable amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants believed to prevent oxidative stress and cellular damage to the eyes, reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Broccoli is high in many nutrients.  It’s easy to prepare and is enjoyed around the globe.  This green vegetable can be eaten cooked or raw — both are perfectly healthy but provide slightly different nutritional profiles.  Boiling, microwaving, stir-frying and steaming alter broccoli’s nutrient composition, particularly reducing vitamin C, as well as soluble protein and sugar.  Recent research suggests that gentle steaming has fewer negative effects.

This healthy broccoli recipe is easy to prepare and ready in 10 minutes.

Sautéed Garlic Broccoli

10 oz broccoli florets

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and black pepper to taste

Squirts of lemon juice

Bring water to boil in a large saucepan.  Add broccoli florets and boil for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet on medium heat.  Add and heat butter and olive oil.  Sauté garlic until slightly browned.  Add  broccoli and toss to combine.

Season with salt and ground black pepper to taste.  Add a squirt or two of lemon juice.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.

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