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Broccoli

BROCCOLI

A taste of history…

The word “broccoli” comes from Latin bracchium, meaning an arm or small leafy branch, referring to this handsome green vegetable’s shape, which resembles a miniature tree. Broccoli, with its many health benefits, seems to have originated in Southern Italy, where it may have been cultivated since Greco-Roman times. It’s said that rapini, also known as “Italian broccoli,” may have been the ancestor of broccoli. Though usually green, broccoli can also be white or purple. It was introduced into France by Queen Catherine de’ Medici under the name “Italian asparagus.” It was only in the 1930s, a period of substantial Italian immigration, that broccoli made its entry into the US.

Nutrients and benefits

Numerous scientific studies indicated that vegetables of the crucifer or cabbage family (known to botanists as Brassicaceae), of which broccoli is a member, possess the most significant cancer-fighting properties associated with consumption of fruits and vegetables. These vegetables contain high concentrations of compounds known as “glucosinolates,” which as a result of chewing release an arsenal of cancer-fighting substances that may reduce the risk of cancer in certain forms. Eating broccoli and its near relatives is likewise associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Broccoli is particularly remarkable for its very high levels of Vitamin C. A 250 ml (1 cup) serving will meet 100% of your daily requirement. Vitamin C plays a major role in growing and maintaining healthy bones, cartilage, teeth and gum tissues. It’s also a key antioxidant. Broccoli is an especially important food for women during pregnancy as it is rich in the folates that are indispensible for proper fetal development. It also contains a high concentration of Vitamin K, which plays an important role in blood coagulation), and contains substantial amounts of lutein, a pigment of the carotenoid family, which protects our eyes and reduces the risk of cataracts. Besides being incredibly rich in these key factors for our health, broccoli is also a “natural” in helping keep off excess weight, with only 30 calories per 250 ml (1 cup) serving.

Servings and Nutrition Facts

250 ml (1 cup) of fresh broccoli (93 g) = 2 vegetable servings

Amount

% Daily Value*

Energy:30 calories

Fat:0 g

0%

Carbohydrate:6 g

2%

Fibre:2 g

8%

Protein:3 g

Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)

6%

Vitamin C

100%

Folates

25%

Vitamin K

100%

Potassium

8%

*Based on Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI)

  Source: Canadian Nutrient File (CNF) – Health Canada

Shopping and storage

When you buy broccoli, make sure the head is firm, with compact florets and a deep green colour. A fresh head of broccoli, if kept whole and not washed, will last 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator. It’s easy to freeze broccoli as well. Simply blanch the head for a few minutes in boiling water, then drain thoroughly, let cool and pack the broccoli in a perforated plastic bag before freezing.

Kitchen tips

  • It’s better to steam broccoli than cook it in boiling water, which destroys a significant amount of the Vitamin C and Vitamin B it contains. Remove from steam while still crisp. Broccoli is delicious served with olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese.
  • Raw or cooked, cold or warm, broccoli is a great ingredient in any number of recipes: gratins, soups, salads, couscous dishes, quiches, purees, stir fries and more.
  • Nuts, cheeses and dried fruits make an especially good match with broccoli’s slightly sulphurous flavour. For example, to make a delightfully crunchy salad, blanch and chill some fresh broccoli florets, then combine them with dried cranberries, sliced red onion, toasted sliced almonds, cubes of feta cheese and a dressing of your choice.
  • Don’t throw away your broccoli stalks. Cut them into strips or juliennes, and add them to an Asian stir fry, or serve with other raw vegetables and dip.
  • If your head of broccoli starts to go soft, don’t worry – it’ll still go great in soup. Broccoli and apples make another delicious combination.

Did you know?

  • Broccoli grown locally in Quebec is available from June 25 to November 15.
  • The Canada Food Guide recommends that we eat at least one leafy green vegetable daily. Go for broccoli!
  • To get the most benefit from broccoli’s cancer-fighting properties, it’s advisable to always chew it thoroughly, served fresh or very lightly cooked (e.g. steamed or lightly sautéed).

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