The story of broccoli and what makes it a superfood

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It's not news that broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse. It is packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber and other healthy substances. What people may not know are why it is a superfood and how it all started.

Superfood status

  • Broccoli and its fellow members of the cruciferous family (cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts) lowers the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
  • Studies have shown that eating five portions of broccoli a week can lower the risk of lung cancer. Additional studies are needed.
  • A substance in broccoli is stronger in fighting the development of stomach cancer than antibiotics, which kill bacteria that cause peptic ulcers. These ulcers can lead to cancer in the stomach. More studies are needed.
  • The risk of death is lowered in postmenopausal women, according to research.
  • Broccoli has been found to fight cancer cells in laboratories.

Healthy substances in broccoli

  • A whole day's worth of vitamin C can be gained by one cup of broccoli, the equivalent of eating a whole orange.
  • A vitamin A producer, the vegetable is good for the eyes, lowering the risk of glaucoma. It also helps a person avoid other degenerative diseases. It maintains healthy skin, bones and teeth, and helps break down urinary tract stones.
  • It is also a source of vitamins K, E, folate, which is important for a growing fetus, and beta carotene.
  • Weight loss is helped by the soluble and insoluble fiber, which makes the stomach feel full and improves digestion. It's also low-calorie. One cup has only 31 calories.
  • Broccoli has substances called phytochemicals which detoxify the body and help prevent disease.
  • It contains a substance called kaempferol, a flavinoid that fights inflammation, which has a role in causing heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

The story of broccoli

Broccoli has been around since the 6th century B.C. It was cultivated and eaten by the ancient Romans. The name comes from the Italian word "broccolo," which means the top of a flowering cabbage. It was brought to France in the 1500s, and then to England in the 1720s. It finally arrived in North America at the beginning of the 20th century with the Italian immigrants, who cultivated it in New York. Now, ninety percent of broccoli grown in the United States originates in California. The consumption of this vegetable has grown by 900% in the past twenty years, with Americans now eating about 4 pounds a year.

China is the world's biggest producer of the vegetable in the world, with 8 million tons per year. The United States is third.

Broccoli's Relatives

  • Broccoflower is the result of crossbreeding broccoli and cauliflower. It looks like the latter but is pale green, and tastes like broccoli.
  • Broccolini comes from a combination of Chinese kale and broccoli. It is smaller than broccoli and tastes sweeter. It looks like asparagus with a broccoli head.
  • Broccoli rabe comes from the Mediterranean and has a stronger taste. It is popular in Italian cooking. It has a stronger taste.

A versatile veggie

Broccoli can be boiled, broiled, steamed, panfried and microwaved. It can be served in salads, stir-fries, casseroles, omelets, soups, crepes and raw with or without dip. Because of its increasing popularity, many recipes can be found on the internet and elsewhere.

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