The broccoli that we know and love today cannot be found in the wild, it is a human invention derived from the wild cabbage plant Brassica oleracea. It was carefully bred over 2,000 years ago by ancient Etruscan farmers. Broccoli cultivation eventually reached Rome where it was enthusiastically adopted almost immediately.
Broccoli is a fibre rich, dark green cruciferous vegetable that is packed with essential nutrition. It is loaded with antioxidants, chlorophyll and other beneficial phytonutrients, making it truly deserving of its superfood status.
The indigestible fibre in broccoli provides food for the good bacteria in the large intestine. From this they produce beneficial short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which promote healthy gut bacteria, bowel health and immune function.
As well as being high in fibre, broccoli is rich in isothiocyanate sulforaphane compounds which fight harmful gut bacteria.
It is rich in other compounds that protect and maintain the stomach lining (gut barrier), such as indole glucosinates. These are broken down into compounds that activate protective elements of the stomach lining and intestines. This in turn helps to maintain the delicate gut flora balance and boost the immune system.
Broccoli is high in beta-carotene (vitamin A), with just one serving providing over 50 percent of the RDA of this important nutrient. Vitamin A is well-known for its role in healthy vision, significantly reducing the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Vitamin A is also needed for night vision and to enable the eyes to adjust to light changes.
Broccoli is also a rich source of the antioxidant compounds lutein and zeaxanthin. Together, these compounds raise the optical density of the macular pigment. Macular pigment gives protection against macular degeneration and age-related macular degeneration.
In a 1994 study published in the "Journal of American Medical Association", Dr Johanna M. Seddon and associates at Harvard University found that just 6mg per day of lutein led to a 43% lower risk for macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin also help to absorb blue light and act as strong antioxidants for the eyes.
Lutein and zeaxanthin have also been found to be promising nutrients in the prevention of cataracts. Several studies support eating foods high in these two compounds can significantly reduce the risk of cataracts. A 2014 study published in “Nutrients” concluded that high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin in the blood might be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts.
Broccoli is THE vegetable to build and maintain strong healthy bones. It contains many nutrients that are essential for bone formation and the prevention of bone loss. These include vitamins K, A, B and C and the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. These nutrients work synergistically to promote bone mass and strength.
Just one serving of broccoli delivers over 85 percent of the daily allowance of vitamin K. This vitamin works together with calcium to build strong bones. Recent research in patients suffering from osteoporosis tend to have low vitamin K levels and a bone protein, osteocalcin, cannot be absorbed into the bones with it. Osteocalcin is responsible for binding calcium to bones, giving the bones strength and flexibility. Osteocalcin must be in its carboxylated form to get absorbed into bone, and the protein is carboxylated by vitamin K.
The good news is that vitamin K is relatively heat stable and is retained after cooking. Lightly steaming broccoli for 5 to 10 minutes will help to retain the valuable nutrient content and break down cellulose to allow for optimum nutrient absorption.
Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane – a sulphur rich compound found in all cruciferous vegetables. A powerful anti-inflammatory, sulforaphane prevents atherosclerosis or plaque build-up.
Many studies have reported that people eating the most sulforaphane from cruciferous vegetables live longer and are much less likely to get heart disease.
Raw broccoli has been found to contain ten times more sulforaphane than cooked. To optimise this important nutrient, lightly steaming broccoli for one to three minutes may be the best method. Alternatively you can use our Broccoli Powder which is derived from raw broccoli that has been dehydrated ensure the nutrient content remains intact.
Upto 3 tsp daily. Add this superfood powder to smoothies, soups and stews to give a powerful nutritional boost.
Italian writer and naturalist Pliny the Elder documented the rise of broccoli in Roman times, telling of how they grew and enjoyed it during the first century CE. One of their favourite vegetables, it was in Rome that the Calabrese variety of broccoli was created. Before they developed the Calabrese, the Romans were eating purple sprouting broccoli.
Apparently Drusius, the son of Roman Emperor Tiberius, loved broccoli so much that he abandoned all other foods. He reportedly gorged on broccoli for a month and when his urine turned bright green his father scolded him for "living precariously", leading him to give up his beloved broccoli!