Botanical name: Brassica oleracea italica
As the leading member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, the word “broccoli” means “branch” or “arm” for the cross-shaped stems, like mini trees bearing the blossoms. Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale also are crucifers. A popular food of the ancient Romans, broccoli once grew wild on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Its use can be traced to 16th century France and England in the 1700s.
Eaten raw, broccoli has a number of nutritional elements. It’s important to note that broccoli is best when eaten raw, because cooking and processing destroys some of its antioxidants.
It has twice the vitamin C of an orange, almost as much calcium as whole milk (with a better rate of absorption), and contains anti-cancer and anti-viral properties with its selenium content.
Eating broccoli and broccoli sprouts may enhance your body’s ability to detoxify after exposure to food- and air-borne carcinogens and oxidants, thanks to the phytochemical sulforaphane, according to a recent study.1
Broccoli is widely studied for its apparent ability to fight and even prevent many different cancers and other ills of the body. However, the bioavailability (ability to be absorbed into the system) of isothiocyanates (a phytochemical, or plant chemicals) from fresh broccoli is approximately three times greater than that of cooked broccoli.2
A study conducted on a group of 10 smokers and 10 nonsmokers ingesting broccoli indicated the importance of consuming cruciferous vegetables to protect cells against DNA damage.3
This can be used as a sauce, dressing, or dip.
In “A Treatise on Gardening by a Citizen of Virginia,” penned in 1775, John Randolph described broccoli this way: "The stems will eat like asparagus, and the heads like cauliflower."
Broccoli doesn’t just taste good. It’s been proven over and over to contain amazing compounds that heal the body and prevent cell damage. While tests indicate that eating it raw is the way to get the most out of it nutritionally, “tender-crisp” cooking to a bright green color still has very good-for-you attributes. This may be why broccoli has been around and all over the world for the last 2,000 years.