You probably didn’t see what was so great about broccoli as a child, but the truth is that this vegetable is one of nature’s top superfoods. From its stalk to its flowering head, broccoli is packed with nutrients and vitamins needed for your overall health and well being.
It’s healthy, can be eaten in a number of different ways, comes with a variety of benefits, is easy to cook, and offers the body a single boost of minerals in every serving.
Anatomy of Broccoli: Understanding the Veggie from Top to Bottom
Many people aren’t aware just how much there is to know about broccoli. Yes, it’s a vegetable, and yes, it’s incredibly good for you—but that’s not all. This anatomical breakdown of broccoli will amaze you with everything you need to know about this vegetable and more. So, let’s begin with the basics.
What Exactly is Broccoli?
An edible green plant belonging to the cabbage family, broccoli is a vegetable that originated in Italy approximately 2,000 years ago. While its flowering head is usually served as a vegetable in a variety of meals, the entire vegetable can be eaten and contains a host of nutritional values.
Arranged like a small tree, broccoli closely resembles cauliflower, which is another vegetable of the same species. Due to its rich green color, broccoli is high in antioxidants and other essential vitamins.
Parts of the Broccoli Plant
A broccoli plant is made up of three main parts:
- Root system
- Leaves and stalk
- Crowning head
When still in the ground, the root system of the broccoli plant needs nutrient-rich soil in order to grow and support the plant. Broccoli plants need to be watered often in order to keep the plant hydrated and well fed as it approaches maturity.
The leaves and stalk are lesser-known parts of the broccoli plant because gardeners and farmers often discard these pieces at harvest. However, they are actually edible and highly nutritious. Broccoli leaves can be long and thin, or short and wide, and grow along the stalk. They are often blue-green in color and thicken towards the head of the plant.
The crowning head is the part of the broccoli most familiar to people. Sometimes called the curd or the head, the top of the broccoli is most commonly eaten. This head is made of small, dense edible floral shoots. Usually, the head is harvested long before the shoots, or little florets open. Sometimes the heads are purple, but the green shoots are most commonly cultivated by gardeners. The best growth environment for the broccoli plant is in full sun, with plenty of water, and of course, very nutrient rich soil.
What is Broccoli’s Nutritional Value?
Broccoli is a great food to eat to include extra fiber and vitamin C into your diet. It contains various nutrients that contain anti-cancer properties and support a strong, healthy immune system.
A great source of natural energy, broccoli is low in carbs and fat, but high in protein.
- Nutrients: It contains B vitamins, Thiamine, Niacin, Riboflavin and Folate as well as traces of calcium, iron, potassium, and phosphorous.
- High Fiber: Broccoli is also high in fiber that supports heart health, helps lower bad cholesterol and supports healthy weight management because it is filling and very low in calories.
How is Broccoli Prepared?
Broccoli can be steamed, boiled, microwaved, stir-fried, or eaten raw. However, overcooking or boiling broccoli has been proven to reduce levels of anti-carcinogenic compounds present in the food. It is therefore best to steam it until it reaches a bright green color, but no longer. Of course, eating it raw provides the maximum benefits.
How You Can Add Broccoli to Your Diet
Adding broccoli to your daily diet can do wonders for your health. A side of broccoli at dinner, a broccoli salad for lunch, chopped broccoli along with eggs or in an omelet for breakfast, and even eaten raw as a healthy snack is great way to include this superfood in your diet.
Raw broccoli can also be juiced, including the stems, leaves and heads, and it makes a great addition to a green smoothie, along with kale, spinach, green apples, celery, cucumber, and lemon.