Welcome back to The Naturopathic Kitchen, your go-to spot for learning how to use food as medicine. Today we are going to talk about an oldie, but goodie – broccoli!

Broccoli 101

The quintessential healthy vegetable, broccoli is very well known and is used in many different types of cuisine throughout the world. Broccoli is a member of the Brassica or Cruciferous family of vegetables that includes other healthy favorites such as bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, mustard greens and turnip greens. The part of broccoli that we typically consume are called “florets” so named because they are actually the immature flowering part of the plant. If allowed to mature, the green buds would burst open to reveal vibrant yellow flowers!

Where does broccoli come from? Where can I find it?

While wild foraging may be all the rage for some vegetables like onions, mushrooms and asparagus, you won’t find any wild broccoli because modern broccoli is actually man-made! Historically speaking, broccoli started out as “wild cabbage” and underwent centuries of agricultural selection to promote more palatable flavor profiles and larger flowering parts. In fact, the word broccoli is derived from the Italian term, “broccolo” meaning “the flowering crest of a cabbage.”

Native to the Mediterranean region and parts of Asia, cultivation of broccoli began in Italy during ancient Roman times. It first appeared in France in the 1500s, but was not introduced to England and America until the 1700s. Today, broccoli is grown commercially in many states but about 90% of US cultivation takes place in California, where nearly 2 billion pounds per year are produced.

Although seasonally considered a winter vegetable, broccoli is available year-round at most supermarkets. Farmer’s markets may also have some of the more distinct cultivars available.

What are the most common types of broccoli?

 

Calabrese Broccoli

This is the most recognizable variety with large green heads supported by thick stalks.

Romanesco Broccoli

This variety has a quite striking appearance with numerous cone shaped heads arranged in a spiral with a distinct chartreuse color.

Sprouting Broccoli

This variety does not grow a large head but instead has a lot of smaller heads supported by many thin stalks. This type is also called broccolini.

 

How does broccoli help my health?

Broccoli is broadly nutritious and contains a treasure-trove of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients (beneficial compounds found only in plants) including vitamin K, vitamin C and many different B vitamins as well as manganese, magnesium, and chromium. Among the most beneficial phytonutrients are those in the glucosinolate category. These compounds are well known for lowering cancer risk.1 This is believed to be accomplished through several mechanisms including:

  • Enhanced detoxification of cancer-causing chemicals,2
  • Reducing inflammation and oxidative stress,3
  • Stimulating cancer cell death.1

Though the health benefits of broccoli are abundant, many of the nutrients that provide these benefits are particularly sensitive to cooking and preparation methods. Although broccoli may be enjoyed when raw or cooked, recent research reveals that a steam method helps preserve the most health benefits.4

What medical conditions/symptoms is broccoli used for?

When should broccoli be avoided?

Though the health benefits of broccoli are numerous, there are some conditions which warrant a note of caution when it comes to consuming broccoli. The first involves the thyroid gland. Broccoli compounds may interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid gland. This can result in the thyroid gland growing larger in an attempt to compensate. This phenomenon is especially concerning for those with hypothyroidism. In addition, because of its high vitamin K content, those on certain types of blood clotting medications like Warfarin for example should use caution when consuming broccoli or any other dark leafy vegetables.

 

Let’s try out broccoli with these tasty recipes!

 

 

Steamed Broccoli with Olive Oil, Garlic and Lemon

 

INGREDIENTS

1 small bunch broccoli (about 3/4 lb.)
3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 1/2 t fresh lemon juice

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch- thick slices. Cut broccoli into 2-inch florets. In a steamer set over boiling water steam broccoli, covered, until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes.

While broccoli is steaming, finely chop garlic and in a small skillet combine with oil, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat garlic mixture over moderate heat until garlic is fragrant. In a bowl toss broccoli with garlic mixture.

Thank you to Epicurious.com for this tasty recipe!

 

 

Balsamic Roasted Broccoli

 

INGREDIENTS

3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. broccoli, cut into florets
kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1/3 c balsamic vinegar
1 T lemon pepper

 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, add olive oil, broccoli florets, salt and pepper, then toss to coat. Arrange broccoli on two baking sheets then season with salt and pepper. Don’t be tempted to place all the broccoli on one sheet or they will steam each other and not brown.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Bake until broccoli is just barely tender and still a little crunchy.
  4. While the broccoli is roasting, place the balsamic vinegar in a small sauté pan and bring to a boil. Simmer to reduce the vinegar, for about 4 minutes, until it’s the consistency of syrup. Set aside.
  5. Remove florets from the oven then sprinkle with lemon pepper and salt to taste. Place in a serving bowl, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar reduction and serve immediately.

Thank you to EverydayDishes.com for this tasty recipe!

 

Become the Doctor You'd Like to Have

Learn more about becoming a naturopathic doctor. Receive information from one of our seven accredited schools across the U.S. & Canada.