Resembling tiny green trees with an equally green trunk, broccoli is one of many cruciferous (or Brassica) vegetables, so it has a number of similar-tasting cousins, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, turnips, bok choy, and of course, cauliflower.
Did You Know?
- Broccoli is packed with impressive quantities of vitamin C and heart-beneficial vitamin K, fiber and protein, riboflavin, folate, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium.
- Eating this crucifer activates free radical-zapping antioxidants, cancer- and inflammation-fighting enzymes, and other compounds, which studies show also improves symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis.
- Steaming broccoli to a “tender-crisp” for these scrumptious little broccoli quiches is the best way to retain the health-improving compounds.
Broccoli florets, as well as the stems, are great additions to garden salads, stir fries, slaw, quiches, casseroles, or to eat all by themselves. This veggie’s versatility makes it one of the tastiest, most popular garden vegetables, but incredibly, it also has the ability to fight cancer, discourage inflammation, strengthen your heart, and detoxify your cells – and that’s just the short list of its extraordinary assets.
Raw or Steamed, Broccoli Is Loaded with Nutrients
Raw broccoli is packed with amazing nutritive benefits. One medium-sized stalk (about 1½ cups) contains approximately 16 percent of the fiber and 9 percent of the protein needed for an entire day.
You also get a whopping 224 percent of the vitamin C you need, helping your body resist colds, flu, and other diseases. This vitamin also combats the effects of cell-damaging free radicals absorbed through the toxins we encounter, such as smog and pesticides. Relating to brain health, vitamin C is necessary for the production of serotonin, a hormone that is crucial in brain and nervous system function.
That same 1 ½-cup serving contains more than enough of the daily recommended value in vitamin K – 192 percent – which helps regulate your blood’s clotting ability, making sure it flows freely, but not too freely. No fewer than 12 proteins are needed for our blood viscosity to remain balanced, and vitamin K supplies four of them. The end result is heart protective, and may also help prevent coronary artery disease.
Other ingredients in broccoli that radically enhance its nutritional value include vitamins A, E and B6, riboflavin and folate, and the minerals potassium, manganese, and phosphorus. More broccoli advantages come in the form of thiamin, pantothenic acid, calcium and magnesium, as well as small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
That’s pretty powerful for a relatively small portion of food.
When It Comes to Good Nutrition, It's the Little Things…
Interestingly, chopping broccoli into small bits and letting them rest for a few minutes before steaming produces an increase of the enzyme myrosinase. You can’t see them, but the process converts some of broccoli’s natural, sulfur-containing chemicals into cancer-killing, cancer-reducing and cancer-fighting compounds such as isothiocyanates and glucosinolates, one study1 reported.
If broccoli sprouts are on the menu, symptoms of autism have been shown to improve. In fact:
“Large quantities of inducers of enzymes that protect against carcinogens can be delivered in the diet by small quantities of young crucifer sprouts (e.g., 3-day-old broccoli sprouts) that contain as much inducer activity as 10–100 times larger quantities of mature vegetables. Moreover, the inducer activity arises primarily from glucoraphanin (the glucosinolate of sulforaphane) and such sprouts contain relatively low quantities of indole glucosinolates, which are potential tumor promoters.”
Other research2 concluded that when people eat foods containing high amounts of glucosinolates, your mitochondrial function, which diminishes with age, can actually be retuned or “rebalanced.” In fact, scientist reported that when broccoli was a regular part of the diet, cancer prevalence was noticeably reduced.
Sulforaphane is another crucially important anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer compound found in broccoli, because it kills cancer stem cells, which slows tumor growth. It also normalizes DNA methylation by suppressing the formation of abnormal genes and promoting healthy cell function.
Additionally, the symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis all show measureable improvement when broccoli is on the menu.
Broccoli Quiche: Crunchy, Creamy, Cold, or Steamy
The caveat to these benefits is that the broccoli must be cooked properly – “tender-crisp” is the perfect descriptor of the optimal texture. Steamed broccoli (attained using a standard saucepan with minimal water under a tight lid and over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes) will retain broccoli’s bright green color, which is far healthier than broccoli that’s been boiled until it’s the color of old moss. This not-so-attractive color is an indication of lost nutrients. The longer broccoli sits in water in contact with high heat, the more vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting nutrients are destroyed.
Testing revealed that when broccoli is sautéed over low heat for no more than 3 minutes, about two-thirds of the nutrients are retained, including the glucosinolates. Microwaving broccoli, or any other food for that matter, is seldom recommended, and definitely not in any kind of plastic container, including those labeled BPA-free.
For the record, Healthday reported results from a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study:
“Researchers compared boiled, microwaved and steamed broccoli, and found that steaming broccoli for up to five minutes was the best way to retain its myrosinase. Boiling and microwaving broccoli for one minute or less destroyed the majority of the enzyme…3 ”
Preparing quick, tasty, hassle-free meals that involve real, healthy foods may seem challenging on a consistent basis, so when you find a recipe that covers all the bases like this one does, it’s an added bonus.
Colorful little broccoli quiches can serve as a main course at home, or when you’re on the run. Just pop them into a baggie for a palate-pleasing snack, or into the freezer to serve later in the week. (They can also be made in regular-sized muffin cups, ramekins, or a just a casserole dish, but the muffins are portable!) They take mere minutes to prepare, and deliver fortifying nutrients. The main ingredient is broccoli, of course, but the milk, cheese, and eggs satisfy the dairy requirements so well, these muffins are genuine comfort cuisine.