Wolf is rather an exaggeration, we would nibble slowly with great disdain, small bites until the dreaded green vegetable was finished. We were kids, we didn’t know better, and now we’re adults, and most of us still don’t know any better. In the last decade, with the surge in popularity of veganism, paleo and keto diets, the humble broccoli has been elevated from the soggy vegetable often pushed to the side of plates to a star dish in its own right. It has come a long way, from its humble beginnings as a wild mustard plant around 6th century, before the selective breeding that brought us the plant we know today (I know right? I was always told it was the result of a cross between peas and cauliflower). It’s gone from being something you had to be force-fed, or only subsisted on during the last few, penniless days of the month when the fridge was empty, to a favourite of many children and adults alike across the world. Granted, cooking has come a long way, and I’d argue that vegetables are prepared better now than they have been at any other point in history, but the appreciation for this cruciferous vegetable for more than just it’s the appearance on the plate, is astounding.
In terms of the natural variety, there are five main types of broccoli that are grown commercially. There is your average grocery store broccoli that everybody knows and grew up hating, Chinese broccoli, which is a more leafy and brighter green than the traditional broccoli. There is tender stem broccoli and as alluded to by the name, the most obvious difference is indeed in the stem: it has a thinner, longer stem. It also differs in nutritional value too, being thought to be more nutritious than it’s big brother, the traditional broccoli. Romanesco broccoli, which looks more like a vivid chartreuse seashell covered in leaves than something you would grow in your garden. Then the clown of the family, the purple cauliflower, which unlike the name suggests, is actually a type of broccoli.
As for why you should love it? Well, first of all, it’s practically a superfood, with a wide range of health benefits that have been attributed to it over the years.
Being high in fibre, broccoli is said to help with constipation and indigestion, it might be just what you need to get and keep those bowels moving regularly. It is also a favourite among the gym goers because if it’s apparent high levels of protein. It’s a constant fixture in the diets of people who are looking to build muscle mass and cut fat. We’ve seen it in countless meal prep videos by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts, and honestly, I get the appeal. It’s easy to prepare, it can be eaten raw, boiled or steamed without really compromising its nutritional value. In fact, depending on how you prepare it, you can change the nutrient profile, but it’s never out of your favour.
Naturally being low in calories, at about 33 calories per 100g of broccoli (that’s just over a cup), it’s a great option for people who are trying to lower their calorie intake, maybe to lose weight, because you can eat a lot of it and feel full, without taking in that many calories. Of the few that you do take in, it’s mostly water, and the rest is carbohydrates and protein because yes, you guessed it, broccoli does not contain fat. If you’re maintaining a fitness lifestyle, it’s worth trying to incorporate more broccoli into your diet.
More of the numerous benefits that it has been lauded for include, but are not limited to: protecting the body because of its high levels of antioxidants, which is necessary for everyone regardless of your current level of health. In diabetics, studies have shown that it may help control blood sugar, though we’re not quite sure how this works yet. Because of the high levels of calcium and vitamin K, it may help promote healthy, strong bones as well as prevent against bone diseases. As we all grew up hearing, calcium is very important for your teeth, so it follows that adding broccoli to your diet would improve your oral health. And if you’re wondering whether or not broccoli will fit into your diet, whichever one it may be, you’ll be glad to know that it is both keto and paleo diet friendly. The paleolithic or paleo diet relies heavily on certain meats and vegetables, thought to mirror the eating habits of our caveman ancestors, while the ketogenic or keto diet is heavily based on fat and minimizing carbohydrates. Well broccoli might not seem like a natural fit in the keto diet, it’s actually quite popular because of its low carb content.
Over time we’ve come to understand more about its nutritional value and the benefits that has for our health. It’s no longer the boring vegetable and should never be again. There’s plenty of recipes on the internet for how to elevate the timid green into a show-stopping, delicious dinner regular and the many ways you can incorporate it into your particular diet to fit your health requirements, and with its myriad health benefits, there’s something in it for everyone. It’s something we should all be encouraging our children to eat. Long live the broccoli.