Broccoli's noteworthy nutrients include vitamin C, vitamin A (mostly as beta-carotene), folic acid, calcium, and fiber. While the calcium content of one serving doesn't equal that of a glass of milk, broccoli is an important calcium source for those who don't consume dairy products. Calcium does more than build strong bones. Research shows that this mineral may play a role in the control of high blood pressure, and it may work to prevent colon cancer.
Beta-carotene and vitamin C are important antioxidants that have been linked to a reduced risk of numerous conditions, including cataracts, heart disease, and several cancers.
Broccoli is a fiber find. Not only is it a rich source, but half of its fiber is insoluble and half is soluble, helping to meet your needs for both types of fiber. But the story doesn't end with broccoli's rich array of nutrients. Broccoli provides a health bonus in the form of protective substances that may shield you from disease. Botanically, broccoli belongs to the cabbage family, collectively known as cruciferous vegetables.
Health organizations have singled out cruciferous vegetables as must-have foods, recommending we eat them several times a week. Why? They are linked to lower rates of cancer. Like all cruciferous vegetables, broccoli naturally contains two important phytochemicals -- indoles and isothiocyanates. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore isolated from broccoli an isothiocyanate, called sulforaphane, that increases the activity of a group of enzymes in our bodies that squelch cancer-causing agents.
Selection and Storage
Look for broccoli that's dark green or even purplish-green, but not yellow. Florets should be compact and of even color; leaves should not be wilted; and stalks should not be fat and woody. The greener it is, the more beta-carotene it has. Keep broccoli cold. At room temperature, the sugar in broccoli is converted into a fiber called lignin, which is woody and fibrous. Store unwashed broccoli in your refrigerator's crisper drawer, in a plastic bag. Don't completely seal the bag, but make sure it is tight. Use within a few days.