Our old friend broccoli is a nearly perfect food. Loaded with vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B3, B6, calcium Folic acid iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, it is a powerful ally in your quest for good health.
Broccoli belongs to the Brassicaceae family is part of a family whose other members include cauliflower, cabbage, kale, collards, rutabagas, turnips, Brussels sprouts, and Chinese cabbage.
The Brassica vegetables all share four-petaled flowers, which bear resemble a Greek cross, which they are also referred to as crucifers or cruciferous vegetables.
Cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, cooked cabbage, kale and Brussels are high in luteins, which help to battle risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia, also known as BPH or an enlarged prostate. Other foods associated specifically with decreasing the risk of BPH include oranges, grapefruits, legumes (including peas and beans), spinach, romaine lettuce, garlic, yams, and mushrooms. A large number of fruits and vegetables are BPH risk reducers.
Although we know today many of the great qualities of broccoli, food historians find little written about its early beginnings.
Not until the last century was broccoli noted in the United States for its culinary possibilities, and for its wonderful health benefits. Centuries earlier, broccoli invaded the Roman Empire.
During the 8th century, the Etruscans of Italy began cultivating and experimenting with different cabbages, some of which would become what we know now as broccoli, along the Eastern Mediterranean. They frequently traded with the Greeks, Phoenicians, Sicilians, Corsicans, and Sardinians. No doubt their broccoli cultivation spread throughout the region and eventually reached Rome. The Romans were enjoyed broccoli almost immediately. Italian naturalist and writer Pliny the Elder tells us the Romans grew and ate broccoli during the first century. The vegetable became popular in Rome where the variety called Calabrese was developed. Calabrese is the most common variety still eaten in the United States today.
President Thomas Jefferson was a passionate gardener and collector of new seeds and plants of fruits and vegetables. He kept detailed notes in his garden book of any seeds or seedlings planted in his gardens at his home of Monticello, in Virginia. He recorded planting broccoli, radishes, lettuce, and cauliflower on May 27, 1767.
Broccoli did not become noticed in the United States until two brothers from Messina, Italy, came to the United States with their broccoli seeds. They began with planting in San Jose, California in 1922.
Broccoli's dark green hue is indicative of its hefty beta carotene content. One cup of broccoli gives you ten percent of your daily requirement of iron, and the vitamin C helps your body to absorb the iron. One cup of cooked broccoli has as much vitamin C as an orange, and actually fulfills your daily requirement of vitamin C.
Because of its potent nutritional benefits that include beta carotene, vitamin C, calcium, fiber, and phytochemicals, specifically aromatic isothiocynates and indoles, broccoli may help in boosting certain enzymes that help to detoxify your body. These enzymes help to prevent diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.
Broccoli may also help to lower blood cholesterol. At the U.S.D.A's research center in Philadelphia, researchers discovered broccoli contains a certain fiber called calcium pectate that binds to bile acids, holding more cholesterol in the liver and releasing less into the bloodstream. They found broccoli equally as effective as some cholesterol lowering drugs.
Once you get your broccoli home, never wash it before keeping in the refrigerator. The excess moisture promotes mold. Cut broccoli into florets and steam in a covered saucepan with a small amount of water for 4 to 5 minutes.
Cook until it just becomes tender, being careful not to overcook or you'll lose those precious nutrients and your kitchen will be taken over with the smell of rotten eggs from the sulphur compounds that include ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are released with long cooking. Watch the color as you cook. When it is most tender, broccoli will retain its wonderful green color and actually increase in nutrient value. Overcook, however, and broccoli turns to a dark olive green color, leaving its nutritional value considerably diminished.
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is common in men over 50 and often results in lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). Both an enlarged prostate and an increased tone of the prostate smooth muscle are thought to contribute to this bothersome condition. The causes of BPH are largely unknown, but fruit and vegetable, including broccoli consumption has been found to be helpful for BPH.
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