In today’s society, broccoli is a top health cruciferous vegetable that usually always gets featured in health magazines, cookbooks, diet books, and health bulletins. From the instant of harvest, broccoli lives up to its high reputation. Broccoli is packed with antioxidants and glucosinolates, which gives this vegetable a strong attack against disease.
If you’re lucky enough to get both of these nutritious benefits in a high amount, you will need to consume the broccoli just after harvest. Like many fruits and vegetables, after broccoli has been picked, it respires very quickly and within a week’s time this heavy breathing can destroy most of its beneficial nutrients and its sugar content. This will even occur under ideal shipping and storage conditions.
What Should Be Done?
Well, in order to preserve all of the beneficial nutrients broccoli has to offer, it must be chilled as soon as it’s harvested, kept in a cool place, and then eaten within two-to-three days. But, unfortunately, it’s not possible due to our current system of centralized production.
Most of the broccoli we consume is grown either from California or Arizona then shipped around the country which of coarse can take weeks before arriving to its final destination. After the transport, broccoli will then be displayed for several more days in the supermarket. The broccoli that is harvested in Mexico, which accounts for ninety million dollars’ worth per year, spends even more days in transport.
What You Can Do
You can prevent some of the nutritional loss by picking out the freshest looking broccoli on the display at your local grocery store. Look for broccoli that contains dark green crowns and tightly closed buds. Don’t pick ones that are turning yellow. The stems should be firm and a bright green color.
Buying whole heads of broccoli have more nutritional content than pre-trimmed florets. Broccoli that is cut and packed into small florets respire at a much faster rate, so you won’t get the higher nutrient content as you would from a whole head broccoli. When you buy a whole head broccoli then cut them into small florets before cooking, you will do your body a favor. Plus, it’s cheaper!
The Best Way to Store Broccoli
Once you return home from the grocery store, chill your broccoli immediately and consume it either that day or the next. If you plan to keep the broccoli for longer, put it into a microperforated bag and store in the crispier part of your fridge. By using a microperforated bag, broccoli will retain its antioxidants.
Going Beyond the Supermarket
Most broccoli that are found at your local farmers markets should be impeccably fresh and highly nutritious. At the farmers market, you can find a variety of different types of broccoli. Some varieties to look for are called Marathon, Packman, Cavolo, and Brigadier. Search for a vendor who has the broccoli chilled or on ice. Broccoli that sits in the sun or at held at warm temperatures will have 10% reduction in natural sugars and fewer nutrients which will make the broccoli less tasteful and less nutritious.
If you come along the variety called Purple Sprouting broccoli, you should buy it. Instead of the broccoli forming a head, this form produces small purple florets on its side branches. The purple color means that it’s rich in anthocyanins. It’s also believed to be the original form of broccoli.
Is Frozen, Raw, or Cooked Broccoli Healthier?
Frozen broccoli can be convenient to purchase, but its less nutritious. Like all vegetables, broccoli contains certain enzymes that are destroyed before the freezing process, otherwise the overall flavor and quality will decrease. The process is called blanching which is basically steaming or boiling the broccoli. This process destroys 1/3 of its glucosinolates before hitting the freezer.
By eating broccoli raw, you will actually get up to twenty times more of a beneficial compound called sulforaphane which contains anticancer properties. Eat more broccoli raw by adding them to your salads or have them as a snack with a homemade tasty dip.
If you steam broccoli the correct way, you can retain most of the nutrient content when you consume them.
The Best Ways To Cook Broccoli
The way you cook broccoli, makes the difference in how many benefits you will receive when you consume them. If you cook broccoli in boiling hot water, half of the glucosinolates will leach out into the cooking water. If you deep-fry broccoli, you will lose even more. And if you microwave broccoli, you can destroy half of its nutrients in less than two minutes.
The best way to cook broccoli is by steaming or sautéing them no more than 4 minutes. The preferred way is to saute them in extra virgin olive oil with garlic. This way the broccoli will retain its water-soluble nutrients because they are not in contact with water. The broccoli will absorb the phytonutrients in the oil as well as the garlic, which will then turn them into a more nutritious side.
The Take Away Message
- Once Harvested broccoli losses its nutrients and sugar very rapidly.
- Choose the freshest broccoli at the grocery store and pick whole heads rather than pre-trimmed florets.
- As soon as you get home, chill the broccoli and eat them raw or cooked as soon as you can.
- If you want to keep the broccoli for more than a day, place it into a microperforated bag and place into the crisper drawer of your fridge.
- For fresher broccoli, stop by your local farmers market or try growing your own.
- Steaming broccoli for about 4 minutes will preserve most of the nutrient content.
- Don’t boil or microwave broccoli because you will destroy most of its health benefits.
- Eating Raw broccoli will give you the most sulforaphane, which has anti-cancer properties. But, even better, consume more broccoli sprouts!