Ode to Broccoli

This morning, by chance, I came across a mention of broccoli and discovered something I didn’t previously know about this member of the cruciferous (cabbage) family. I began to read more and more about it, and decided to celebrate broccoli in a post, and not just for its well-known anti-cancer properties. What I didn’t know: the cultivation of broccoli originated in Italy. The word is a the plural diminutive of brocco, a term that is no longer used in Italian that means sprout. Broccoli was known for its medicinal properties as far back as ancient Rome. Romans used broccoli leaves to treat wounds and ulcerations, and they ate raw broccoli before banquets to help their bodies absorb wine better. Broccoli was used as a laxative in the 16th century in Italy, and its juice, mixed with honey, was used to treat coughs. In the 17th century, broccoli soup was a remedy for all respiratory ailments, and 19th century Italian medical texts recommended that broccoli be used to treat colds, pleurisy and rheumatism. It was only in the early 20th century that broccoli became well-known in the U.S., thanks to Italian immigrants. However, the average U.S. consumption of broccoli is just a few pounds a year! A modern Italian folk medicine treatment for asthma and bronchitis is to drink a cup of juice from cooked and filtered broccoli leaves, sweetened with honey, twice a day. Broccoli is rich in sodium, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A, B1, B2, C, and stimulates the production of haemoglobin. In Italy, cooked broccoli is frequently eaten with the addition of lemon and extra virgin olive oil. That’s how I frequently make it. I add sliced raw garlic, too.

Broccoli and cancer. Okay, it’s not a new discovery, but it’s good to reiterate that, like other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains a wide spectrum of phytonutrients, such as sulforaphane, which have significant anti-cancer effects. I read that sulforaphane makes cells expel cancer-making toxins and blocks the formation of carcinogens. It has been found to induce apoptosis in leukaemia and melanoma cells. For (a lot) more information, please consult the World’s Healthiest Foods website. This website provides tips on how to store and cook veggies in season, etc. Every week, I receive the WHF newsletter. In fact, I recommend this free newsletter to everyone. Click on www.whfoods.org and sign up! There is a helpful section on how to prepare and cook broccoli. Remember not to overcook it (5 minutes at the most).

So, pass the broccoli, please!

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