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Broccoli— All You Need to Know | Instacart Guide to Fresh Produce

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Last Updated: Jun 8, 2021

As a child, you were probably told you eat all the broccoli on your plate. And for good reason, too.

Broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients and has a reputation for being a superfood that supports your health and wellbeing.

In this article, you will learn some more about this nutritious vegetable and how you can incorporate it into your diet.

What is broccoli?

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable belonging to the cabbage family. This edible green plant is related to kale, bok choy, collard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts.

Broccoli has a large flowering head, usually green in color, branching out from a thick stalk. Sometimes the flowering head can be tinged with purple.

The whole plant, including the surrounding leaves and stalk, are edible, although most people only consume the flowering head.

Common varieties of broccoli include calabrese and purple sprouting broccoli.

Where did broccoli originate from?

Broccoli does not grow naturally in the wild and is cultivated for its edible stalk and flower buds. You could say broccoli is a human invention.

It has derived from the wild mustard plant (Brassica Oleracea) native to the coastal Mediterranean region.

The mustard plant is a biennial plant, so it only flowers every other year. This plant was selectively bred over hundreds of years to grow different vegetables such as kale, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, including broccoli.

Broccoli was created in the 1500s from selected flower clusters by the Italians and was introduced to England and America in the 1700s. Thomas Jefferson, a scientist and genius gardener, planted some of the first broccoli on American soil. Today the United States is the third-largest producer of broccoli in the world.

Broccoli is classified as the Italica cultivar of the species Brassica oleracea.

Its English name, broccoli, comes from the Italian word broccolo, which means “the flowering crest of a cabbage”. The name also has roots in the Latin word brachium, meaning arm, branch, or shoot.

What are the benefits of eating broccoli?

Broccoli is high in many nutrients, including vitamin C and vitamin K, fiber, iron, and potassium.

It is basically 90% water, has no fat, and is low in calories, making it one of the most important vegetables for your health.

Some health benefits of broccoli are:

  • Reducing the risk of cancer
  • Improving bone health
  • Lowering cholesterol levels
  • Improving gut health
  • Boosting eye health
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Improving skin health
  • Helping digestion
  • Preventing cardiovascular disease
  • Boosting immune health
  • Reducing the risk of diabetes

What is the nutritional value of broccoli?

Evidence shows that there are significant health benefits of consuming 5 portions of fruits and vegetables in total in a day. And just 80g (2 spears) of broccoli counts as one of your five-a-day. View fruits and vegetables available for delivery.

Carbohydrates

Broccoli has a low carb content which consists mainly of fiber and little sugar (1.5 grams) in a cup (91 grams) of raw chopped broccoli. It contains only 3.5 grams of digestible carbs, and over a third of the carbohydrates found in broccoli is fiber.

Fat

Broccoli only has a trace amount of fat, which is cholesterol-free. Consuming 2 cups of broccoli can provide you with nearly 0.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for inflammation.

Protein

Broccoli has a relatively high protein content at nearly 2.5 grams per one-cup serving. However, you should include other proteins in your diet to meet your daily requirements.

Vitamins and minerals

Broccoli also contains many minerals and vitamins that are good for your health. These are:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K1.
  • Folate (vitamin B9)
  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A
  • B Vitamins
  • Phosphorous

Is broccoli healthier raw or cooked?

You can eat either raw or cooked. Both are beneficial for your health.

However, research shows that gentle steaming is best in preserving the nutrients in broccoli, while boiling leads to most loss of nutrients.

Raw broccoli preserves all its nutrients but may cause gas, bloating, and irritation of your bowels.

Incorporating both raw and cooked broccoli in your diet will offer you the greatest benefits.

How is broccoli grown?

Broccoli is a sun-loving, cool-season vegetable and develops best in the cooler seasons of the year. It is generally planted in spring, and the flower heads develop relative to ambient temperatures.

Broccoli usually comes to harvest when the average temperatures are around 75°F. In the summer months, broccoli heads will mature quicker.

Broccoli is ready to harvest when the flowering heads are closed and tight, with no yellow petals showing.

Broccoli can be transplanted or grown from seed, in double rows or raised beds.

When is broccoli in season?

Broccoli is best in season in the cooler months. It’s in abundance from January to April and then from October to December.

However, it’s available in the fresh produce aisle in most supermarkets throughout the year.

What should you look for when buying broccoli?

Choose broccoli with tight, closed green florets. The stalks should feel firm and look fresh.

Avoid broccoli that has yellow open florets, dried and browned stems, and is soft and slippery.

If you are looking to have your groceries delivered, you can easily shop for broccoli via Instacart. After adding a product to your cart, use the “Instructions” option to notify your Instacart shopper about any preferences or specific directions on how to choose the best products. Shop for broccoli.

How to store broccoli

Store-bought broccoli is already washed, so there is no need to rewash it. In fact, broccoli does not like excess moisture as it can promote mold growth.

The best way to store broccoli is wrapped in a damp paper towel. Broccoli keeps fresh when it has room to breathe.

Another way to store broccoli and keep it fresh is in a cup or glass stalk side down. Fill the cup with about half an inch of water and put the broccoli in the fridge. You can loosely cover the broccoli head with a plastic wrap with holes in it to breathe for added freshness. Remember to change the water every day.

The easiest method to store broccoli is to keep it in a ventilated plastic bag (like the ones you get at the supermarket for your veggies) with holes in it.

Broccoli will last about five to seven days in the fridge. Cut florets will deteriorate quicker and should be consumed within two days.

You can also store both cooked and raw (blanch in water first) broccoli for a longer time by freezing.

How to tell if broccoli is bad

If the broccoli has an odor, you know it is going bad. Usually, the smell will intensify as the broccoli deteriorates.

You will also notice a color change from green to yellow, and the stalk will lose its crispiness and feel limp. It may also have a slimy feel to it.

You may also notice brown moldy spots on the flower head, which means that the broccoli needs to be thrown out.

What can you substitute for broccoli?

Substitute broccoli with any of these nutrition-packed veggies.

  • Kale
  • Cauliflower
  • Spinach
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Swiss Chard
  • Collard greens
  • Bok choy
  • Broccolini

Now that you know all about broccoli and how good it is for your health, you can now create some delicious and nutritious meals.

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