Spotlight on: Broccoli

A history of Broccoli – What have the Romans ever done for us?

Broccoli is a Mediterranean vegetable that is part of the cabbage family. It started to become  prominent during the Roman Empire; it’s likely that it was the result of artificial selection in southern Italy or Sicily. They seemed to know about the potential health benefits of broccoli back then – Drusus Caesar, son of Emperor Tiberius, spent a month eating nothing but broccoli, in an effort to ensure a long and healthy life. Unfortunately for him, broccoli didn’t stop his wife from murdering him, aged 35…

It wasn’t until the 16th century that we see broccoli referred to in Northern Europe, though, and it was another three-hundred years before we have a record of it in the UK when it was described as “sprout colli-flower” or “Italian asparagus”.

Broccoli didn’t really reach America until the 1920s, when the influx of Italian immigrants brought it along with them. Fun Fact: One family of immigrants, the Broccoli family, claimed to be descendants of the Broccolis of Carrera, who first crossed cauliflower and rabe to create a broccoli – and now the family are heavily involved in the production of the James Bond movies. Think of all the product-placement opportunities they’ve missed!

The troubled reputation of broccoli was probably summed up by President Bush (the first), in his infamous speech where he declared: “I do not like broccoli… and I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States, and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli!”

Why broccoli is best

Slightly unhinged presidential declarations aside, we do need to address the elephant in the room – a lot of people, particularly children, don’t like broccoli. It’s actually been the subject of a scientific study which has suggested that specific bacteria in the mouths of some children can combine with the same bacteria in broccoli to produce pungent odour molecules, thus ruining the flavour.

But broccoli can do us so much good. It’s a superfood, and for good reason – our immunity, our gut health and our heart all benefit when we increase the amount of broccoli we eat. So let’s take a few minutes to look at this in more detail and find out why broccoli is so good for us.

Packed full of nutrients

In just one cup of broccoli, you will receive: 

  • 91% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C – great for your muscles, bones, blood vessels and your immune system
  • 77% of your vitamin K – essential for helping your blood clot and therefore preventing excessive bleeding. Also helps to keep your bones healthy
  • 15% of your required Folate (vitamin B9) – helps to make healthy blood cells – particularly useful for pregnant women, but we all need folate.

On top of that, you’ll also get magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron from broccoli.


Broccoli contains a high amount of sulforaphane – a phytochemical that has been proven to help reduce the risk of cancer. It has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, and inflammation has been linked to many different forms of cancer. It’s also been thought to block mutations in DNA, which can then lead to cancer. Most interestingly, plenty of studies have shown that sulforaphane can prevenet and slow down the development of prostatic tumors.

Now obviously there isn’t one food that can prevent cancer – but you can reduce the risk of cancer by eating plenty of different foods that have these kinds of properties – broccoli just happens to be one of the best!

Great for the heart

A study in 2015 looked at the relationship between broccoli consumption and cholesterol, and they concluded that broccoli helps to reduce LDL cholesterol. This is important because we know that high levels of LDL-C can increase the risk of you having a stroke or suffering from heart disease.

Eating more fruit and vegetables in general will help with this, but broccoli is one of the main forces in the fight for a healthy heart.

Immunity boosting

Now let’s talk about your gut. Specifically, preventing from getting a leaky gut – which I’m sure it goes without saying, is a bad thing… A leaky gut is when your intestinal barrier is compromised, and therefore unpleasant toxins and microorganisms can get in, which will eventually make you sick.

Broccoli contains indole glucosinolates, which are then broken down into compounds. One of these compounds, indolocarbazole, plays a crucial role in maintaining the walls of our intestine, so that we don’t succumb to these nasty invaders.

On top of that, broccoli is a rich source of antioxidants, which help our bodies fight off illnesses.

Final word on Broccoli

We hope that we’ve convinced you that broccoli is an incredible vegetable. However, if you’re like President Bush and are struggling to add it into your (or your childrens’) diet, then a smoothie could be the best way to start feeling all of the benefits that we have listed above. Try our Veggie-Nator Smoothie – it’s a game-changer!

Thank you for reading – take it Calabrese-y.


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