But - and there is a big one - broccoli loses many of its health benefits within a week of being picked. Even under ideal conditions, 10 days after being picked, broccoli will have lost up to 80% of its glucosinolates and 62% of its flavonoids.(2)
Since most broccoli is grown in California and shipped to the rest of the country, it spends about a week in transport before it arrives at your supermarket. By the time you get it home and eat it, you'll have lost many of those wonderful health-promoting properties.
What's the solution? Buy broccoli in season and locally at your farmer's market. You'll very likely be able to find much more variety there as well. This week at my farmer's market, not only did I pick up a head of the kind of broccoli you'd find at the supermarket, I was also able to find Chinese Broccoli and Broccoli Raab.
Broccoli Rabe or Rapini is a branching, as opposed to heading, type of broccoli. It forms multiple small heads, instead of one large central head. It has a stronger and more bitter flavor than broccoli and is delicious sauteed with garlic and olive oil.
Chinese Broccoli or Gai Lan is a type of Asian green that has many smaller flower heads as opposed to one big one. It has a strong, bitter flavor and is delicious stir fried with ginger and garlic or served with oyster sauce.
5 Tips On Making The Most Of Broccoli
1 - All varieties of broccoli will lose some nutrient value when cooked in water. A quick steam is better than blanching or boiling, but eating broccoli raw or cooked in olive oil is your best bet to getting the most nutritional value out of this powerhouse vegetable.
2 - The fresher the better. If you can't find it locally, here's how to pick the best broccoli at the supermarket. Look for broccoli with dark green crowns and tightly closed buds. Check the cut end and make sure it is smooth and moist, not dry or cracked. Make sure the stem is firm and there are no signs of yellowing. Also, do not buy pre-cut florets. Yes, they may be more convenient but what's the point if you're not getting the nutrient benefit?
3 - Store broccoli in a microperforated produce bag and keep it in the crisper of your refrigerator. These produce bags are even better than a tightly sealed bag at keeping antioxidant activity up.
4 - Wash broccoli before you're ready to use it, not before you store it. Too much moisture in those broccoli head can promote mold growth.
5 - Look for different varieties at your local farmer's market or Asian grocer. The more pungent and bitter the flavor, the more healthy compounds you'll be consuming!
(1) - A major inducer of anticarcinogenic protective enzymes from broccoli: isolation and elucidation of structure.
(2) - Health-promoting compounds in broccoli as influenced by refrigerated transport and retail sale period.
What are your favorite ways to prepare broccoli? Share in the comments below!