Broccoli (Brassica oleracea) is a cruciferous vegetable that comes from wild cabbage, as do other domesticated cultivars such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale and brussel sprouts.
The history of broccoli’s initial cultivation is speculative, but it was likely somewhere in the Mediterranean, possibly in the Ancient Roman Empire, where the famous “Apicius cookbooks” described something resembling broccoli. Thomas Jefferson was one of the first farmers in the United States to plant Broccoli, doing so at his Monticello estate.
Commercial cultivation of broccoli did not take place in the United States until the early 20th century in California, which still accounts for the majority of U.S. broccoli production (broccoli is harvested year-round, but is at its best around the country between April and October). The US is third in world production of broccoli, behind the population-dense developing-world behemoths China and India (together accounting for more than 70% of global broccoli production), and followed by Spain and Mexico to round out the top five.
Broccoli is a great source of vitamins C, A, and K, as well as dietary fiber, omega 3 fatty acid, folate and flavanols. Suggested health benefits of broccoli include anti-inflammatory properties (which studies have suggested are especially due to compounds knowns as Isothiocyanates [ITC’s]), bone health (due in part to high levels of vitamin K), digestive health (thanks to fiber especially) and lowering the risk of developing lung and colon cancers. Cooked broccoli loses some of its nutritional value as opposed to its raw form(which is great in salad or with hummus), but is still a fantastic and healthful complement to any meal.
Broccoli consumption has also been linked to both diabetes prevention and management. One study connected a specific ITC, “sulforaphane”, to slowing and partially reversing the advancement of type 2 diabetes by improving glucose control in patients. Its low glycemic index score and versatility in cooking makes it a highly recommended fresh vegetable for all people, but especially for those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Glycemic Index of Broccoli: 32 = Low
Resources and Further Reading
Broccoli and its history:
For more information on the health benefits and the nutritional content of broccoli:
Some of the suggested health benefits of broccoli:
A recent study out of Sweden that demonstrates how broccoli improves glucose control with those who have type 2 diabetes:
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