What is that green, beautiful cruciferous vegetable gracing the aisles so eloquently of the grocery store? Green, beautifully green, full of antioxidants and blossoming with life? It is broccoli, beautiful broccoli.
Sitting in the Ecuadorian jungle over 30 years ago as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer, I had my pick of amazing tropical fruits, sugar cane and cassava, but, to my chagrin, no broccoli. Many foods grew without a second thought in the Amazon Rainforest. Even the fences were hibiscus trees that grew to be a living fence, growing around the wire to hold it in place. Getting to Quiito, the capital, to get some broccoli was a bit tricky. It was a 9 hour precarious bus ride from my town of Palora to Quito, passing by 200 foot cliff drops and under waterfalls to arrive. Palora was nicknamed “The Eden of the Amazon” and was where I worked as a fish farmer. It had an incredible view of the Andes Mountain Range, with Sangay Volcano the most prominent, slowly puffing smoke every 15 minutes. It was quite beautiful by any standards.
Yet, with all that vegetation, I missed broccoli! My request from visitors coming from Quito were often for broccoli and chocolate, 2 amazing superfoods!
It turns out that broccoli is one of the family of cruciferous vegetables, so-named for the cross shape where the leaves branch. Like its cousins, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale and cabbage, it has many nutrients like vitamin A, C, K, folate (B9), potassium, phosphorous, selenium and calcium that serve as antioxidants, detox support and help decrease inflammation. It has naturally-occurring phytonutrients, plant-based nutrients, including DIM (diindolylmethane) and sulforophane that help process toxins and hormones through the body’s detox pathways in the liver and gut. It supports the body, providing these elements as well as fiber and chlorophyll in the green leafy buds and stalk. For those not liking the taste of broccoli, organic broccoli powder is great for smoothies or even sneaking into baked goods. Grated or shredded broccoli can be added to soups and stews, sauces, casseroles or even scrambled eggs.
When my now 21 year old daughter was 11 and I was learning so much about nutrition and food choices she said to me, “Momma, you have to stop going to conferences! Every time you come back you take away another food group!” We were slowly adjusting our new food choices but it had a dramatic effect on my child. At one conference we did a simple test to see who was a Super-Taster. Sure enough, 10% of the group tested positive. Testing at home, it turned out my daughter is one. As a Super-Taster, she is one of that 10% of the population that tastes bitter things very acutely. Bitter tastes even more bitter so it makes eating vegetables a challenge. Knowing this, however, helped us have patience and train her taste buds over time to like those bitter vegetables, even love them! Now, she asks for them for dinner and knows our motto, “
“When in doubt, eat broccoli!”
A few years back, while attending a Functional Medicine Detox Conference, the overall mood was getting low as we learned just how many things are toxic in our food and environment. We were bolstered by our ebullient lecturer, who, with brilliant enthusiasm, encouraged us to “Cheer up! Life is a balance and just add broccoli!” Broccoli is just that good at supporting our bodies to work well, decrease inflammation, help detoxify the system by supporting the liver and proper gut function and so many other benefits. So, as long as you do not have a known allergy or medical reason not to eat it, go for it and try adding a serving to your daily regimen. Go green! Go broccoli! Beautiful, beautiful broccoli!
Institute for Functional Medicine – ifm.org