Cooked Chinese Broccoli ‐ Vitamin Information
Chinese broccoli, also known as Gai-lan in Cantonese and Kai-lan in Mandarin, is a staple of Chinese cuisine. It grows mostly throughout Asia but is popularly cultivated in the U.S., particularly California. Chinese broccoli is a vegetable closely related to traditional broccoli, but with smaller florets on longer stalks, a stronger flavor, and different texture. Its deep green leaves, white stems, and small yellow flowers have been part of Asian diets for centuries.
When cooked correctly, Chinese broccoli exhibits an array of vitamins that can contribute to a healthy lifestyle. This paper will explore the vitamins found inside of cooked Chinese broccoli, their role in nutrition and health maintenance, and ways to incorporate it into meals more effectively.
Vitamins are essential nutrients that are required by organisms in small doses to support normal growth, development, and functions. Vitamins provide energy metabolism reaction sites, promote cellular regulation and enzyme production, and they act as coenzyme regulators. Proper vitamin intake helps prevent chronic disease such as heart disease and cancer. Since our body cannot manufacture these vitamins, we must obtain them through diet or supplementation. Thus, choosing foods that are high in certain vitamins can benefit overall nutritional balance (Whitney & Rolfes, 2019).
One important nutrient in all vegetables, including Chinese broccoli, comes from amino acids. Amino acids are molecules made up of chains of nitrogen atoms surrounded by hydrogen atoms, and they serve as the building blocks of protein. They aid in repairing tissue, transmitting nerve impulses, providing energy, storing fat, and synthesizing hormones. From a dietary standpoint, there are 8 "essential" short-chain amino acids that our bodies cannot produce themselves, meaning they MUST be obtained from food (Byrd-Brenner, 2011). These include leucine, isoleucine, valine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, lysine, and histidine. Chinese broccoli contains significant levels of all 8 essential amino acids, making it a great way to get your protein without relying solely on animal sources.
Carbohydrates are another macronutrient category comprised of both simple sugars such as fructose and complex starches such as amylopectin. Carbohydrate content varies among plant types; however, Chinese broccoli typically provides between 4-6g of net carbs per 100g serving (Monash University, n.d.). Most of this carbohydrate content comes from dietary fiber which has many benefits for human health including improved digestion, reduced cholesterol absorption, and even lowered risk of type 2 diabetes. Due to its low glycemic index and complex carbohydrate structure, Chinese broccoli is thought to be better digested than other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower.
Like most plant based items, Chinese broccoli is extremely low in fats. Depending on how prepared, it yields typically less than 0.5g per 100g serving the majority of which consists of polyunsaturated fatty acids (EPA/DHA) followed by monounsaturate Oleic acid (Monsh University, n.d.) The presence of PUFAs and MUFA makes this an excellent source of non-animal derived lipids for individuals on vegan or vegetarian diets who might otherwise struggle to meet their daily nutritional requirements.
Vitamin A is a vital nutrient to proper vision functioning and eye health, allowing rods and cones within the eyes to convert sunlight into useful information about shapes and colors. Vitamin A is also an important antioxidant keeping cells healthy and limiting the amount of free radicals roaming around in the body; it also aids in immune system functionality and assists with skin cell production. Cooking Chinese broccoli enhances the availability of carotenoids (the precursor to Diet-ary Vitamin A), significantly increasing the total amount of dietary Vitamin A present (Tufts University, n.d.). Furthermore, just one cup of cooked Chinese broccoli offers nearly 200% DV of Vitamin A needed for the day!
Another key member in Chinese broccoli’s nutritional arsenal is Vitamin K. This fat soluble vitamin plays an integral role in forming blood clots and maintaining bone density, allowing us to heal cuts properly and avoid issues such as osteoporosis. There are three forms of vitamin K present: phylloquinone, menaquinone-4, and menaquinone-7. All 3 can be found in Chinese broccoli and especially higher amounts in cooked varieties, depending on the cooking method used (Tufts University, n.d.). Relatively speaking, one cup of the cooked vegetable contains almost double the amount of Vitamin K needs in a day —clearly signifying Chinese broccoli should be considered a rockstar vegetable when assessing Vitamin K sources.
Additionally, potassium is rampant in Chinese broccoli. As an electrolyte, potassium acts as facilitator to help ensure efficient muscle contractions as well as regulate fluid balance in the body. Potassium plays critical roles in blood pressure control, protecting against stroke and heart attack, as well as kidney stones and others kidney infections (Quan et al., 2020). 3 cups of cooked Chinese broccoli provides us with 320mg of dietary potassium each day (~9% of DV).
Put simply, Chinese broccoli packs an impressive list of health promoting compounds that assist in everything from bone building and heart health, to vision improvement and nervous system protection. While further research is necessary, early signs point to Chinese Broccoli being nutritionally potent and deserving its place at center stage of dinner tables everywhere. Summarily, from a health perspective, incorporating Chinese broccoli into one's diet ensures a steady supply of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, lipid profiles, and amino acids in balanced proportions. For all reasons stated, Chinese broccoli warrants serious consideration as a viable choice ingredient in any upscale meal or exotic culinary experience.