When former President George W. Bush made his shocking proclamation that he didn’t like broccoli and that he wasn’t about to eat any, you could almost hear parents across the country gasping. While some kids might have praised the proclamation as an excuse to justify their own broccoli beliefs, the popularity of broccoli has really never wavered. Parents still are finding ways to get broccoli on their kids’ plates by using any means possible. Let’s take a look at what this versatile vegetable has to offer.
Today, broccoli remains one of the best selling vegetables in America for many reasons. This low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable has been praised for some miraculous health benefits. This list of benefits includes fighting cancer, boosting our immune systems, building stronger bones, and lowering the risk for cataracts. Broccoli earns its distinction as one of the top super foods in diets around the world.
Broccoli is a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, B6, folate, potassium and manganese. We’re familiar with most of these, of course, but did you know that folate is linked to reducing birth defects and heart disease? Along with these nutrients, broccoli is also a good source of protein, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, and iron.
The words super-food and antioxidant often go together, and broccoli is no exception. Rich in antioxidants, those damaging free-radicals don’t stand a chance against broccoli. One of those antioxidants is Q10 which helps the body produce energy. Another specific component of broccoli’s superpower status involves a compound called sulforaphane which triggers potent anti-cancer enzymes. These enzymes are also effective in eliminating bacteria that can cause peptic ulcers.
And, you don’t have to eat a lot of broccoli to get all these super nutrients. Just one cup of broccoli provides over 40 milligrams of calcium and almost 80 milligrams of vitamin C. That even beats milk as a nutritional food source. All this nutrition is available in only 25 calories, plus broccoli is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Selecting fresh broccoli isn’t difficult. Look for sturdy stalks with compact, dark green florets, and avoid wilted specimens with yellowing buds, as these stalks are already past their prime. Broccoli stores well in the refrigerator for up to three days before losing its vitamin content. In some supermarkets, you will even find hybrids like broccoflower or broccolini, which combine kale or cauliflower with broccoli.
Trim any leaves from the stalk and trim the woody end of the stalk off the bottom. If you prefer to eat only the florets, or your recipe calls for just the florets, cut the broccoli florets off the stalk, rinse under running water, and drain. Save the stalks for another recipe if desired.
Broccoli is one of the more versatile vegetables you can eat, holding up well in a number of recipes and cooking methods. Of course, the closer you keep your broccoli to its raw state, the more nutrients you will maintain.
If you are cooking your broccoli to serve as a side dish, you should only cook it for a few moments, until the florets turn bright green. Cooking broccoli for more time than necessary causes the nutritional benefits to deteriorate. If the broccoli becomes mushy during steaming or boiling, it’s cooked too long. You may choose to flash-cook the broccoli in a microwave to keep the cooking time short and to maintain more of the nutrients. Although, the microwave debate still goes on about whether it reduces or destroys nutrients in broccoli. You decide.
Broccoli can be used in anything from stir-fry to casseroles, omelets, soups, and salads. The florets are a pretty, and nutritious, addition to many dishes. The stalks can be chopped and sauted, roasted, or cooked and pureed for a creamy broccoli soup. You’ll find thousand of recipes using broccoli once you start searching.
Of course, we can’t talk about broccoli and kids without talking about broccoli trees. Raw broccoli florets look like little trees, so use this to your advantage when trying to get kids to eat their broccoli. With a bit of creamy dressing for ‘snow,’ make a little forest of broccoli trees and your kids will be tempted to gobble them up in no time.
It should also be noted that sprouts from broccoli have the same healthful benefits as the plant itself. Toss a handful of sprouts on top of a salad for a real boost of flavor and nutrients. Or, tuck a pile of broccoli sprouts into a tortilla wrap sandwich for a crunchy treat. Anywhere you want to add crunch, add broccoli sprouts.
No matter how you serve broccoli – raw, blanched, or steamed as a side dish, or as an ingredient in a main dish, you can’t go wrong with this powerhouse vegetable. Besides the boost broccoli gives your immune system, and your overall health, broccoli is just plain tasty. This is one super food you don’t want to skip.
Image: flickr user [puamella], licensed by Creative Commons