Food for Thought
Like its cousin cauliflower, broccoli is a member of the cabbage family. However, broccoli is far richer in vitamins and minerals—especially vitamins A, C and D—than cauliflower. Unfortunately, its strong flavor is often resisted by children and former presidents alike!
Because it contains copious amounts of antioxidants, broccoli packs a real punch in terms of health benefits. Glucoraphanin, a naturally occurring compound in the plant, has been shown to fight cancer cells and may also reduce the risk of high blood pressure, CVD and stroke, according to a study published in the May 4 issue of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s one reason why food experts recommend that cruciferous vegetables like broccoli be eaten several times a week. One-half cup of fresh, cooked broccoli contains 23 calories, 2.4 grams (g) of dietary fiber, 2.3 g of protein and 4.3 mg of carbohydrates.
Broccoli is a hardy veggie that grows best during the cooler seasons (spring and fall). However, different varieties are available in markets year-round. When buying broccoli, look for bright-green or purplish-green heads and avoid those with yellow flowers or enlarged buds. Store this veggie unwashed in loose or perforated plastic bags in the crisper bin of your fridge. To avoid mold, wash broccoli under cold water just before using. (But don’t let it sit in the water!) Eating broccoli when it is freshest will give you the most nutritional benefit and help you avoid the stronger flavor that develops as it ages.
Fresh broccoli is delicious whether cooked or raw. Cut the florets into uniform pieces for cooking, and be sure to use the stalks and leaves along with the head. Steam the parts in water for about 3–4 minutes until tender-crisp. Overcooked broccoli will turn dark green and lose key nutrients, especially vitamin C. Consider pairing broccoli with strong seasonings like onions, garlic, vinegar, tomatoes, olive oil or crumpled bacon bits.
Raw broccoli is a great addition to your favorite salads. When peeled, the stalks are even milder than the florets. Cut the stalks into rectangles and eat them like carrot sticks, or marinate them in an oil-and-vinegar dressing for a few hours to make a tasty broccoli stalk salad.