A Giant of a Green
By Chelsea Fisher
Broccoli has enjoyed its fair share of fame in the anti-cancer spotlight. According to the American Cancer Society broccoli is high in folic acid, vitamins C and K, and fiber. It’s also one of the richest vegetable sources of calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Broccoli is a member of the brassica family of veggies along with cabbage and kale among others. It is recommended we eat 3/4 cup cooked brassicas a day, and twice that if raw. Like all members of the cruciferous brassica family of veggies, broccoli is rich in cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory isothiocyanates, including sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, which have been extensively researched for their ability to combat cancer. Research has shown that eating broccoli on a regular basis may reduce the risk of breast, prostate, colon, bladder and ovarian cancers. Other studies suggest more cancers may be affected too, but the evidence isn’t there yet. All in all it’s certainly better to actually eat broccoli and other brassicas than not.
Broccoli also provides vitamin B6, beta-carotene, folate, potassium, and manganese, as well as dietary fiber and some protein. Though the florets contain the most nutrition, including most of the above-mentioned phytochemicals, the stalk holds fiber and folate so don’t throw it out. Slice it up and toss it into your steamer.
Broccoli should feel heavy for its size and have tight, blue-green florets and green leaves. The stalk should be firm and fresh. Don’t buy broccoli with any brown or yellow spots. Broccoli can be kept in the fridge in an airtight bag for up to a week, and as long as it is stored whole it will preserve its nutrients. This is not true for pre-cut broccoli. Although they may be convenient, pre-cut veggies lose nutrients fast. If you do buy pre-cut broccoli, eat it the same day. If you can’t, blanch it for 2 minutes then bag and freeze it. It will keep for a year frozen. This goes for any fresh cut broccoli florets you can’t use up.
Over cooking broccoli not only makes it bitter, it can lessen some of the veggie’s beneficial vitamins and compounds. Steaming the florets for 4 minutes over boiling water is the optimal cooking method to preserve nutrients. Other gentle cooking options are stir-frying and blanching. We also love roasted broccoli even though it is a little less nutritious. We find roasting broccoli is a great way to engage the haters.
To use the broccoli stems when steaming or stir-frying, peel off the tough outer skin, then thinly slice, dice or julienne the core and, depending on the size, cook for around 2 to 4 minutes before adding the more delicate florets.
For a simple and antioxidant-rich meal try Cook For Your Life’s Chopped Steamed Winter Vegetable Salad, in which broccoli joins fennel, cauliflower, and apple, among many others in a sesame rémoulade with slivered almonds and sunflower seeds. For basic roasting, toss the florets in a bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil + salt and pepper, tip onto a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. Squeeze over with lemon juice as a finishing touch. For more great broccoli recipe ideas, click here!