Get ready to brocc-around the clock tonight with our newest superfood: broccoli. This vitamin and mineral-packed powerhouse has everything from disease-fighting compounds to much-needed fiber.
Taking Stalk — The Need-to-Know
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are a formidable family of anti-cancer all-stars, but let’s get real: they’re a tough bunch for some to love. Fibrous, harsh, and full of crunch, they range from the bitter (horseradish and mustard) to the bland (cabbage and collards), with Brussels sprouts and broccoli falling somewhere in between. Broccoli stands out among its cruciferous kin for exceptionally high levels of vitamin C and folate (which reduces the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke) Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk. Verhoeven, D.T., Goldbohm, R.A., van Poppel, G., Verhagen, H., and van den Brandt, P.A. Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, Nutrition and Food Research Institute, Zeist, The Netherlands. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 1996 Sep;5(9):733-48. . And what makes these crunchy stalks tough (fiber to help digestion) and pungent (a super-dose of bitter vitamins) is precisely what makes them healthy. Just try not to go overboard on the ranch dressing.
I’m All Floret! — Your Action Plan
Several large studies suggest eating only four servings of broccoli per week could reduce the risk of developing prostate and other cancers Broccoli consumption interacts with GSTM1 to perturb oncogenic signaling pathways in the prostate. Traka, M., Gasper, A.V., Melchini, A., et al. PLOs One. Phytochemicals and Health Programme, Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, United Kingdom. 2008 Jul 2;3(7):e2568. .
But the question remains: should we serve broccoli raw, boiled, or steamed? The raw camp says any exposure to heat will damage certain cancer-fighting nutrients. But others believe boiling broccoli makes it easier to digest and boosts vitamin A content. Finally, the steamers invoke Goldilocks' hypothesis that not too hot or too cold is just right for preserving broccoli's vitamin C and proteins Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli. Yuan, G.F., Sun, B., Yuan, J., et al.Department of Horticulture, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. Journal of Zhejiang University Science B. 2009 Aug;10(8):580-8. .
The bottom line: broccoli has a slew of vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds, all of which respond to heat in different ways. Whether it's raw, steamed, or boiled, eat more broccoli and reap the benefits. Broccoli’s assertive flavor works particularly well with curries, garlic, cranberries, pine nuts, and lemon zest. And if mixing and matching fails, chomping a plain stalk will make a champion out of just about anyone.
Photo by Kate Morin