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  1. Feature Ingredient of the Month: Broccoli


    broccoli

    For years it has been the go-to punishment for parents, "eat your broccoli or else..." But maybe those parents were on to something. We should be eating our broccoli. Broccoli is a nutritional gold mine. Broccoli has been shown to help with everything from improving vision to fighting cancer to strengthening bones.

    Why it's good for us:

    Broccoli is one of those heralded super foods that really lives up to the hype. A single cup of raw, chopped broccoli is full of protein, vitamin E, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium, and if that weren't enough, it's also a very good source of fiber, vitamins A, C, K and B6 as well as folate, potassium and manganese and only 31 measly calories.

    Why it's really, really good for us (or top 10 reasons to eat more broccoli):

    It helps maintain a healthy weight. In addition to being very low in calories, broccoli is full of fiber. Fiber helps to keep us feeling full longer, so in turn, we eat less.

    It improves brain function. Broccoli contains a high amount of potassium, which helps to maintain the electrical conductivity of the brain and has also been shown to help in higher brain functions such as memory and learning.

    It lowers blood pressure. Broccoli is also a good source of magnesium and calcium, both of which help to regulate blood pressure.

    It fights free radicals. Broccoli is chock full of vitamin C, which is one of those powerful antioxidants that fights free radicals. Just one cup of chopped broccoli contains your entire recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C.

    It strengthens bones. Broccoli contains high levels of both calcium and vitamin K, both of which are important for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis.

    It repairs skin. Broccoli is helpful in repairing skin damage thanks to the glucoraphanin it contains, a compound that helps the skin to detoxify and repair itself.

    It prevents cancer. The glucoraphanin also helps the body to produce the anti-cancer compound sulforaphane. In addition, broccoli also contains indole-3-carbinol, a powerful antioxidant compound and anti-carcinogen found to not only hinder the growth of breast, cervical and prostate cancer, but also boosts liver function.

    It strengthens immune systems. The beta-carotene in broccoli helps to enhance our immune system. And the trace minerals, such as zinc and selenium, further act to give our immune system a little boost.

    It protects eyesight. The beta-carotene in broccoli can also protect the eyes against macular degeneration and prevent cataracts.

    It may reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease. Studies have shown that a diet high in folate may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease; broccoli is full of folate.

    How to choose:

    Broccoli is available all year round, but the peak season is October through April, depending on where you live in the country.

    When shopping for broccoli, the key things to look for include:

    • closed, green florets without brown spots
    • no soft areas or stalks that are discolored or slimy
    • leaves that aren't wilted

    The only bad thing about broccoli is how quickly it goes bad. It lasts a little longer if you store it unwashed (just wash before you use) in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. But even then it only lasts three to four days; it's best eaten within a day or two of purchasing.

    How to eat:

    Broccoli is so versatile. You can eat it raw, steamed, stir-fried; whatever your imagination can dream up. However, it's important to note that broccoli has some added benefits when you eat it steamed. Steaming the broccoli allows the fiber to bind better in your digestive track making it easier for bile acids to be excreted. This in turn lowers your cholesterol levels. Raw broccoli still has cholesterol-lowering benefits, just not as much as steamed.

    Some preparation ideas include:

    • Broccoli pesto: Purée cooled steamed broccoli with garlic, toasted pine nuts, grated Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.
    • Broccoli dip: Purée steamed broccoli with non-fat sour cream and grated Parmesan. Serve with raw veggies.
    • Broccoli salad: Toss cooled steamed broccoli with chickpeas, halved grape tomatoes, crumbled Feta, olive oil, and red wine vinegar.
    • Broccoli almondine: Toss steamed broccoli with butter and fresh lemon juice, sprinkle toasted sliced almonds on top.

    Some other good broccoli recipes include:

     

     

    Anyway you serve it, broccoli should be a mainstay in your diet! From bone-stregthener, to cancer fighter to skin enhancer, broccoli is a true superfood.

    Author: Sue Ridgeway

    Recipes & Kitchen Tips
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