Top Twenty Healthiest Foods #2 Broccoli

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When my children were small, I encouraged them to eat broccoli by calling it “baby trees”. If time permitted, we could make dinner look more appealing to young eaters by arranging the food on the plate as a garden with a forest of broccoli on the plate rim. Actually, it is one vegetable which appears to be quite popular with young children. Apparently it’s a regular favourite in school dinners – as far as any vegetables are favourites with children, that is.

And there are so many reasons for encouraging both children and adults to eat broccoli!

It has properties which are known to protect against cancers such as lung and colon cancer. It’s high in vitamins C and E with all their health-giving properties, as well as antioxidants which lower the risk of heart disease, strokes and cataracts. It is an excellent source of folate which is considered essential for women planning pregnancy and it also contains iron which can protect against or help treat anaemia. Not to mention broccoli’s supplies of calcium (strengthens bones and teeth; helps control nerve impulses and muscle contraction) and zinc (helps keep the immune system healthy; helps growth and tissue formation).

Broccoli has the added advantage of being a very convenient vegetable because it’s so easy to prepare. There is little wastage: all you need to do is cut off the toughest end of the main stalk. To serve it cooked, a bunch of broccoli can then just be cut into a few chunks and steamed in boiling water for 5-10 minutes until just tender. (Avoid over-cooking to a mush!) Cut into smaller pieces, it’s great in a stir-fry and it’s also quite sweet and pleasant when eaten raw in salads. If you’re a big fan of broccoli, you might enjoy a big chunk of it in your packed lunch – it’s easy to hold and nibble on.

The most common green broccoli (calabrese) is available all the year round, but will taste best from June to October. It’s reasonably priced, although less common varieties of broccoli which are only available at certain times of the year are more expensive. For instance, purple sprouting broccoli is only found from January – April but if it costs a bit more, it’s worth it, because it’s absolutely delicious, as is tenderstem broccoli. Buy organic if possible, because it won’t have been treated with pesticides. Broccoli needs to be eaten fresh and doesn’t last more than a couple of days, even in the fridge. Don’t eat it once it has started turning yellow.

Suggested ways to enjoy broccoli:

1. Serve it as a steamed vegetable – it seems to go with everything!
2. Add a white or cheese sauce over steamed broccoli.
3. Chop it small and use in a stir fry – for instance with carrots, onions, garlic and green beans. Add chopped pieces of whatever meat is to hand or maybe some pulses, nuts or sunflower seeds for a quick lunch or supper.
4. Prepare a stir fry as above, but add beanshoots, a dash of vinegar, a splash of wine, 2 teaspoons of sugar and some soy sauce. Add chopped chicken or prawns and serve with noodles for an easy Chinese-style dish.
5. Chop it small, uncooked, and add to salads. For instance, grated carrot, walnuts and chopped broccoli in French dressing is a lovely combination.
6. Cut into small pieces of a convenient size to hold and use in dips along with carrot, celery and cucumber sticks.
7. Cook with other vegetables and seasoning in stock to make soup. Liquidise when the vegetables are cooked and add milk at the end of cooking if you want to make a creamed soup. Good ingredients to pair in soup with broccoli include: potato, chicken, Stilton or Cheddar cheese, cauliflower or sweet potato.
8. Serve in a warm pasta dish, perhaps combined with cherry tomatoes, parsley, basil and pine nuts. Something similar could be served cold as a salad.
9. Lightly cooked and chopped broccoli is a delicious ingredient in quiches and omelettes, perhaps paired with chopped bacon or smoked salmon.
10. Leftover cooked broccoli can be chopped and used to “pad out” family favourites such as curry or shepherd’s pie. (This will work as a way to hide broccoli from children who say they don’t like vegetables!)

Find the complete list of 20 Healthiest Foods here.

And have a look at yoghurt, carrots and oily fish by clicking on the links.

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