Green goodness

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 January, 2010, 12:00am

Good things usually come in small packages, this is particularly true for broccoli. It has been hailed as a super-food by health organisations around the world. We know veggies are good for us but why broccoli?

We all remember being coaxed to eat these little 'trees' by our mum but more often than not those forests on our dinner plates were left untouched. So why should broccoli be on our list of 'must haves' now?

Five reasons

1 Gram for gram, broccoli contains more vitamin C than an orange. Vitamin C is needed for healthy skin, hair, blood and teeth as well as for boosting the immune system and fighting off infections.

2 Like other green leafy veggies, broccoli is rich in calcium, a cup of broccoli contains almost as much calcium as a cup of milk. Calcium is a mineral needed for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. Research shows that this mineral may help to control high blood pressure and prevent colon cancer.

3 Broccoli is rich in fibre - both insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fibre is often referred to as nature's broom because it helps to speed up the rate at which food moves from one end of the gut to the other. Soluble fibre, on the other hand, is needed to lower levels of 'bad' cholesterol in the blood.

4 Among the many phytochemicals it contains is one called indole-3-carbinol, or I3C, which has the ability to promote good hormones and fight against destructive ones. In particular, studies on breast cancer have shown that I3C helps to eliminate damaged cells from the body and prevent cancer cells from growing. Some scientific trials suggest that I3C works better than conventional drugs used to treat breast cancer.

5 The beta carotene in broccoli transforms into vitamin A in the body and together with other antioxidants and phytochemicals, provides a defence against harmful free radicals that cause heart disease and cancers.

Getting the most out of broccoli

Cut the broccoli into even-sized pieces before washing and cooking. Do not soak it in water before cooking because you will lose all the water-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin C.

Choose organic

Organic vegetables are grown without using pesticides.

Do not overcook

Boiling reduces the amount of vitamin C by half, and putting it in the microwave oven also destroys a large amount of vitamin C and other healthy minerals.

The best way to cook broccoli is to lightly steam it for five minutes before eating. You can also lightly stir fry it in extra virgin olive oil or sunflower oil.

Add it to your favourite dish

If you hate broccoli, try eating it with foods that you like. If you love cheese, you can sprinkle some over steamed broccoli and then grill it. The melted cheese will be delicious. If you love tomatoes, add some steamed broccoli to your favourite tomato sauce and enjoy it with spaghetti or pizza.

Pep it up

Try sprinkling chilli flakes on cooked broccoli to spice things up. You can also eat broccoli raw with a dip like sour cream and chives.