An Ode To Broccoli

by Dave on May 15, 2009

As printed in Coastal Sussex Weekly, April 30, 2009:

Who doesn’t remember this famous quote:

“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” George H. W. Bush

Sorry 41, but broccoli is my favorite vegetable, and I’m hoping by the end of this column it will be yours, my dear readers, as well.

Broccoli comes from the cruciferous family, and although a cool weather crop, is available fresh year round. Multiple studies over several years have shown that broccoli has powerful antioxidant activity (namely from the carotenoids contained within), with specific anticancer protective enzymes identified. Broccoli has been purported to decrease the risk of many cancers, including colon, and breast in premenopausal women. It has also been shown to prevent stroke, and minimize risk for cataracts.

One cup of this beauteous Brassica oleracea has just 31 calories, zero fat, zero cholesterol, three grams of protein, and two grams of fiber, is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and a good source of folate and vitamin K. What more could one ask for in a mere veggie?

But how to eat?  Raw broccoli can be a delicious afterschool snack served with light ranch dressing for the kids, or as part of an elegant crudite tray at your next cocktail party. But how to cook? By all means do NOT boil.  Boiling (or over-cooking in general) can rob these little green trees of their anti-cancer properties, according to researchers, but steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying leaves the critical chemicals intact. How to store? If fresh, in the frig for up to seven days; wash just before using. Can’t get fresh? Don’t forgo frozen, which is harvested at the peak of freshness and flash frozen to seal in nutrients.

The current recommendation for vegetables is two-and-a-half to three cups per day for adults. Try my broccoli slaw with some baked chicken and couscous, or in place of lettuce in a pita to get a serving or two in tonight.

Greek Broccoli Slaw

1 C pre-cut, bagged broccoli cole slaw
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP balsamic vinaigrette
1 TBSP chopped kalamata olives
a pinch of paprika

Mix together all ingredients.  Best if left to “marinate” for at least 4 hours or overnight but can be eaten right away. Makes 2 servings.

Correction to last week’s article: The current upper limit for Vitamin D is 2,000IU/day, not 10,000IU. But according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, “Several nutrition scientists recently challenged these ULs. They point to newer clinical trials conducted in healthy adults and conclude that the data support a UL as high as 10,000 IU/day.” – Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health

Lisa Harkins is a clinical registered dietitian with Bayhealth Medical Centers and the owner of Ideal Nutrition and Fitness LLC. You can reach her at

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