Jessica's Nutritious Living: Superfood Broccoli and a White Bean Dip

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(Editor’s Note: This column is filled with nutritious food tips and accompanying recipes written exclusively for My Daily Find by Jessica Siegel, Gelson’s Staff Dietitian. )

It should be no surprise that broccoli is one of the top “superfoods.” This mean green has a strong reputation for fighting cancer, due to its unusually potent antioxidant content.

Like its cruciferous cousins cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, bok choy and kale, broccoli offers sulforaphane, indoles, and isothiocyanates, the phytonutrients believed to be responsible for neutralizing free radicals, thus helping to rid the body of cancer-causing substances and reduce cancer risk in general. Specifically, broccoli seems to help protect against breast, prostate, bladder, gastric and pancreatic cancers. The cancer protection offered by these unique phytonutrients is the reason why we should all eat a serving of at least one type of cruciferous vegetable each day. Additionally, broccoli is super high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that also protects against cancer, and helps with iron absorption, making broccoli a perfect accompaniment to an iron-rich meal. Broccoli also contains calcium, vitamin K, riboflavin, manganese and potassium, which are important nutrients for bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis. It is a good source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

A serving of broccoli is just 1/2 cup, cooked or raw. At 20 calories, 2 grams of fiber, and almost 100% of your daily vitamin C requirement for just about five florets, it’s an easy veggie to swallow.

Most broccoli is grown in California, and it is one of the few vegetables that is available fresh year round. Organic broccoli is also available right now. When selecting broccoli, it should look fresh, and have light green stalks with thin, crisp stems attached to the florets. The bud clusters should be compact and dark green with a purple or bluish green tinge. Avoid broccoli that is yellowish, wilted, or has any brown or slimy spots.

Store broccoli unwashed in an open plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Wash the crowns under cold running water, or, if you see any dirt, soak them in cold water for several minutes, then rinse. Broccoli can be eaten cooked or raw. To cook broccoli, cut it into uniform pieces so it cooks evenly. To steam, allow the water to boil before placing florets and steamer basket over it, cover and cook for three to five minutes, until it is bright green and crisp-tender. You can also sauté lightly steamed broccoli with olive oil, garlic and chili flakes for a spicy treat. Raw or lightly steamed broccoli goes great in salad or as a crudités with hummus or guacamole. Broccoli pairs well with garlic, lemon, cheddar and parmesan cheeses, olive oil, nuts and nut oils, olives, chilies, dill and marjoram.

This month, try raw broccoli florets with my recipe for White Bean Dip with Crudités.

Jessica Siegel, MPH, RD is the Staff Dietitian for Gelson’s Markets.  She is the author of Nutrition Notes, a monthly newsletter about nutrition, wellness, food and cooking, as well as several healthful recipes, all of which are available in stores and online at  Jessica has also converted thousands of Gelson’s shoppers into better eaters over the years with Recipes from Jessica’s Kitchen, her delightful line of healthful and wholesome prepared foods, available in all of Gelson’s Service Delis.

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.