Why We Should Eat More Broccoli

By Anne Palumbo

Broccoli with recipeI eat a lot of broccoli, probably more than your average Jane. When I was younger, I ate it for the taste. But now that I’m older, I make a concerted effort to eat broccoli for its comprehensive nutrition benefits — benefits, in particular, that help my aging body.

Ever since I was diagnosed with osteopenia (low bone mass) a few years ago, I’ve been on a mission to slow further bone loss by eating foods that support bone health. While broccoli doesn’t provide much calcium or any vitamin D, it does provide a phenomenal amount of bone-strengthening vitamin K: over 100% of our daily needs in an average serving. Vitamin K improves bone health by helping our body absorb calcium and by keeping it in our bones.

My concerns about cancer have intensified with age, especially since age alone is the No. 1 risk factor. Aware also that cancer-causing substances are a top risk, I can’t help but shudder every time I recall running behind the DDT mosquito trucks when I was a kid. So I look to broccoli, a cruciferous vegetable, for its high concentration of sulforaphane — a powerful phytonutrient that has demonstrated an ability to prevent cancer or slow its progression in multiple studies.

BroccoliThinning skin and the resulting tears also plague me, prompting me to consume foods that are high in vitamin C. Did you know that an average serving of broccoli serves up well over 100% of our daily needs? An essential nutrient, vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen and has even been linked with wrinkle reduction. Plus, this powerful antioxidant, which protects cells from free-radical damage, may also reduce our risk of certain cancers.

Dogged by LDL (bad) cholesterol that has risen with age, I also seek foods that provide the kind of fiber that helps whisk cholesterol out of the body: soluble fiber. One cup of cooked broccoli has about 5 grams of fiber, of which more than half is soluble. I’m equally grateful for broccoli’s insoluble fiber, as it helps with digestion and promotes regularity.

You know what else buoys me about broccoli? It’s super low in fat, cholesterol, and calories (only 60 per cooked cup!). Now, ready to eat more broccoli?

Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche with Quinoa Crust

Serves 6

2/3 cup dry quinoa, cooked and chilled
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-1/2 cups chopped broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup fat-reduced milk
4 large eggs
2 large egg whites
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 cup grated fat-reduced cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a 9-inch pie dish.

Rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and transfer to a medium pot.

Add 1-1/3 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until water is absorbed, 15-20 minutes. Set aside off the heat for 5 minutes; uncover, fluff with fork, then chill in fridge for 10 minutes.

Combine chilled quinoa, beaten egg, Parmesan cheese and black pepper in a bowl; stir well. Press mixture into bottom and up sides of pie dish. (Dust your hands with flour if mixture starts to stick.) Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes; cool.

In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and broccoli and cook slowly, stirring frequently until vegetables are soft (about 8-10 minutes). Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat; cool.

Combine milk and next 5 ingredients; stir with a whisk. Arrange broccoli mixture over crust; top with grated cheese. Pour egg mixture into the dish and bake at 375 F for 35-40 minutes, until center is set. Let stand 5 minutes; cut into 6 wedges.

Note: Prefer no crust? Skip the crust steps and head straight to spreading the broccoli mixture in the lightly oiled pie dish.

Helpful tips:

Choose broccoli heads with tight, deep green florets and firm stalks. The broccoli should feel heavy for its size, and the cut ends should be fresh looking. Avoid broccoli with browning stem ends or yellowing florets. Refrigerate unwashed broccoli in a loose plastic bag and wash just before using.

Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorie-conscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at avpalumbo@aol.com.