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Published February 12, 2010, 12:00 AM

Nutritious broccoli a great addition to meal

“I think I will have the grilled salmon, a salad and broccoli as my side dish,” my 14-year-old son said as he perused the menu.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“I think I will have the grilled salmon, a salad and broccoli as my side dish,” my 14-year-old son said as he perused the menu.

“Is the broccoli good here?” my 11-year-old daughter asked.

“Yes, it’s really good,” he replied.

“OK, I’ll have broccoli, too,” she said.

My husband and I glanced at each other in amazement. After observing this exchange between my children, I felt a little guilty about ordering the deep-fried shrimp. I ordered the broccoli, though. To offset the shrimp, I also had my salad dressing on the side.

In their younger years, much coaxing was involved in getting our children to eat vegetables. In fact, for quite a while both of them avoided having anything green on their plates, except perhaps green-frosted cookies on St. Patrick’s Day.

If I had been offering a prize for healthy food selection that evening, my son would have earned a bonus prize by choosing the grilled salmon.

Eating more broccoli is a trend in the U.S. Compared with 25 years ago, Americans are eating 900 percent more broccoli. On average, each of us eats 4.5 pounds of broccoli per year.

You might want to scoop up your share of broccoli based on research about broccoli and its relatives. Along with cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and bok choy, broccoli is a member of the cruciferous family.

Broccoli is loaded with “phytochemicals,” which are natural plant chemicals with disease-fighting properties. Broccoli is rich in substances known as “isothiocyanates,” especially “sulforaphane.” These natural substances stimulate our production of cancer-fighting compounds, and may reduce our risk for cancer of the colon, stomach, lungs, pancreas, skin and other organs.

Other research suggests eating more broccoli may help prevent cataracts.

Broccoli is a good source of calcium, fiber, iron, folate, beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A in the body) and vitamin C. While oranges get the attention for their vitamin C content, ounce for ounce, broccoli actually contains more.

When purchasing broccoli, choose dense, firm clusters that are dark green or have a blue cast. Avoid broccoli that has a yellowish cast because it is past its prime. You may want to try “broccolini,” which is a smaller variety with a slightly sweeter taste.

Wash the broccoli thoroughly with cold running water. Store cleaned broccoli in the refrigerator in a zip-type plastic bag or sealed container within easy reach for snacks.

Broccoli is tasty fresh or cooked. You can steam broccoli or cook it in a small amount of water. To speed cooking, cook the stalk portions first, then add the florets later in the cooking process so they do not become overcooked.

If you bypassed broccoli in your younger years, give it another chance. If you like it, have an extra serving.

Here’s a tasty dish from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension. It’s an excellent source of calcium and vitamins A and C.


Chicken and Broccoli Quiche

9-inch ready-made pie crust, baked

4 eggs

1 cup fat-free milk

½ tsp. garlic salt (or use garlic powder to decrease sodium)

Pepper (as desired)

¾ cup low-fat cheddar cheese, shredded

¾ cup cooked, chopped chicken

10-ounce package frozen, chopped broccoli

¼ cup carrots, shredded

¼ cup finely chopped onion

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake pie crust according to package directions. In a mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Place frozen chopped broccoli in a microwave-safe dish. Cook according to the package’s directions. Drain liquid in strainer and let cool. Press to remove additional liquid. Layer the meat, vegetables and cheese into a baked pie crust.

Pour the egg mixture over the ingredients. Bake at 350 F for 30 to 40 minutes or until top is browned and knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand five minutes before cutting.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 370 calories, 16 grams (g) of fat, 17 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 540 milligrams of sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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