Broccoli

WHY YOU NEED IT

Ounce for ounce, broccoli has more vitamins and minerals than almost any vegetable you can eat. Take vitamin K, for example. Broccoli is brimming with 93 micrograms of the stuff per cup. That's good news, since K is essential for building cartilage and heading off joint inflammation as you get older.

Broccoli also protects your peepers with an abundance of lutein and zeaxanthin, two cartenoids critical to vision. Florets harbor the bulk of broccoli's carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.

One cup of broccoli will help keep you potent, supplying nearly half your daily allotment of folate, a B vitamin necessary for sperm production.

It is also a good source of fiber and may help ward off cancer. Studies show that eating three servings a week of cruciferous veggies like broccoli may slash your risk for prostate cancer significantly. Mix broccoli with tomatoes for even better protection.

Broccoli's secret to fighting cancer? Researchers believe it's an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which helps substances called Phase 2 enzymes defend the body against cancer. Sulforaphane also squelches H. pylori, the bacteria behind most common stomach ulcers.

HOW TO GET MORE

Mix it with pasta. Toss 1 cup freshly cooked whole-wheat pasta with olive oil, a couple of handfuls of sliced red peppers, and 1 1/2 cups cooked broccoli florets. Top with freshly ground black pepper and grated Parmesan cheese.

Make a soup. Puree 2 cups cooked broccoli with 1/4 cup low-sodium vegetable broth. Eat as is for a side dish or combine with low-fat milk or a scoop of sour cream to make soup.

Hide it. Stash cooked broccoli fl orets inside omelets, salads, soups, pizza, and Italian dishes such as spaghetti or lasagna.

Shape it into balls. Heat 1 cup broccoli, 1/4 cup cheese, and 1 cup cooked brown rice in the microwave. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender. Roll balls of the broccoli paste in bread crumbs, then bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Eat as a snack or side dish.

Make a slaw. Mix together 1 cup canned pineapple, drained; 1/4 cup bottled light cole- slaw dressing; 1/4 cup slivered almonds; and a 12-oz package of broccoli slaw. Chill for 30 minutes before serving. For a meal, chop up leftover grilled steak and mix into the dish.

MF TIP
When buying fresh broccoli, look for deep green florets with tiny, tight buds and no flowers. You can store unwashed broccoli in an open bag for up to a week in your fridge's veggie bin. Prior to cooking it, rinse florets thoroughly under cold running water. Refrigerate leftovers in a tightly covered containerand eat them within four days.

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