Include Broccoli in Your Healthy Balanced Meals
Broccoli, an ancient food that existed during the Roman Empire, is something we still enjoy today. It has been around for centuries, made its way to Europe and then was finally introduced to the North American diet around 300 years ago.
If you are trying to stay healthy, lean and strong this is the food for you. This amazing food is considered to have a low sugar load which means it will not spike your blood sugar level. Foods that fit into this category actually help you to lose weight naturally.
One of the best reasons to eat broccoli is for the isothiocyanates it contains. Isothiocyanates are a type of phytonutrient known to prevent cancer and to help fight against cancer.
Fiber aids our body in the elimination process and helps us to maintain a optimal health. Broccoli is an excellent source of dietary fibre. If your diet is high in meat, dairy and eggs adding broccoli can provide you with fibre, nutrients, minerals, vitamins and just some lovely color for your dinner plate.
This incredible food can help you reach your optimal health and optimal maintainable weight. It is loaded with vitamins and contains more vitamin than the average orange. These are some of the nutrients that you will find in broccoli:
• Vitamins A, B6, C and E
• Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper, Manganese and Selenium
• Choline, Folate
How can I add broccoli to my healthy balanced meals?
Raw or frozen broccoli is available in almost any grocery store. Whenever possible, I recommend purchasing it raw. Processed foods, even frozen products, contain higher levels of sodium than the food would naturally have. Part of the process of freezing fruits and vegetables is the destruction of the enzymes in the food. The fruits and vegetables that we eat have natural enzymes in them. These substances help our body in many ways including digestion. If we start raw, we have a better chance of receiving the full benefit of the food we are eating.
Broccoli is a very versatile food. It can be eaten raw, cooked, in soups and stews, in quiche and omelettes, on platters, as a side dish for a main course, as a snack, as part of a salad or as the main ingredient of the salad. One of the reasons I like broccoli is for its vibrant green colour. It can instantly make the appearance of any meal fun and exciting. If you like to "play" with your food, try cutting broccoli into little green florets and arranging those next to slices of tomatoes or cucumber. This will add a quick and decorative touch to any meal. Another great feature is that you can decide on how big or small you want the florets allowing you to fit broccoli into any meal idea.
Broccoli can easily be overcooked and when it is, it turns mushy and the vibrant green color disappears. Try steaming this delicate vegetable. Cut the florets into the desired size and place them in a steamer with a little water in the bottom. The florets should not sit in the water. When the water reaches a full boil, turn off the element, remove the pot from the stove top and let it sit. The heat from the water will cook the broccoli, the florets will not be mushy and the color will be vibrant.
The stems and the florets are both edible and have slightly different flavors. Try them both raw and cooked. You may find you have a preference. You might like the stems raw and the florets cooked or the stems cooked and the florets raw. Which even way you prefer, slip a little broccoli into your healthy balanced meals.
Ten Ways to Include Broccoli into Your Everyday Meals
1. In Salads
Traditionally, we tend to think of salads as lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers. You can create variety to this type of salad by simply adding some broccoli florets.
Cooked salads made with pasta, potatoes or shrimp look lovely with broccoli florets. You can add cooked or raw florets depending on the texture you desire. Cook florets gently to maintain some of the crispness and to prevent them from being damaged when mixed into the salad.
2. As the Main Ingredient of a Salad
Making a salad with broccoli as the main ingredient is easy to do. You can use it raw or gently steam it. The salad dressing that you use will help you decide what to add to the salad. Try to be colorful in your food choices. You could add tomatoes pieces or walnuts. An appealing appearance is half the battle in making food taste good.
3. Veggie Platters and Salad Plates
Veggie platters are easy to make and there are no set rules regarding what to add. Broccoli makes a great division between red peppers and tomatoes on a vegetable platter. Be creative by mixing colors, shapes and textures.
Children love to be entertained and fun food is a great place to start. Add variety to their meals by creating a salad plate in the shape of a face. Small broccoli florets for hair, cucumber slices for eyes, a cherry tomato for a nose and almonds in the shape of a mouth. Or if you would rather do a landscape, broccoli florets can double as trees in the background. Be creative and "play" with your food.
4. As Sprouts
Some children (and adults too) have decided that they do not like broccoli - which is very unfortunate. But there is a solution!
Broccoli sprouts, similar to alfalfa sprouts in appearance, are an excellent substitute. These young, small greens have a bit of zest to them. They are great on sandwiches or with brown rice crackers and tahini spread. Try replacing the broccoli florets in your child's salad (described above) with sprouts to create a wild hair style.
5. With Eggs
Scrambled eggs, omelettes and quiche are enhanced with the addition of bright green broccoli florets. For softer florets, you may have to steam them slightly. Since eggs and dairy products lack fiber adding broccoli not only makes the meal interesting by adding color but also adds fiber.
6. In Soups
Regardless of the base of your soup, broccoli can be added to almost any mixed vegetable soup, even borscht. It can be chopped into small pieces, blended to make cream soups or left as larger decorative pieces. Next time you make home-made chicken soup, add some lovely green florets and enjoy the color combinations.
7. As a Side Dish
Broccoli as a side dish can really brighten up a meal. It can be served with a cheese or cream sauce, or you can drizzle some heart healthy olive oil with seasonings and herbs over top.
8. In Salsa, Pesto and Stir-fry
There are so many ways to combine broccoli to your meals. Consider chopping it into fine pieces and adding it to you salsa or pesto. Large broccoli florets can turn the appearance of a stir fry around. Add some large florets when the stir fry is almost ready. The broccoli only needs a few minutes to steam from the heat and juices of the stir fry. Just placing it on top and covering it for a few minutes should be enough to cook the broccoli and maintain the color.
9. For a Snack
Broccoli is great as a snack because it does not cause blood sugar levels to snack. If you do not have it planned as part of your healthy balanced meals for the day, you can add broccoli in as s snack. Cutting broccoli stems into long strips makes it easy to pack for a snack. Try adding a little cashew of almond butter for a yummy healthy treat. Children will enjoy dipping the strips into the nut butters.
10. A Garnish
Garnishes are usually thought of as pieces of herbs such as cilantro or parsley, a piece of lettuce or a slice of citrus. Consider broccoli as a garnish. It can be very decorative and its shape allows you to be creative with it. Cut into slices, the pale green of the stem adds a nice touch beside carrot strips and is a great replacement for celery, the small florets can be used to decorate and add color to any plain colored meal, and finely chopped or minced broccoli looks lovely as a garnish on a bowl of cream soup.
Sprouts, strips, florets and garnishes are all great ways to include broccoli into your healthy balanced meals and healthy snacks. Be creative and enjoy the healthy benefits of broccoli.
Lynn Lamb B.Sc., MBA - Author for Healthy Balanced Meals http://www.healthybalancedmeals.com
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