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Prairie Fare: Give Broccoli a Chance

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Broccoli is a nutrition-packed, colorful addition to our plates.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“I’ll have broccoli for my side dish,” my son told our server at a restaurant. My jaw dropped. My husband and I stared at each other in amazement. This was the kid who avoided green vegetables at every turn for most of his 13 years.

When his food arrived, he dived into his broccoli as though it were ice cream.

“This is great!” he exclaimed.

To further our amazement, our 10-year-old daughter began begging him for a sample. I must be dreaming, I thought to myself.

Our kindergarten-age daughter, however, did not join the broccoli celebration. I’m hoping the sibling role models encourage her to give green veggies a chance someday soon.

Often, introducing new foods and reaping the benefits of good nutrition take time and lots of patience. Getting a child to try a new food can take a dozen or more introductions, but in the long run, your efforts are well worth it.

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and turnips are members of the cruciferous vegetable family and research has highlighted their health benefits. Eating more vegetables and fruits of all types can lower our chances of getting diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and/or diabetes.

Broccoli in particular is a nutrition-packed, colorful addition to our plates. Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C helps fight infections and heal wounds, and keeps our gums healthy. It’s not stored in the body, so be sure to include a daily source of this vitamin.

Broccoli provides vitamin A, which plays a role in keeping our skin, eyes and immune system healthy. Broccoli also provides isothiocyanates and indoles, which are natural plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that are linked to helping prevent cancer.

At just 20 calories per half cup of cooked broccoli, you won’t gain weight by adding this veggie to your plate more often. Go easy, however, on the butter and cheese sauce, which will increase the calories markedly.

When selecting fresh broccoli, look for young, tender, dark green stalks. Avoid broccoli with thick stalks or with wilting or yellow florets. For best quality, keep fresh broccoli refrigerated for up to five days.

Wash broccoli and other veggies well with plenty of running water right before preparing. Broccoli can be served raw or it can be boiled, steamed or microwaved. To preserve the most nutrients and retain the bright green color, use as little water as possible and cook uncovered or lift the lid a few times during cooking. This allows the odors from the natural sulfur compounds to escape, too.

Enjoy broccoli on veggie plates and in stir-fry, soups and salads more often. Try this colorful salad adapted from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

Sweet and Sour Broccoli Salad

2 c. broccoli florets

2 c. cauliflower florets

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, cut in half

1 bunch of green onions, chopped


1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. sunflower or canola oil

2 Tbsp. wine vinegar

1 tsp. celery seed

3/4 tsp. salt (optional)

1 tsp. paprika

2 Tbsp. green onion, minced

Dash garlic powder

Wash and prepare the vegetables and place in a bowl. Combine dressing ingredients and shake vigorously in a tightly sealed container. Pour dressing over vegetables. Chill at least three hours before serving.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 210 calories, 12 grams (g) of fat, 25 g of carbohydrate and 4 g of fiber.

(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.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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