“Eat your broccoli.” You can probably still hear your mother saying it. She always encouraged you to eat your veggies, but do you know why? One of the most popular items to be hidden in children’s napkins is bursting with more health benefits than you can imagine.

Versatility: More Than Just For Steaming

Memories of soggy, limp stalks may leave the thought of broccoli as less than desirable. However, there are so many different ways to prepare this veggie. There’s sure to be a recipe you’ll love! For instance, roasting broccoli is a great way to ensure some crunch in your side dish, and tossing it with olive oil and garlic adds great flavor.

Broccoli is a favorite addition to soups, casseroles, and quiche. It is also a shoe-in for a winning inclusion to any stir fry. Those little bushy tops are perfect for soaking up flavorful sauce! Pizza toppings, mac and cheese mix-ins, salads, and pasta —the possibilities are endless when incorporating it into your menu.

Health Factor: Rock That Broc

A part of the cruciferous family, broccoli’s cousins include kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, rutabaga and turnips. All notoriously famous for their nutritional value. But what makes them so healthy?

To start, they are packed full of nutrients and contain very few calories. Also, that bitter taste they all have–fights cancer. Sulforaphane is responsible for giving broccoli its bite, and studies have revealed it can inhibit enzymes that cause the progression of cancer cells. Folate is another nutrient packed into each forkful, and has shown to reduce the risk of certain kinds of cancer, including breast. Broccoli’s vitamin K helps with the absorption of calcium to help protect your bones, and vitamins A, C, and E help fight skin damage. Its natural fibers aid with digestive health, helping reduce the risk of colon cancer. Also, increases in dietary fiber can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and enhance weight loss. No wonder broccoli is dubbed a “super food!”

Picking The Perfect Broccoli

When shopping, try to think outside the bag, and opt for fresh broccoli over frozen for the most flavorful crunch. Picking the perfect head of broccoli is fairly easy, compared to other types of produce. Choose heads that are bright green, with small, tight clusters. The more yellow they have on them and the more open florets they have, the closer they were to flowering when picked. This means they have gone past the desired stage for taste and texture, which can make it a harder sell at the dinner table. If you do happen to purchase broccoli past its peak, don’t despair. It will still be great in soup!

Peak Season

Broccoli is unique that it’s available year-round and still offers a great taste when purchased out-of-season. The height of freshness and flavor for it in New York is from July through the end of November. However, it will still offer a great addition to any meal no matter when you use it.