Hello and welcome to today’s edition of Cooking with Fey! IMPORTANT NEWS ALERT: Spring is here! I repeat, spring is here! I am overjoyed for the warm weather and sunshine we’ve been having this week. So to put that extra bounce in my step I would like us to take a culinary trip to the Italian countryside and talk about zesty broccoli rabe.
In case you’ve never heard of this leafy green, broccoli rabe is a common Mediterranean green commonly found in Italian cooking (and I’m told by friends who have been to France it’s also popular there as well). Broccoli rabe is a part of the cruciferous family (think kale, Brussel sprouts and cabbage) and looks kinda like the cousin of a turnip or nappa cabbage. Foods from the cruciferous family are amazing for digestive health and pack a punch in terms of other health benefits. Broccoli rabe are no different, this yummy vegetable has many health benefits to add to your diet such as: lowering cholesterol, cancer prevention, heart health, digestive tract health and they have anti-inflammatory properties.
Broccoli rabe also contains these helpful nutrients:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin E
- Dietary fiber
Vitamin A is necessary for human growth and development, cell recognition, sight, proper immune system function, sexual reproduction, as well as helping the heart, lungs, and kidneys to function normally. While Vitamin A sounds like a miracle, be careful how much you take. If you ingest too much it can be harmful to the body. Most doctors recommend that adult men consume 900 mcg per day, and women take 700 mcg per day to stay within healthy levels.
As you may know, broccoli rabe is a fantastic source of Vitamin C, which is an important nutrient linked to immune system health. Having a strong immune system helps the body ward off illness or recover faster from sickness. Which is especially important now that cold weather seems to be here to stay for most parts of America.
Vitamin C is also great for the heart. In a research study published by the Harvard School of Public Health, the diets of 126,399 adults were examined over the course of many years to reveal that for every serving of fruits and vegetables a person consumed, there was a 4% reduction in their risk of developing coronary heart disease. The study also pointed out that leafy green vegetables, and foods high in Vitamin C, had the largest positive impact.
Other studies have found that activities such as daily walking, combined with broccoli rabe intake, can reduce blood pressure. So if you are concerned about your heart health talk to your doctor about adding broccoli rabe to your healthy lifestyle diet.
Vitamin C also increases iron absorption in the body, so if you suffer from an iron deficiency or anemia, then broccoli rabe might be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Vitamin K is important to the body because it is needed for the body to product a protein called prothrombin, which allows the body to support bone metabolism and form helpful blood clots (like when you get a papercut and the blood clots to stop the bleeding, not the scary kind of blood clot). Vitamin K creates healthy, strong bones by increasing their density. Denser bones are less likely to break or sustain injury.
Vitamin E is important to protecting the bodies’ vision, reproductive organs, blood, brain and skin. Gosh, that’s quite the list of benefits from one little nutrient! Vitamin E is also a source of antioxidants. As you may remember from a previous blog on strawberries, antioxidants have been shown in studies to delay cognitive issues like memory less, fight some cancers and decrease your chances of developing heart disease or diabetes. These same antioxidants also keep our skin looking young and beautiful. Science is starting to show that consuming antioxidants can help slow the onset of wrinkles, age spots or decreased elasticity in our skin.
Science is also starting to show that diets rich in antioxidants have a positive effect on cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases. While these illnesses currently have no known cure, diets rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds can lower the risk of developing these diseases later in life.
Folate, which is one of the B vitamins, is important for tissue growth and normal cell function. Further, folate is especially important for pregnant women and our active aging populations.
Meanwhile, potassium helps the body maintain a normal blood pressure and nerve function. This means that broccoli rabe can help the nervous system regulate muscle movements more effectively. This is important for weightlifters such as myself, as it maximizes all that hard work we put in at the gym each week.
Calcium is the essential mineral everyone was taught as a kid would help us build strong bones. And you are right in remembering that from 3rd grade science. Calcium is vital for the health of our bones, and for slowing down bone density loss as we age. The mineral calcium also impacts the muscle that surrounds blood vessels, causing it to relax. Which is important for blood pressure and muscle contraction. Just remember, it is difficult for the body to effective absorb calcium without the presence of Vitamin D in the body, so be sure to have an adequate source of Vitamin D in your diet to maximize the effects of calcium.
Think of manganese as a superhero for our bones. This mineral helps bones grow and then maintain their density. Manganese, when combined with calcium, zinc and copper, supports bone mineral density in any age of human development. However, this is very important in our active ageing populations. As you may have heard, when we age our bones begin to lose their density. This can cause bones to become weak and break easily, so manganese is important to make sure we are ingesting enough of as we get older.
Copper is a very vital mineral that every part of the body needs in order to function. Why, you might ask? Because copper helps our bodies make red blood cells, keep our nerve cells healthy and support our immune system. Copper also helps our body form collagen, absorb iron from the food we eat and assists in energy production. That sounds like a super important mineral to me!
Now, you may be thinking, “why on earth do I care about fiber?” But worry not, I am about to explain about the different types of fiber, and why you should care.
Soluble Fiber is like the police force of the body. This type of fiber attaches itself to cholesterol particles in the body and helps them to be removed when we visit the restroom. This is very important because it helps to reduce the body’s overall cholesterol levels, which can be a contributing factor to heart disease.
Insoluble fiber can be thought of like a massive sponge in the large intestines. This type of fiber draws in water and helps regulate the movement of food through our intestines. So if you are having problems going to the restroom, then the insoluble fiber in prunes can help.