DEAR DR. BLONZ: I don’t like overcooked vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, so I choose to have them raw or cut up in a salad. I tend to stay away from the stems, but wanted to know: How much of these plants should be eaten to provide health benefits? -- T.S., Milwaukee, Wisconsin
DEAR T.S.: The budding broccoli and cauliflower florets at the top of the plant contain the most vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. This makes sense, as this is the part of these plants that, if allowed to grow, develops into the flowers and seeds for the next generation. Plants have evolved to have significant nutritive and defensive assets in the parts involved with seed development, to help assure the success of the next generation.
As you work your way toward the stem, you transition to parts that are more structural (i.e., dietary fiber) than anything else. From the standpoint of healthful eating, this should be viewed as an additional asset rather than a negative. Dietary fiber is an essential part of healthful eating, and the average fiber intake in the U.S. is about 15 grams a day, which is half the recommended level from the foods we eat. The risk for chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, constipation and colon cancer tend to be inversely related to the level of dietary fiber in our diet. We continue to learn about the impact of the microbiome, the population of bacteria that live in our colon, on our health. A healthful, high-fiber diet is also associated with beneficial effects on our gut microbiome, which can also benefit our immune system. I encourage you to give those stems a second chance.
Let’s accept that most people in this country need more dietary fiber. If there are no health issues to the contrary, the goal should be to get fiber from foods, not supplements. But, eating the uncooked stems of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower might pose a bit of a challenge. Consider steaming them a bit. Other possibilities are to grate the broccoli and cauliflower stems and create a vegetable slaw, or cut them into thin slices and have them sit in a marinade to pick up flavors. For more on dietary fiber, check out b.link/fiber57 and b.link/fiber93.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: Are California wines as good for the heart as French wines? -- S.C., Lafayette, Louisiana
DEAR S.C.: To my knowledge there's been no study that has performed a head-to-head comparison. But research studies on the benefits of wine have come from both sides of the Atlantic. I'd think it safe to assume that the wine made from grapes in both areas would have comparable effects. An important point not to lose here is the fact that diet and lifestyle carry more weight in determining one's state of health than any possible contribution alcohol might make.
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