One of my favorite things about studying the plant-based lifestyle is learning about how specific plant-based foods promote health and prevent disease. Mainstream nutrition has convinced us that a “reductionist” viewpoint is acceptable and reliable. Reductionism is making the assumption that a particular compound within a food can be isolated and given by itself in another form (usually supplement) and will exert the same health benefits.
The failure of reductionism was noted a few years back when scientists decided to study beta carotene for the prevention of cancer, particularly lung cancer. They first noted that people who ate a diet rich in fruits and vegetables carried a lower risk for lung cancer. The scientists then purported that the antioxidant beta carotene was the likely source of this relationship. Several clinical trials went on to examine the effects of beta carotene on lung cancer risk. Problem number one – the studies did NOT ask clients to eat more carrots. Rather, they provided supplemental beta carotene, an isolated compound. Problem number two – the studies actually had to be stopped early because it became very clear that subjects receiving the beta carotene compound in supplement form were having higher rates of lung cancer! This is a prime example of how reductionism in science can really muck things up. Plant nutrients are insanely complex. The health benefits of a vegetable rich in beta carotene are not a result of the beta carotene alone, but rather the synergistic effects of numerous compounds working together within our complex bodies.
Long story short, Broccoli is a vegetable we should all try to eat more of. Packed with antioxidants, phytonutrients, and vitamins A and K, broccoli is known for its protective effects against cancer, heart disease, allergies, and bone disease. Scientists have unsuccessfully tried to isolate compounds within broccoli into supplement form, particularly the phytochemical glucosinolate. Glucosinolate is believed to reduce the risk of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer. Unfortunately two important tumor suppressing compounds, myrosinase and sulforaphane, are missing from these broccoli supplements. The moral of the story – Don’t try to swallow your broccoli in a capsule! This cruciferous vegetable is also high in fiber and protein, making it filling and low in calories. Broccoli is delicious and versatile, and is best consumed after a light steaming so as to not destroy these important compounds.
Below is my recipe for homemade Broccoli “Cheese” Soup. Don’t let homemade scare you, it’s only takes one pot and a blender!
Time: 30-45 minutes
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
You will need:
1 large pot or cast iron dutch oven
- Vegetable bullion (I use 2 cubes for the entire pot), stock would also work fine in place of water
- 6-8 cups water
- 4 medium organic carrots, sliced into small rounds (keep the skins on)
- 1 medium organic yellow onion, diced
- 4 organic celery stalks, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 oz fresh organic broccoli (I buy mine pre-cut and bagged from Trader Joes)
- 1 can canellinni beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/8 tsp cumin
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (the “cheese” factor)
- 2 Tbsp corn starch mixed in water (to thicken)
- Saute the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots in 1 cup water until semi-soft
- Add 4 cups of water to cover the vegetables, cover with lid and simmer on low for 10 minutes
- Season with salt, pepper, and cumin
- Add canellinni beans and fresh broccoli
- Cover for 3 minutes to steam broccoli
- Add remaining water and nutritional yeast, stir
- Ladle 1/2 of the soup at a time into a blender to mix (unless using an immersion blender). Return the blended soup, then remove any more large vegetable pieces and blend (I like to leave a few chunks for texture)
- Mix in the corn starch to thicken
- Taste your creation and add any extra seasoning
- Serve with your favorite toasted bread (I love sourdough) and vegan butter
- Enjoy this healthy, delicious, fiber and nutrient packed soup. Stores well in the fridge for 3-5 days, can also be frozen