It doesn't matter if you loved or hated those little green trees that showed up on your dinner plate while you were growing up; it turns out that broccoli is among the best vegetables your parents could have fed you and, regardless of your age, it's one of the best you can put on your plate as an adult.

Some of the most important ways broccoli helps us out is by providing nutrients that lower inflammation and oxidative stress, and heighten the body’s ability to rid itself of toxins. This all adds up to reducing our chances of getting various cancers, all thanks to eating a cup or two of broccoli several times week. Broccoli has been shown to reduce our risk of prostate, colon, breast, bladder and ovarian cancers. Also, if you suffer from allergies, new research shows that broccoli could help reduce the affects of allergy-related substances when we consume them, thanks to a flavonoid called kaempferol. Much more research is needed in this area, but preliminary findings show potential promise for broccoli as a particularly special anti-inflammatory food that helps lower the risk of chronic inflammation.

Broccoli is high in fiber, which helps to reduce cholesterol levels and keep digestion regular. Broccoli is most helpful in lowering your cholesterol when it's steamed. Steaming allows the fiber in broccoli to more easily bind with the acids in your digestive tract and get the important jobs done inside your body. But be careful not to overcook broccoli, as too much steaming (or sautéing or roasting and so on) breaks down important nutrients. Broccoli should be steamed for no more than 4-5 minutes so it holds on to as many nutrients as possible.

And let’s not forget broccoli’s vitamin and mineral content. Most of us suffer from a deficiency in vitamin D, but broccoli comes to the rescue. If you take supplements of vitamin D, broccoli offers large doses of vitamins K and A to help your body absorb the vitamin D, which will help get you back to healthy levels. It is a top source of vitamin C, as well as the antioxidants lutein and beta-carotene. Broccoli also offers a boost of vitamin E, manganese and zinc.

So remember that broccoli is something to add into our menu several times a week — at least 1.5 cups three or four times a week — to get the benefits from this amazing vegetable. And here are some tasty ways to accomplish that goal:

broccoli veggie stir fry

Photo: Joshua Resnick /Shutterstock

Stir-Fried Vegetables and Tofu with Oyster Sauce

Who doesn't love a quick and easy stir-fry? This recipe is excellent because you can leave it as is in all its deliciousness or you can customize it with favorite veggies like snow peas and baby corn. It gives you the chance to experiment with broccoli and tofu as your spring board.

Tempeh, Broccoli, and Red Bell Pepper Stir-Fry

Another route you can go with a broccoli stir-fry is using tempeh and swapping out the oyster sauce for an irresistible medley of spices. Ginger, paprika, star anaise, and chili flakes are added to soy sauce, red wine and vegetable stock to create the sauce for this amazing dish.

Broccoli Rabe, Potato and Rosemary Pizza

Another thing everyone loves is pizza. Take the veggie pizza in a whole new direction by using these non-traditional ingredients. The simplicity of the recipe gives each ingredient a chance to stand out as well as blend together in a complex whole. A pizza is greater than the sum of its parts, as this recipe shows.

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

Are you looking for a simple side? Well simple doesn't have to be boring. Try this recipe and get a broccoli side dish that is cheesy, salty, lemony, nutty and herby all in one. And don't feel bad if everyone at the dinner table raves about this instead of your main course.

broccoli soup

Photo: Natalia Hirshfeld/Shutterstock

Homemade Cream of Broccoli Soup

Creamy comfort in a bowl. That's basically what cream of broccoli soup is. And if you make it yourself rather than plopping some condensed stuff from a can into a pot and adding milk (ewww!) then you'll get a lot more of those nutritional benefits we talked about above as well.

Broccoli Rabe with Penne Pasta

Speaking of comfort meals, this pasta dish is perfect for simple-but-elegant meals. It's incredibly basic -- only the bare essential ingredients -- that combine into a wonderfully flavorful lunch or dinner that takes hardly any effort (or grocery budget) to create.

Penne with Broccoli, Garlic and Bread Crumbs

Another option is this slightly more classic version of penne and broccoli. It adds in a little extra flavor from garlic, chili flakes, Pecorino Romano cheese and a little crunch from bread crumbs.

Baked Mac n Cheese with Broccoli Pesto

If you love the traditional mac n cheese, and if you love the homestyle side dish of broccoli with cheese sauce, then you'll likely love this interesting recipe that basically combines the two.

22 recipes for broccoli for superfood meals

Still want more? We have it. From a broccoli quiche or broccoli sweet potato cakes for breakfast to a broccoli salad with avocado dressing or portobello, broccoli, and red-pepper melts for dinner, this list of recipes will have you experimenting with broccoli for the next several months!

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

8 delicious ways to get more broccoli on the menu
Broccoli is one of those miracle veggies we should eat every day. Here are smart, simple recipes to help you accomplish that goal.