When it comes to vegetables, it seems that types like broccoli, spinach, and carrots get the majority of the attention. Although these vegetables are in fact nutritious and an extremely important part of a balanced diet, there is a humble vegetable that deserves far more attention, cauliflower. Cauliflower – a member of the cruciferous group of vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage – is easy to use and full of powerful nutritional compounds. Read on to learn more about cauliflower health benefits, nutritional value, and uses.
Cauliflower Health Benefits
Cauliflower is often underappreciated. However, cauliflower health benefits are quite numerous, as we will see in the following section. If you needed more reasons to include this vegetable in your daily diet, here they are!
May Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Among the numerous cauliflower health benefits, its ability fight cancer cells may be one of the most impressive. Cauliflower, along with other members of the group of cruciferous vegetables, contains proven cancer-fighting compounds including sulforaphane – a sulfur compound that seems to have the ability to kill cancer cells, or at least reduce the risk of cancer.
In addition to its potent cancer-fighting compounds, cauliflower also contains high levels of fiber. Fiber assists the digestive system in running smoothly and is proven to help prevent colon cancer.
Keeps Cholesterol in Check
Cauliflower also contains phytosterols – plant compounds that mimic the structure of cholesterol in the body. Phytosterols are capable of lowering LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and triglyceride levels. Additionally, phytosterols have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.
Cauliflower is rich in phytonutrients, including glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are anti-inflammatory and believed to benefit the following systems and processes in the body:
- Immune system
- Cardiovascular system
- Digestive system
Boosts Immune System
Another benefit of consuming cauliflower is increased protection against illnesses due to its high content of Vitamin C. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, is capable of boosting the body’s immune system as well as its ability to fight free radicals.
Nutritional Value of Cauliflower
Cauliflower’s impressive range of health benefits is due to its beneficial nutritional profile. Following is an overview of the numerous vitamins and minerals found in raw cauliflower, beginning with the most abundant:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
- Vitamin B6
- Omega 3 fats
In addition to these essential vitamins and minerals, cauliflowers contain a host of other phytonutrients that act as antioxidants including:
- Ferulic acid
- Caffeic acid
- Cinnamic acid
These antioxidants work closely with cauliflower’s glucosinolates and are responsible for fighting damage that can occur from exposure to environmental pollutants, sun exposure, and stress. Without these potent micronutrients, free radicals are left unchecked and may increase your risk of tissue and organ damage.
Besides the standard white cauliflower, this vegetable comes in numerous other colors. These include purple, orange, and green. These cauliflowers are a result of cross-breeding different strains. This process is known as traditional selective breeding. Each of the different types of cauliflowers offer even higher amounts of certain vitamins and nutritious compounds. Thus the health benefits of these cauliflowers will differ.
Anthocyanin – the same pigment found in blueberries – is responsible for purple cauliflower’s vibrant color. This potent compound, capable of fighting free radicals, offers anti-inflammatory properties and is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. The orange variety of cauliflower offers 25 times more beta carotene – a form of Vitamin A that helps maintain healthy skin and eyes – than white cauliflower.
Cauliflower health benefits can be taken advantage of in a variety of ways thanks to its versatility. Also, cauliflowers are extremely easy to find in almost any grocery store. And, as a bonus, it is affordable. Because of its flavor, cooks can experiment with cauliflower as much as they like.
It can be eaten both raw and cooked. To eat it raw, simply add some florets to a salad or dip it in hummus or ranch dip. It also makes a tasty addition to soups, stews, and casseroles. Below are some of our favorite cauliflower recipes.
One of the most popular, widespread uses for cauliflower is as a substitute for rice. Instead of consuming a high amount of carbohydrates with minimal vitamins, cauliflower rice boasts vitamins, minerals, fiber, low carbohydrates, and the same filling, satisfying consistency as typical rice. To make cauliflower rice:
- Break a head of cauliflower into smaller florets
- Process in a food processor until it resembles small, rice-like bits
You can use cauliflower rice either raw or cooked.
- To take advantage of the cauliflower health benefits, place the cauliflower rice in a steamer basket with a little water on the stove and cook until softened
- Additionally, you can cook it in the microwave as well, with a little water
- You can also saute cauliflower in a pan with a little olive oil
Cauliflower Pizza Crust
This excellent substitute for standard, carb-filled pizza crust is gluten free and contains an extra boost of vitamins and minerals due to the inclusion of cauliflower. To make a cauliflower pizza crust:
- Process florets in a food processor
- Steam until tender and use a towel to remove excess moisture
- Combine with mozzarella, herbs, parmesan, and eggs
- Roll out dough and bake for 20 minutes
- Fill with desired toppings and bake another 10 minutes
Mashed cauliflower makes an excellent stand-in for mashed potatoes. Consuming ‘fauxtatoes’ is an excellent way to lower your carbohydrate intake while also boosting your intake of vitamins and minerals. To make:
- Steam or microwave cauliflower florets to soften
- In a food processor, blend the florets with butter, salt, pepper, and herbs
- Serve with additional butter if desired
Overall, cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse and an excellent vegetable to consider incorporating into your diet. In addition to being delicious, versatile, and easy to cook with, cauliflower health benefits can boost your overall health.
How do you prefer to cook cauliflower? We’d love to hear some of your recipes!