Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a highly nutritious and versatile vegetable. Native to the Mediterranean region, it’s low in calories and high in fiber, with a nutrition profile that leaves you feeling full while promoting some impressive health benefits. You can eat cauliflower raw, cooked, or use it as a substitute for carbs across a range of recipes from pizza crust to cauliflower mash. This broccoli look-alike is also widely sold at any grocery store or farmer’s market and available year-round fresh or frozen.

While most cauliflower is off-white, you can also find:

  • Orange cauliflower — which contains 25 times more vitamin A
  • Purple cauliflower that has a milder taste than white varieties
  • Broccoflower, a sweeter, light-green blend between broccoli and cauliflower 

Health Benefits

Cauliflower is an all-in-one source of nutrition. Just one serving contains levels of almost every vitamin and mineral your body needs. In some cases, like with vitamin C, you get nearly your whole day’s requirement.

Because it’s high in fiber and low in calories, cauliflower also helps keep you feeling full, making it a great addition to a weight-loss diet. It can even replace starchy, high-calorie foods like flour, potatoes, and rice in many recipes.

Cauliflower may also contribute to health benefits like:

Good Digestion

As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is an excellent source of fiber — most Americans consume less than half of the recommended daily amount. This fiber content helps maintain healthy digestion — reducing your risk of digestive disorders — and promotes good bacteria growth in your gut. A healthy bacterial balance helps lower bodily inflammation and reduces the risk of heart disease, cognitive decline, respiratory illnesses, and obesity.

Anti-Cancer Properties

Many of cauliflower’s nutrients act as antioxidants, which protect our bodies from cell damage linked to diseases like cancer. In particular, cauliflower contains a compound called iodine-3-carbinol (I3C) which researchers believe blocks cancer cell growth and can prevent tumors from forming. There’s also sulforaphane, which studies show can kill cancer cells.

Heart Health

Research shows sulforaphane also helps lower cholesterol levels, which can keep your arteries clear from fatty build-up. This effect promotes healthy blood pressure and lowers your risk of heart disease. Cauliflower’s dietary fiber also has similar cholesterol-lowering abilities. 

Nervous System Support

Cauliflower is one of the best sources of choline, a nutrient that most people don’t get enough of. Choline is essential for many healthy nervous system functions, including mood regulation, memory, and muscle control. Consuming inadequate levels in your diet may raise the risk of age-related cognitive disease, liver problems, and heart conditions

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Nutrition

Cauliflower is a rich source of fiber, essential to a good digestive system and a healthy heart. It also contains almost your entire day’s worth of vitamin C. Research shows getting enough vitamin C boosts your immune system and may help reduce the severity of the common cold

It’s also an excellent source of:

Nutrients per Serving 

One cup of fresh cauliflower contains:

Portion Sizes

Doctors advise we should be getting at least five vegetable servings a day as part of a balanced diet. Just eight cauliflower florets — about 80 grams — amounts to one of these servings. 

How to Prepare Cauliflower

You can eat cauliflower raw, like tossed in a salad or snacking with a dip like hummus. It’s also easy to cook, giving it a more creamy, nutty taste that takes on the flavor of whatever you use as seasoning.

However, how you cook cauliflower matters. Steaming, roasting, or stir-frying cauliflower retains most of the vegetable’s nutrients. But boiling it can reduce the levels of its B vitamins, vitamin C, and antioxidants.

Cauliflower is also a nutritious, low-carb alternative to legumes and grains that often add more calories, sugars, or fats to a meal. It’s meaty texture also makes it a great plant-based swap for chicken and beef in some recipes. 

Sneak extra fiber and nutrients into your diet with cauliflower by:

  • Mashing it into a creamy replacement for mashed potatoes
  • Breading and roasting florets for faux cauliflower wings
  • Grating it raw into cauliflower rice
  • Blending it into a dough to make pizza crust or tortillas
  • Mixing it with spices and nutritional yeast to make a dairy-free cheese sauce
  • Combining it with chickpeas for a lower-fat hummus 
  • Whipping it into a hardy soup
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 13, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Cauliflower.”

Harvard Medical School: “Can vitamin C prevent a cold?”

Harvard Medical School: “Greens and Genes.”

Harvard Medical School: “Should I be eating more fiber?”

Harvard Medical School: “Vegetable of the month: Cauliflower.”

Journal of Cancer: “Sulforaphane Induced Apoptosis via Promotion of Mitochondrial Fusion and ERK1/2-Mediated 26S Proteasome Degradation of Novel Pro-survival Bim and Upregulation of Bax in Human Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cells.”

Journal of Experimental Medicine: “The gut microbiome: Relationships with disease and opportunities for therapy.”

Mayo Clinic: “Cauliflower: The new nutrition superstar.”

Mayo Clinic: “Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet.”

National Cancer Institute: “Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention.”

National Health Services: “5 A Day portion sizes.”

National Institutes of Health: “Choline.”

Nutrients: “Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits.”

Oregon State University: “Choline.”

Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: “Sulforaphane Protects against Cardiovascular Disease via Nrf2 Activation.”

San Francisco Chronicle: “What Are the Benefits of Steamed Cauliflower?”

University of the District of Columbia: “Cauliflower.”

USDA FoodCentral: “Cauliflower.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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