Is Cauliflower a Superfood?

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on February 25, 2024
6 min read

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. It looks like a white version of broccoli, which is also a cruciferous vegetable. Like broccoli, cauliflower has tightly bunched heads called florets, which are connected by a thick core, often with a few light leaves surrounding it.

While white is the most common color, you’ll also find cauliflower in shades of orange, purple, and green. Each of these varieties may have slightly different nutritional benefits. No matter the color, the taste is the same: mild, slightly sweet, and a little nutty.

A serving equals 1 cup, or about 100 grams (3.5 ounces), of chopped cauliflower. One serving of raw cauliflower has:

  • 25 calories
  • 0.25 grams of fat
  • 5 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2 grams of dietary fiber
  • 2 grams of sugar
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 30 milligrams of sodium

As for vitamins and nutrients, one serving of cauliflower has:

  • 57% of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C
  • 14% DV of vitamin K
  • 2% DV of calcium and iron
  • 7% DV of potassium
  • 4% DV of magnesium
  • 15% DV of folate
  • 12% DV of vitamin B6
  • 14% DV of vitamin B5
  • 9% DV of choline

Cauliflower is 92% water. That means this veggie can help keep you hydrated. Cauliflower can also:

Improve your digestion

As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is an excellent source of fiber. Fiber helps maintain healthy digestion, reducing your risk of digestive disorders. It also promotes the growth of good bacteria in your gut. A healthy balance of gut bacteria helps lower inflammation in your body and reduces your risk of heart disease, dementia, and obesity.

Fight cancer

Many of cauliflower’s nutrients act as antioxidants, which are the substances that help protect your body from cell damage linked to diseases such as cancer. In particular, cauliflower contains a compound called iodine-3-carbinol (I3C). Researchers believe I3C blocks cancer cell growth and can help prevent tumors from forming. There’s also sulforaphane, which studies show can kill cancer cells.

Cauliflower has a group of substances known as glucosinolates. As you chew and digest it, these substances are broken down into compounds that may help prevent cancer. They help protect cells from damage and have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antibacterial effects.

Improve your heart health

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

Support your nervous system

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. Getting too little of this nutrient may raise your risk of age-related cognitive disease, liver problems, and heart conditions.

Is cauliflower a superfood?

All cruciferous vegetables, including cauliflower, broccoli, arugula, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale, are considered superfoods for the high levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they contain.

People with certain conditions may want to talk to their doctor before eating cauliflower. These conditions include:

  • Thyroid issues. The thyroid is a small gland in your neck that makes important hormones. To do its job, it needs iodine. Eating a lot of cauliflower may keep your thyroid from absorbing iodine and making hormones. But for this to happen, you’d need to eat much more cauliflower than most people would ever eat in one sitting.
  • Digestion or gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Cruciferous vegetables may cause bloating and gas, especially for people with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.

You can eat it raw, tossed in a salad, or as a snack with a dip like hummus. It’s easy to cook, which gives it a creamier, nuttier taste that takes on the flavor of whatever you use as seasoning.

How you cook cauliflower matters. You can keep more of its nutrients if you steam, roast, or stir-fry it. But boiling it can lower the levels of its B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium.

Cauliflower is also a healthy low-carb, gluten-free alternative to legumes and grains. And its meaty texture makes it a great plant-based swap for chicken and beef in some recipes.

You can prepare cauliflower in several ways:

Steamed cauliflower 

This is one of the simplest cooking methods. You can steam the whole head or cut it into florets.

Roasted cauliflower

Cut the head of cauliflower into steaks or florets, spread them on a cooking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until golden.

Pureed cauliflower

Puree cooked cauliflower in a blender until it's smooth. Some people use this as a substitute for cream sauces or add it to smoothies.

Mashed cauliflower

Boost the nutritional value of mashed potatoes by steaming some cauliflower and mashing it into the potatoes. Or skip the potatoes and go for low-carb mashed cauliflower instead. You can also mash cauliflower into pizza dough for a lighter crust.

Because of its mild taste, cauliflower can be used in a wide variety of your favorite dishes:

Cauliflower soup 

Puree cauliflower with herbs and spices and heat for an easy, nutritious, and delicious soup. You can also roast the cauliflower first, or combine it with other veggies such as squash and leeks.

Cauliflower steak

Skip the red meat and have veggies instead. Cut a whole head of cauliflower lengthwise into thick slices. Coat with olive oil, then roast them in the oven, sauté them in a pan, or throw them on the grill.

Cauliflower pizza crust

You can make a low-carb and gluten-free pizza crust with grated cauliflower, eggs, and cheese. Cook the grated cauliflower, then squeeze as much water out as possible. Combine with cheese and egg and press into a circle on a baking sheet. You need to bake the crust first, then add your toppings and bake some more.

Buffalo cauliflower

If you're craving wings, but trying to eat healthier, try these buffalo cauliflower. Cut a head of cauliflower into florets, roast them with spices, then toss them in your favorite buffalo sauce.

Cauliflower curry

Cauliflower is the perfect vegetable for curry because it soaks up all the flavors and doesn't overpower it. Simply simmer some florets in your favorite green, red, or yellow curry.

Cauliflower rice is a food trend with some surprising benefits. Instead of using traditional rice, some people use shredded or grated cooked cauliflower as a low-carb, low-calorie alternative.

Cauliflower works as a rice substitute because it has a mild taste and you can cook it in a variety of ways. On top of that, cauliflower rice has some impressive health benefits.

Riced cauliflower benefits

One cup of cauliflower rice has:

  • 25 calories
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 4 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of fat

One cup of white rice has:

  • 242 calories
  • 4.4 grams of protein
  • 53.4 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.4 grams of fat

How to prepare cauliflower rice

To make cauliflower rice, all you need to do is wash a raw cauliflower head and break it into smaller florets. You then put these florets into your food processor and pulse until the cauliflower pieces are the size of rice grains.

Cauliflower rice keeps fresh for about 2 days. Cauliflower can start to develop a sulfur smell if left to sit for too long. If you’re making a large batch, you should freeze any that you don’t eat that day.