Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, RD, LD, MPH on June 14, 2021

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that looks like a white version of its cousin, broccoli. Like broccoli, the tightly bunched florets of cauliflower 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. No matter the color, the taste is the same: mild, slightly sweet, a little nutty.

Cauliflower originally came from the Mediterranean region and arrived in Europe around the end of the 15th century. It's an offshoot of a type of wild cabbage that's also the ancestor of kale, Brussels sprouts, and kohlrabi.

A serving is 1 cup, or about 100 grams, of chopped cauliflower. One serving of raw or cooked cauliflower has:

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

Of the 100 grams of cauliflower in one serving, 92 grams are water. That means this veggie can help keep you hydrated. It’s also a good source of fiber.

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.

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

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 keep it from making hormones. But for this to happen, you’d need to eat a much larger amount of cauliflower than most people would ever eat in one sitting.

Digestion or GI issues. High-fiber foods like cauliflower 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.

Heart disease. If you take blood thinners or statins for heart disease, your doctor may recommend that you avoid foods high in vitamin K because they can affect your medications.

Cauliflower is versatile and can be prepared in a number of ways:

Steam it. The simplest way is to steam it. You can steam the whole head or cut it into florets.

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

Puree it. Once cauliflower has been cooked, it can be pureed until it's smooth. Some people use it as a substitute for cream sauces or add it to smoothies.

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

Grate it. Steam cauliflower and then grate it into a rice-like texture.

For more ways to cook cauliflower, check out: 

Show Sources


Smyth, D. Current Biology, April 1995

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service: “Basic Report:  11135, Cauliflower, Raw.”

FDA: “Nutrition Information for Raw Vegetables.”

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

Mayo Clinic: “Mayo Clinic Q and A: Hypothyroidism, Spinach and Kale.” 

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America: “Diet, Nutrition, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease.”

International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders: “Gas and Bloating.”

National Blood Clot Alliance: “Vitamin K and Coumadin – What You Need To Know.”

The Guthrie Clinic: “Don’t Eat These Foods If You Take Blood Thinners or Statins.”

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “The Beginner’s Guide to Cruciferous Vegetables.”

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