Cauliflower’s Range of Nutritional Benefits are Numerous and Long-Lasting
When was the last time you had a nice, hot helping of steamed organic cauliflower with your main dinner course, or just cut some up fresh as a mid-afternoon snack? If it’s been a while (and you’re thinking about adding one more veggie to your garden this year), now is the time to reacquaint yourself with this incredibly healthy food.
As reported by Live Science, cauliflower, like broccoli, is a member of the cruciferous family and is packed with nutrients. And while some malign this paler veggie, when prepared properly it can be as flavorful as its green cousin, and every bit as healthful.
One common theme regarding vegetable nutrition is that the more green the veggie, the more nutrients it contains. However, Heather Mangieri, a Pittsburgh-based registered dietician and nutritionist, as well as health author and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, describes cauliflower as the one exception to that (general) rule.
“Despite its white color, cauliflower is a very versatile and vitamin-rich vegetable. It is a great source of vitamin C and folate and a good source of fiber and vitamin K. It is also rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, two naturally occurring compounds thought to play a role in chronic disease prevention,” said Mangieri.
Making people healthier for centuries
Cauliflower ranks in the top 30 vegetable “powerhouses” in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Aggregate Nutrient Density Index, or ANDI – which rates foods based on the level of nutrients they contain in relation to their calories.
In terms of density, cauliflower (25.13) did not rank much lower than broccoli (34.89), according to researchers.
As further reported by Live Science:
Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes cabbage, kale, turnips, mustard greens, radishes, arugula and broccoli. The word cauliflower comes from the Latin caulis (stalk) and floris (flower), meaning “cabbage flower,” according to the University of Arizona.
Cauliflower originated in Asia Minor from wild cabbage, which resembled collard greens or kale, according to the George Mateljan Foundation’s World’s Healthiest Foods website. Over the millennia, it went through many changes, and appeared in Turkey and Italy around 600 B.C. The Romans grew cauliflower.
Once it had really became popular in France sometime during the 1500s, it then spread to Northern Europe and Britain. And today, cauliflower is grown in the U.S., France, Italy, India and China.
As it begins to grow, cauliflower actually resembles broccoli plants, but after a while, broccoli opens up to sprout green florets while cauliflower forms a compact head, called a curd, that is made up of undeveloped flower buds that are protected from sunlight by heavy green leaves that surround the head. The heads are white because the leaves prevent chlorophyll from developing.
Major health benefits
The nutritional benefits of cauliflower include:
— It is a powerful antioxidant, because cauliflower contains vitamins C and K, as well as manganese. Antioxidants are molecules that safely interact within the body to cancel out cell-destroying free radicals. “[Antioxidants such as vitamins K and C] may help prevent conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and arthritis,” said Mangieri.
Just a single cup of cooked cauliflower can provide up to 73 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, 19 percent of vitamin K and about 8 percent of our daily manganese requirement.
— Mangieri noted further that cauliflower’s high fiber content – about 11 percent of our recommended daily amount – can help promote better digestion, healthy stool bulk and regularity. This also helps maintain colorectal health.
— “Some research suggests that the glucosinolates may help reduce risk of certain cancers, namely prostate cancer,” said Mangiari.
When glucosinolates are broken down they then produce isothiocyanates, which may encourage the elimination of carcinogens from the body, an anti-cancer effect, research has indicated.
Plus, cauliflower is versatile in the kitchen. Mashed, it can replace potatoes if you’re trying to cut down on starches, for example. You can find some more delicious recipes here.