Raw or steamed cauliflower (Brassica oleracea Botrytis) is a great choice if you wish to regulate your blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and inflammation levels, reverse blood vessel calcification, pack up on antioxidants and prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures later on in life. Cauliflower is a member of the super-vegetable species including the reputable broccoli, the humble cabbage, the not-so-popular Brussels sprouts and the very healthy leafy greens such as kale.
All of these salubrious veggies belonging to the Brassica oleracea species are called cruciferous vegetables and are believed to offer the best protection possible against the disease of the century: cancer. It is believed that naturally-occurring sulfur compounds in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower are responsible for the anticancer properties of the vegetables, as well as their unique taste.
What does cauliflower look like and where does its name come from? Cauliflower is quite similar in appearance to broccoli in the sense that it looks somewhat like the vegetable version of a small tree, but with a bulkier, more compact head. You can tell from the images above that it appears to have a bigger and rounder frame than broccoli and may give the impression of a bouquet about to come open, if not for a couple of fragile leaves girdling it. Cauliflower comes in a variety of colors such as green, purple, orange and the classic white variety. The name literally means ‘cabbage flower’.
Is there any difference between white, green, purple and orange cauliflower? As far as nutrition is concerned, know that different colors in plants stand for different nutrients and phytochemicals (natural compounds with a positive action on human health). While white cauliflower is rich in vitamins and minerals as well, the purple variety has anthocyanins, pigments with antioxidant activity, while the orange one has a higher vitamin A and carotenoid content. The color green is usually indicative of a higher vitamin K content.
What does cauliflower taste like? When it comes to cauliflower, texture often prevails over taste. While it has a mild taste with a slightly sweet flavor and a hint of nuttiness, its firm, yet soft texture when cooked and pleasant crunchiness when eaten raw are most appealing. Just as appealing is the fact that it only has 25 kcal/100 g. My favorite recipe is steamed and roasted cauliflower with a pinch of red rock salt (commonly referred to as Himalayan salt) and curry powder.
What is cauliflower good for? Here are the most remarkable 7 nutrition facts and health benefits of cauliflower:
1) Potent anticancer food. According to research, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower possess quite amazing cancer-preventive properties. Cauliflower not only provides nutritional support by means of an excellent vitamin C content, but also supplies the body with a variety of other antioxidant compounds which limit and reverse cell and DNA damage. In addition to this, cauliflower exhibits a strong anti-inflammatory activity and helps cleanse the body of potentially harmful toxins that may increase the risk of developing certain forms of cancer (see Vegetables Map).
2) Powerful anti-inflammatory. Cauliflower has been shown to actively decrease inflammation levels in the body, contributing to a decrease in cancer risks. Inflammation is a way our body responds to imbalances, threats, viruses, bacteria and disease and recent studies have linked it to increased cancer risks. Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower as well as green, leafy vegetables in general, are a generous source of vitamin K, a nutrient with powerful anti-inflammatory activity. Vitamin K efficiently lowers interleukin-6 levels, preventing it from causing an inflammatory response in the body.
3) Rich source of antioxidants. Cauliflower owes part of its anticancer properties to a high antioxidant content. According to research, the vegetable is rich in vitamin C (80% of the RDA), beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin (especially the orange variety), caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin and kaempferol, all of which protect cells and DNA from severe damage that may disrupt normal activity and lead to cancer.
4) Excellent detox food. Induces a natural detoxification process. Glucosinolates are natural compounds found in cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables that activate special detoxification enzymes that help cleanse the body of toxins. Detoxification prevents the accumulation of toxins causing cell damage which may increase cancer risks.
5) Great source of vitamins C and K. Cauliflower provides 80% of the RDA of vitamin C and 13% of the RDA of vitamin K per 100 g of vegetable. Vitamin C helps stimulate immunity naturally, supports the production of collagen, helps cleanse blood vessels and keep them flexible and reduces inflammation markers.
Vitamin K supports blood coagulation processes, preventing blood loss, maximizes calcium absorption in bones, reducing osteoporosis and bone fracture risks and prevents arterial calcification (or the accumulation of calcium deposits on blood vessels walls). Introducing cauliflower in one’s diet thus comes with all of these health benefits (see what are the best foods for osteoporosis).
6) Good B vitamins and potassium content. Cauliflower is a good source of B vitamins such as folic acid, pantothenic acid and pyridoxine as well as potassium. B vitamins support brain activity and carbohydrate synthesis, meaning better concentration, greater resistance to stress and fatigue and more energy to go about throughout the day. Pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, also helps maintain a balanced sodium-potassium ratio and, together with potassium, help regulate body fluids and blood pressure.
7) Supports digestion. Cauliflower is a good source of B vitamins and dietary fiber (2 g) which contribute to promoting good digestion and digestive tract health. Fiber is also beneficial for intestinal motility, boasting a laxative effect and helping relieve constipation. Moreover, it binds to part of the fat we ingest along with food and prevents it from being absorbed at the intestinal level, indirectly lowering high blood cholesterol levels.
Being a winter vegetable, cauliflower is an ideal food choice for the harsh cold season because it provides generous amounts of essential nutrients, initiates a minute detoxification process of the body whilst supplying it with phytochemicals and other natural compounds that reduce inflammation and protect against cell damage and chronic disease such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Ideally, cauliflower should be consumed raw in order to enjoy all of its health benefits. But cooking it in as little water as possible for short periods of time ensures it maintains most of its beneficial nutrients.