Cauliflower is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. This humble superfood is packed with an impressive array of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals.
It helps reduce the risk of various cancers, brain and heart disorders, keeps eyes healthy and maintains hormonal balance.
It is enjoyed by people around the world not only for its numerous health benefits but also because it is such tasty food. You can eat it raw and add it to salads, boil, fry, bake or steam it and even pickle this versatile vegetable.
Let us learn more about this nutritious vegetable and its many health benefits.
History of cauliflower cultivation
Cauliflower derives its name from the Latin word ‘caulis’ which means cabbage with a flower. Like cabbage, kale, and broccoli, this vegetable also belongs to the Brassicaceae family or cruciferous vegetables. The florets of cauliflower are known as curd.
Cauliflower is native to ancient Asia, but that variant of cabbage is no longer thought to be consumed. This vegetable then re-emerged in the Mediterranean region, Italy and Turkey in around 600 BC.
It gained popularity in Europe and US during the mid-sixteenth century. You still see cauliflower in many Italian, Spanish, Turkish, and French cuisines.
Now India, China, USA, Italy, and France are the top producers of cabbage. It grows best in a moist and cool climate.
Nutritional profile of cauliflower
Cauliflower has an impressive nutritional profile. It contains a unique combination of phytochemicals called carotenoids, tocopherols, and ascorbic acid.
One cup (100 grams) of raw cauliflower contains (1) –
- Calories: 25
- Carbohydrates: 5 grams (2% DV)
- Dietary fiber: 3 grams (10% DV)
- Sugar: 2 grams
- Proteins: 2 grams
- Vitamin C: 46.4 mg (77% DV)
- Vitamin K: 16 mcg (20% DV )
- Folate: 57 mcg (17% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.2 mg (11% DV)
- Potassium: 303 mg ((% DV)
- Manganese: 0.2 mg (8% DV)
- Magnesium: 15 mg (4% DV)
- Phosphorus: 44 mg (4% DV)
Health benefits of cauliflower
1. Prevents oxidative stress
Cauliflower is a rich source of many antioxidants like vitamin C, manganese and anti-inflammatory compounds which help lower oxidative stress.
Beta-carotene, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, beta-cryptoxanthin, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol are some of the other antioxidants found in cauliflower.
It also contains phytochemicals like indoles and glucosinates like glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, and gluconasturtiin. These phytochemicals stimulate cancer-blocking enzymes and protect the body cells from damage caused by free radicals.
According to a 2007 study, when researchers gave rabbits a diet enriched with cauliflower leaf powder, it helped protect the rabbits from inflammation and oxidative stress induced by LPS (2).
2. Fights cancer
Several studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower can help prevent cancer (3).
Cauliflower contains glucosinates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. These are the chemicals responsible for the pungent aroma of cruciferous vegetables.
When this vegetable is prepared, chewed, and digested, the glucosinates are converted into indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates (4).
According to laboratory studies and experiments, these compounds prevent cancer as they have antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects.
They prevent cancer by protecting cells from DNA damage. They help inactivate carcinogens and induce cell death. These compounds also inhibit tumor blood vessel formation and tumor cell migration.
3. Prevents stomach disorders
Cauliflower is rich in dietary fiber which is excellent for digestive health. One cup of cauliflower contains 10 percent of your daily requirement for fiber.
Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut, and this helps reduce inflammation and improves digestive health. If you consume enough fiber, you can prevent conditions like constipation, diverticulitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (7).
Cauliflower also contains certain compounds like sulforaphane, glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, and gluconasturtiian which help the body detox by supporting liver function (8).
These compound also protect the stomach lining and prevent leaky gut syndrome. They resist the growth of Heliobacter pylori bacteria and allow good bacteria to thrive in the digestive tract.
4. Improves heart health
High levels of inflammation can lead to heart disease. Cauliflower is great for heart health as it contains vitamin C, vitamin K, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids which help keep the blood vessels and arteries free from plaque build-up and lower the chances of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
It is rich in glucoraphanin, which helps to maintain blood vessels and ensures healthy blood circulation. This compound is converted into isothiocyanates which prevent the accumulation of lipid in blood vessels, which improves blood flow and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.
Cauliflower also contains sulforaphane which is known to improve blood pressure and kidney function. Sulforaphane enhances DNA methylation, which is essential for normal cellular function and proper gene expression in the inner lining of the arteries known as the endothelium.
5. Boosts brain health
Cauliflower is one of the best plant-based sources of choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. Research has shown that choline intake during pregnancy can supercharge the brain activity of animals in utero.
This indicates that choline can boost cognitive function and improve learning and memory. It also reduces age-related memory decline. Choline consumption can also lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s (9).
Cauliflower also contains sulforaphane and indoles, which help activate detoxification enzymes and treat neuronal injuries caused by oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
6. Preserves eye health
Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and other antioxidants which help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
It also contains sulforaphane, which protects retinal tissues for oxidative stress, which can result in blindness, cataracts, macular degeneration and more (10).
7. Aids in weight loss
Cauliflower is extremely low in calories and rich in fiber. One cup of cauliflower contains just 25 calories, while its high fiber content helps promote the feeling of fullness (11).
Cauliflower is also high in water content. Ninety-two percent of its weight is water. Low-calorie water-dense foods are great for weight loss.
Cauliflower is also a very versatile food so you can use it as a low-calorie replacement for grains and legumes. You can grate cauliflower and use it in place of rice.
Chickpeas can also be replaced with cauliflower in hummus recipes. Instead of mashed potatoes, you can opt of cauliflower mash.
8. Improves bone health
Cauliflower is rich in vitamin C, which is very important for bone health. We need Vitamin C for healthy bone development and the formation of collagen, the fibrous part of the bone, cartilage and other structure.
Deficiencies in vitamin C can lead to conditions such as scurvy, which can cause ailments like gingiva, bone pain and impaired wound healing (12).
Cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamin K, which is responsible for keeping the skeletal structure healthy. Many studies have shown that vitamin K increases bone mineral density in osteoporotic people and also help in reducing fracture rates (13).
9. Balances hormones
Vegetables belonging to the Brassica oleracea family like cauliflower promote hormonal balance thanks to their glucosinolate content.
When glucosinolates are broken down through chopping, chewing, blending and digestion, the enzyme mironase is activated. This enzyme converts glucosinolates to indole-3-carbinol. It is this indole-3-carbinol that provides cauliflower its hormone regulatory effect.
A poor diet of processed foods like soy, meat dairy, and yeast can raise estrogen levels in the body. Cauliflower helps maintain balance by reducing the levels of estrogen in the body.
10. Good for the skin
Cauliflower is highly beneficial for removing toxins from the body, and this helps in treating skin problems like acne and pimples.
Since this vegetable also contains antioxidants, it protects the skin from harmful UV rays and also reduces the risk of skin cancer.
Vitamin C, vitamin A and other antioxidant compounds present in cauliflower also protect the skin cells from oxidative damage and reduce the signs of premature aging like wrinkles, age spots, and blemishes.
Precautions and side effects
Cauliflower is generally considered safe for consumption. However, in some rare cases, there can be a few side effects.
- Since carbohydrates contain complex carbs, they cannot be completely broken down in the digestive tract. When intestinal bacteria feed upon these carbs, it can lead to bloating and gas.
- Cauliflowers also contain purine. So if you eat excessive amounts of this vegetable, it can lead to a build-up of uric acid. This condition can further cause kidney stones and gout.
- Some people can have an allergic reaction to cauliflowers.
- If you are on anticoagulants, you must check with your doctor before taking cauliflower.
Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamins, mineral, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
The benefits of cauliflower include its ability to lower oxidative stress, cancer prevention, lower risk of heart disease and brain disorders, preventing stomach disorders, preserving eye health, improving bone health, improving skin and weight loss.
So, go on and add this healthy vegetable to your diet and enjoy its benefits.