Cauliflower is often considered one of the healthiest foods on Earth, and for good reason. Possessing a rich supply of health-improving phytochemicals, a high level of anti-inflammatory compounds, the ability to destroy cancer cells, level heart diseases, brain diseases and even weight gain, it seems that nothing is impossible for cauliflower.
Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, also known as Brassica olerace, which includes broccoli, white cabbage, Brussels sprouts and some other less common varieties.
Extensive studies show that cruciferous vegetables are an excellent source of natural antioxidants due to their high levels of various phytochemicals, as well as a good content of vitamins, carotenoids, dietary fiber, soluble sugars, minerals and phenolic compounds. It is believed that vegetables of the Brassica oleracea family are the largest source of phenolic compounds in the human diet.
Let’s find out what makes cauliflower such an amazing vegetable. In the article, we consider in detail the benefits of cauliflower and the possible harm from its use, based only on scientific facts.
Unique Cauliflower Nutrient Profile
Cauliflower is considered so useful thanks to a special combination of phytochemicals called carotenoids, tocopherols and ascorbic acid – all forms of antioxidants that are currently being widely studied to better understand how they maintain the body’s health.
According to recent studies, cruciferous vegetables and cauliflower in particular are able to prevent and treat chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders and various forms of cancer, as well as many other diseases.
100 grams of raw cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. Botrytis L.) contains approximately:
Calories : 25 kcal
Carbohydrates : 5.3 gr.
Protein : 2 gr.
Fat : 0.1 gr.
Fiber : 2.5 gr.
Vitamin C : 46.4 mg (77%)
Vitamin K : 16 mcg (20%)
Folic acid: 57 mcg (14%)
Vitamin B6 : 0.2 mg (11%)
Potassium : 303 mg (9%)
Manganese : 0.2 mg (8%)
Pantothenic acid : 0.7 mg (7%)
Thiamine : 0.1 mg (4%)
Riboflavin : 0.1 mg (4%)
Magnesium : 15 mg (4%)
Phosphorus : 44 mg (4%)
Keep in mind that these values are only characteristic for 100 grams of cauliflower. Due to the large volume, but low calorie content of this vegetable, it is very easy to eat 200 or more grams of cooked cauliflower at a time, especially when you use mashed potatoes or as a side dish in different recipes. This means that you can get two to three times more useful cauliflower nutrients listed above, without harm to your health.
The benefits of cauliflower
Briefly proven useful properties of cauliflower look like this:
- Helps reduce cancer risk
- Fights inflammation
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and cerebrovascular accident
- Provides high levels of vitamins and minerals (especially vitamin C and vitamin K)
- Improves digestion and detoxification
- Contributes to weight loss
- Helps balance hormones
- Preserves eye health
- Let us consider in more detail each of the useful properties of cauliflower
- Helps reduce cancer risk
Let us consider in more detail each of the useful properties of cauliflower
1. Helps reduce cancer risk
Numerous studies have shown that there is a strong association between nutrition and cancer risk. Studies say cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, are especially useful for the prevention of breast cancer, colon cancer, liver, lung, and stomach cancers ( 1 ). That is why they are one of the most popular cancer control products.
Cauliflower has been proven to have chemoprevention agents that stop the early stages of cancer development to help stop the growth of the tumor.
Studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, can effectively inhibit the development of chemically induced carcinogenesis by acting as an antimutagen that stops tumor cells from further propagation ( 2 ).
Consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, has been proven to prevent cancer in rats and mice during controlled trials, and the same benefits seem to extend to humans. Cruciferous vegetables are also rich in glucosinolates, a large group of useful sulfur-containing compounds ( 3 ). These protective chemicals are known to break down during chewing and digestion into biologically active compounds that help prevent the growth of cancer cells. Glucosinolates essentially act as natural pesticides in plant cells; when they are consumed by humans, they are used to repair DNA and help prevent cancer by slowing the growth of mutated cancer cells.
This makes cauliflower a great way to prevent cancer, and also reduces the chance of relapse.
2. Cauliflower fights inflammation
Inflammation is at the heart of almost all the chronic diseases that we face so often today. Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce oxidative stress and the presence of free radicals in our body.
An important range of beneficial antioxidants found in cauliflower, including the vitamins listed above, as well as beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin and campferol, help reduce oxidative stress in the body that can lead to to cancer and other harmful conditions.
Only 100 gr. Cauliflower contains about 77% of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, helping to reduce inflammation, boost immunity and keep the body free of harmful bacteria, infections and colds.
A 2017 study at the University of Basilicata in Italy examined the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cauliflower on rabbits. Researchers have concluded that a daily diet including cauliflower can protect rabbits from inflammation and oxidative stress ( 4 ).
3. Reduces the risk of heart disease and brain disease
Researchers now know that high levels of inflammation correlate with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The anti-inflammatory properties of cauliflower – especially with large amounts of vitamin K and vitamin C in it, as well as various antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids – help preserve arteries and blood vessels without plaque, reducing the chances of high blood pressure and raising “bad” cholesterol .
These serious conditions can lead to further inflammation, allergies, autoimmune responses, and even possible cardiac arrest. The powerful nutrients in cauliflower help protect the immune system from being overloaded, during which autoimmune reactions usually occur that can lead to oxidative stress that can damage brain cells.
4. Cauliflower – the richest source of vitamin C and vitamin K
In addition to vitamin C and other antioxidants, cauliflower is also a good source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, that is, it is absorbed by the intestines along with fat, which is why it is important to use cauliflower along with a healthy source. fat (e.g. with olive oil ).
Vitamin K is responsible for maintaining a healthy bone structure and helps prevent a condition associated with loss of bone mineral density, such as osteoporosis. In addition, it helps in blood coagulation, as well as in calcification of bones. However, perhaps even more importantly, vitamin K has a direct positive effect on reducing inflammation in the body.
It is believed that poor nutrition is one of the key factors affecting the vitamin K deficiency that so many people are experiencing today.
Other causes of vitamin K deficiency include long-term use of antibiotics, digestive and intestinal problems, such as chronic inflammatory bowel disease, and the use of popular pharmaceutical cholesterol lowering drugs. Fortunately, cauliflower can provide a high dose of much-needed vitamin K, which can help offset the problems associated with poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyle habits.
5. Improves digestion and cleanses the body of harmful substances
The beneficial compounds found in cauliflower – sulforaphane, glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin and gluconasturia – are needed to help the body cleanse the body of toxins that are trapped in the liver and other important organs.
Cruciferous vegetables are good for digestion and detoxification due to their rich supply of sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, which support the proper absorption of nutrients and the removal of toxins from the body. Glucosinolates stimulate what is known as phase II enzymes, the body’s natural antioxidant system; therefore, they help the liver produce detoxifying enzymes that block free radical damage.
Glucosinolate can also help strengthen the intestinal wall, reducing the chances of developing leaky gut syndrome or other digestive upsets. At the same time, sulforaphane facilitates the detoxification and digestion process, preventing the imbalance of bacteria in the intestinal microflora: by suppressing bad bacteria and allowing good bacteria to multiply and have a beneficial effect on the body.
6. Cauliflower promotes weight loss
Cauliflower is extremely low in calories (only 25 calories per 100 grams), has almost zero grams of fat, contains few carbohydrates and sugar, but still leaves you feeling full, thanks to healthy dietary fiber. This makes it a great choice for those who want to lose weight, as you can consume large amounts of cauliflower without getting excessive calories, fat, sugar or carbohydrates.
Cauliflower also helps reduce constipation and maintain fluid balance in the body, and also helps to remove excess water from the body, which helps you feel better.
7. Provides a balance of the hormonal system
It has been proven that eating fresh vegetables and fruits filled with antioxidants such as cauliflower helps to partially regulate hormones, reducing unhealthy levels of estrogen ( 5 ). Foods that trigger the production of excess estrogen can be unhealthy, as they begin to destroy the vulnerable hormonal balance that many people try to maintain. This is especially important for women.
Poor nutrition and unhealthy lifestyles contribute to hormonal imbalances. Processed foods, such as soy, meat, dairy, yeast, and refined foods, can lead to increased levels of bad estrogen in the body. Too much estrogen in the bloodstream is associated with health problems such as hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue, and ovarian cancer.
8. Cauliflower is good for eye health.
It has been proved that sulforaphane, found in cauliflower, protects vulnerable tissues of the retina from oxidative stress, which can lead to blindness, cataracts, macular degeneration and the like ( 6 ).
How to cook cauliflower
Researchers examined various methods for preparing cauliflower in order to understand which cooking methods better preserve healthy substances.
According to studies, boiling and blanching processes in water have the most harmful effect on reducing the nutrients of cauliflower. These methods caused significant loss of protein, mineral and phytochemical content (from about 20% to 30% loss of some nutrients after five minutes of boiling, from 40% to 50% after 10 minutes and 75% after 30 minutes) ( 7 ).
Instead, it is surprising that cauliflower kept its nutrients most intact when cooked in a microwave oven or gently roasted. These cooking methods supported the methanol extract of fresh cauliflower and significantly retained the highest antioxidant activity.
The best method for preparing cauliflower is to gently fry in a pan over low heat with the addition of water, lemon juice or vegetable oil, which can make its nutrients more absorbable.
Of course, cauliflower can also be eaten raw, dipping it in hummus, for example. So you also save all the nutritious beneficial compounds of this vegetable.
How to choose quality cauliflower
When it comes to buying cauliflower, look for cauliflower that is tightly packed, its pieces pressed tightly together, and won’t open. While most cauliflower is found in white, other types, such as purple, yellow, and green cauliflower, can be found in some parts of the world, and they are also nutritious.
In fact, it is believed that there are over 80 different types of edible cauliflower for sale around the world! There are four main groups of cauliflower that include these varieties: Italian (includes white, Romanesque, brown, green, purple and yellow), North European (which is harvested in summer and autumn in Europe and the USA), Northwest European (harvested in winter and early spring) and Asian (grown in China and India).
No matter what color or type you choose, look for a uniform texture and color throughout the cauliflower head and without blue or color spots on the cauliflower head. It is best to use cauliflower within three to seven days after purchase, if possible, to ensure that its nutrients are retained.
Raw cauliflower is stored in the refrigerator longer than cooked cauliflower (about one week), so store it in a dry container or plastic bag, if possible, along with a paper towel to absorb moisture.
Identify several possible problems associated with the use of cauliflower
1. Thyroid disorders
According to the study, excessive consumption of cruciferous vegetables can contribute to the development of hypothyroidism. But the risk group includes only people who already have iodine deficiency ( 8 ).
One study showed that eating 150 grams of cooked cruciferous vegetables (Brussels sprouts, in particular) for four weeks did not adversely affect thyroid function. If you have a known thyroid problem, it is best to consume cruciferous vegetables not every day and must be processed ( 9 ).
2. Digestive problems, including increased gas production
Some people find it difficult to digest raw cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Cooking these vegetables usually helps relieve the problem. It is believed that the problem is related to the carbohydrates contained in these vegetables (which to some extent contain all vegetables), which are not completely destroyed in the digestive tract in combination with a high fiber and sulfur content.
3. May worsen urolithiasis symptoms
Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds called purines, which can sometimes break down to form uric acid in the urine. If you have a previously diagnosed urolithiasis or kidney stones, then you need to talk to your doctor before consuming a large amount of cauliflower. Although it has been proven that consuming cauliflower in small quantities, there is no risk of harmful effects ( 10 ).
So, we examined the benefits and harms of cauliflower for the human body. Let’s make a summary:
- Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, also known as Brassica olerace, which includes broccoli, white cabbage, Brussels sprouts and some other less common varieties.
- Cauliflower is considered one of the healthiest foods on Earth because of its rich stock of phytochemicals that promote health, high levels of anti-inflammatory compounds and the ability to prevent cancer, heart disease, brain disease and even weight gain.
- The benefits of cauliflower include its ability to help lower the risk of cancer, fight inflammation, reduce the risk of heart disease and brain damage, provide high levels of vitamins and minerals, improve digestion and detoxification, help in weight loss, establish hormonal balance and maintain eye health.
- The best ways to prepare cauliflower is to gently fry in a small amount of water and oil to preserve nutrients – or, of course, use it raw.
- It is best to eat cauliflower within three to seven days after purchase, if possible, to ensure that its nutrients are preserved.