Cauliflower Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts You Should Know

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Cauliflower Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts You Should Know

Cauliflower Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts You Should Know.

Cauliflower is much more than broccoli’s paler cousin: Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, often overshadowed by its green cousin broccoli. This is one vegetable that deserves a regular rotation in your diet, however, as it contains an impressive array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.

With a nutty and slightly sweet taste, cauliflower has become one of the trendiest vegetables over the last few years, making its way onto restaurant menus and dinner tables in a variety of ways, especially riced versions of the vegetable.

Although vividly colored fruits and veggies tend to be the healthiest choices, cauliflower is a notable exception. 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 preventing chronic diseases.”

Cauliflower originated in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) from wild cabbage, and the plant once resembled collard greens or kale more than the white vegetable it’s known as today, according to the George Mateljan Foundation’s World’s Healthiest Foods website.

The vegetable gained popularity in France in the 1500s, and was subsequently cultivated in Northern Europe and Britain. Today, most cauliflower is grown in the United States, France, Italy, India and China.

When growing, cauliflower starts out resembling broccoli, according to the University of Arizona. However, while broccoli opens outward to sprout green florets, cauliflower forms a compact head, called a curd, composed of flower buds that have not developed fully. The flower buds are protected from sunlight by heavy green leaves that surround the head. This prevents chlorophyll from developing, so the head remains white rather than turning green.

In fact, cauliflower ranks among the top 25 powerhouse fruits and vegetables in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Aggregate Nutrient Density Index ANDI), a scoring method that ranks foods based on their nutrient content per calorie. White florets are the primary edible portion of the vegetable, which are found in a tightly-packed head, while its green leaves and stalk are typically not eaten. Cauliflower can be cooked, eaten raw and added to soups, salads or stir-fries. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume 1.5 to 2.5 cup-equivalents of dark green vegetables (which includes cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower) per week.

Nutrition facts

Here are the nutrition facts for cauliflower, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

Cauliflower, raw

Serving size: 1 cup (100 g)
Calories 25 (Calories from Fat 1)
*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Total Fat 0g 0% Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0% Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Sodium 30mg 1% Sugars 2g
Protein 2g
Vitamin A 0% Calcium 2%
Vitamin C 77% Iron 2%

Health benefits

Cauliflower is not an especially well-studied vegetable on its own, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Researchers are more likely to study the health benefits of diets containing cauliflower as well as other cruciferous vegetables.

Antioxidant power

Vitamins C and K and manganese are antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals before they can cause damage to healthy cells and contribute to disease, such as heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants such as vitamins K and C may help prevent conditions such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

Cancer

Cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, are rich in plant-based compounds, such as sulforaphane and indoles, which scientists think may reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer. Studies of these cancer-protective compounds in animals have shown promising effects in preventing cancer, but human studies in people who ate higher amounts of cruciferous vegetables have shown mixed results of its cancer-preventive effects, according to the National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/cruciferous-vegetables-fact-sheet

A review published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology looked at several studies that examined the link between the consumption of cruciferous vegetables and cancer risk. It found that “of the case-control studies 64 percent showed an inverse association between consumption of one or more brassica vegetables and risk of cancer at various sites.” The association between a high consumption of cruciferous vegetables and a reduced risk of cancer is most consistent for lung, stomach, colon and rectal cancer, according to the study authors. But they also suggest that it’s not yet clear whether this association is due to eating more cruciferous vegetables, specifically, or to eating more vegetables in general.

Boost Heart Health

Sulforaphane in cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables has been found to significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function.4 Scientists believe sulforaphane’s benefits are related to improved DNA methylation, which is crucial for normal cellular function and proper gene expression, especially in the easily damaged inner lining of the arteries known as the endothelium.

Digestive health

Cauliflower has a high fiber content, and one cup of it cooked has about 10 percent of the recommended daily amount of fiber. Diets rich in fiber can help prevent constipation, and promote bulkier, softer stools that are easier to pass through the digestive system than hard ones. These beneficial effects not only make life more comfortable but also help maintain colorectal health.

It’s Anti-Inflammatory

You need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy. However, it’s also possible, and increasingly common, for the inflammatory response to get out of hand.

If your immune system mistakenly triggers an inflammatory response when no threat is present, it can lead to significant inflammation-related damage to the body, a condition linked to cancer and other diseases, depending on which organs the inflammation is impacting.
Cauliflower contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check, including indole-3-carbinol or I3C, an anti-inflammatory compound that may operate at the genetic level to help prevent the inflammatory responses at its foundational level.

Health risks of cauliflower

The risks from eating cauliflower are generally minimal. Like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower can make some people feel gassy or bloated. According to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, people taking warfarin (Coumadin), a blood-thinning medication, should watch their intake of green leafy vegetables including cauliflower, since the vegetable’s vitamin K content may interfere with the medication’s effectiveness. It’s fine to include these nutritious vegetables in your diet, but keep your intake of foods rich in vitamin K consistent from week to week, experts recommend.

Additional Resource:

Dr. Mercola’s Natural Health

World’s Healthiest Foods: Cauliflower

Mayo Clinic: Cauliflower: The New Nutrition Superstar

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