Cauliflower has made a comeback in recent years. You can roast or steam it for a quick and tasty boost of veggies, but you can also get creative. It’s low in calories, carbs, and fat, so it’s easy to see why it’s popular among keto dieters and diabetics looking for low-carb food options.
The recognizable white cauliflower is not the only option. There are purple, orange, and green varieties, thanks to different pigments (which are usually also antioxidants, so vary the colors for more nutrients). Regardless of the nuance, all cauliflowers tend to have a similar, mild, nutty flavor with a slight sweet taste. You can eat it raw or cooked, which has a slight effect on its taste. Raw cauliflower is a bit more bitter than its cooked counterpart.
Like most fruits and vegetables, cauliflower is best when it’s in season, which is during the fall months. But don’t let that stop you from getting cauliflower the rest of the year – it’s readily available in the frozen aisle of most grocery stores year-round. Taste and versatility aren’t the only reasons to add cauliflower to your regular meal plan. Cauliflower also has many potential health benefits. Here are seven more to consider.
1. Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants that fight free radicals.
As a member of the Brassica family (cruciferous vegetables), cauliflower is rich in certain types of antioxidants called phytochemicals, which are known to help fight free radicals that damage and age our cells. Moreover, cauliflower also contains antioxidants such as anthoxanthins, flavonoids, chlorophyll, quercetin and coumaric acid.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that wreak havoc in cells, but antioxidants are sometimes called “free radical scavengers” because they stabilize and neutralize them. Free radicals are present naturally in the body, but other sources are present all around us, exposure to the sun is an important one. A diet rich in antioxidants may help mitigate the damaging effects of free radicals and have positive effects on diseases like cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer and others, according to a 2021 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
2. Cauliflower fights inflammation, potentially reducing disease risk
There’s a silent killer on the loose, and it’s known as inflammation. According to research published in 2020 in Nature Medicine, chronic inflammation contributes to some of the world’s leading diseases and causes of death, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney disease. Many factors contribute to inflammation, and your food choices are one of them. Some foods promote inflammation, while others reduce it. Cauliflower is one of these. Cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables have inflammation-fighting properties, according to research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Inflammation is complex, and some inflammation is good and necessary, but chronic inflammation can increase your risk of premature disease.
3. Cauliflower may support immune system health thanks to its high vitamin C content.
Oranges, peppers, strawberries, these fruits and vegetables have a high vitamin C content and are known to be beneficial for your immune system. According to a 2020 study published in Frontiers in Immunology, getting enough vitamin C through the diet has a positive effect on immune health and reduces susceptibility to infections. Now you can add cauliflower to the list. A serving of cauliflower makes a significant dent in your daily vitamin C needs. One cup of chopped raw cauliflower contains 51.6 milligrams of vitamin C, making it an excellent source.
4. Thanks to its vitamin K, cauliflower promotes bone health and blood clotting
Vitamin K is an essential nutrient, and cauliflower is a good source, with 16.6 micrograms in a cup of this raw, chopped vegetable. It has antioxidant properties like other vitamins, but where cauliflower really shines is in blood and bone health. Cauliflower is the only white vegetable rich in fat-soluble vitamin K. The main role of this nutrient in the body is blood clotting and coagulation, which is why its name comes from the Germanic word koagulation, meaning the ability to coagulate blood, coagulate and prevent the bleeding. Without blood clotting, wounds would continue to bleed and therefore could not heal. But the vitamin K in cauliflower is not only beneficial for proper blood clotting, it also plays a vital role in bone health. Calcium is additionally essential for bone health, and together the duo may be able to positively affect the prognosis of osteoporosis and low bone mineral density, according to a meta-analysis published in 2021 in the Journal of Orthopedic Surgery and Research.
5. Cauliflower is high in fiber, which helps support gut and heart health.
Fiber is one of the most important nutrients, but one that many Americans struggle to get enough of. According to a 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients, the typical Western diet lacks fiber, despite the benefits it may have for gut motility, gut microbiota, and colon cancer.
Like many vegetables, cauliflower is a good way to boost your fiber intake. A cup of cooked cauliflower contains nearly 3 grams of fiber. This contributes greatly to the intake of 28 to 34 grams of fiber per day, depending on age and gender. Fiber is most often associated with supporting gut health, but it’s also a heart-healthy nutrient. Fiber is known to reduce the risk of heart disease, but it may also benefit people with heart disease and high blood pressure, according to a 2022 meta-analysis published in BMC Medicine.
6. Cauliflower May Reduce Cancer Risk
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It is so widespread that many people know at least one person affected by cancer. Although there is still much to learn about cancer, there is some evidence that cauliflower has potential anti-cancer properties.
In general, eating more fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cancer. But cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower may be particularly effective in preventing cancer cell growth due to certain phytochemicals they contain. This does not mean that eating cauliflower prevents cancer. No disease can be caused or prevented by any single food or food group, and diet is not the only health factor. Instead, consider cauliflower as a possible weapon in your holistic artillery against cancer.
Research shows that is exactly the right thing to do. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower have been inversely associated with several types of cancer. According to a 2017 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, eating cruciferous vegetables may reduce the risk of lung cancer in non-smokers. Similar studies have been conducted on breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. Cancer researchers are particularly interested in cruciferous vegetables due to the presence of glucosinolates, which are broken down into compounds such as indoles and isothiocyanates, which have been shown to inhibit the development of cancer in animal studies.
The antioxidants in cauliflower may also contribute to its possible anti-cancer effects. In addition to slowing cell damage due to oxidation, flavonoids (like those found in cauliflower) have a strong tendency to help fight cancer cells while maintaining healthy human cells.
7. Cauliflower can help maintain a healthy weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is associated with good health, and fruits and vegetables can help with that. Replacing high-calorie foods with lower-calorie fruits and vegetables can promote weight loss. The water and fiber in fruits and vegetables add bulk, so you can eat the same serving with fewer calories. Fiber also helps you stay full longer, and high fiber intake is associated with significantly lower body weight, according to a 2019 study published in The Lancet. With less than 30 calories per cup, cauliflower is a low-calorie food that comes in handy in meal plans for weight loss or maintenance.