Mediterranean Diet 101

Cauliflower Health Benefits

Being packed with various nutrients, cauliflower is one of the healthiest vegetables. Nutrients in cauliflower include unique phytonutrients that may lower the risk of various diseases, some of which are serious like cancer and heart disease.

Plus, it’s useful for those who want to lose weight and can be easily included in one’s diet.

Published: November 12, 2021.

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What is Cauliflower?

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae family to which kale, broccoli, and cabbage also belong.

It’s made of a bunch of tiny, tightly packed florets known as curds. These florets emerge from a thick central stem and form a shape of a round head. Cauliflower is generally white in color. But other varieties are also available

For example, there is a green cauliflower which is known as broccoflower. It’s available as the sweeter romanesco cauliflower which has characteristic pointed florets and also comes with the normal shape of curds.

There is also a purple cauliflower which contains the antioxidant group, anthocyanins, due to which it gets its color. And then there is an orange cauliflower which is considered highly nutritious.

purple cauliflower

Health Benefits of Cauliflower

Packed with Nutrients

There is a huge amount of nutrients in cauliflower. At the same time, it contains very few calories. Cauliflower contains at least some of almost every vitamin and mineral that the human body needs.

Helps Support Hormonal Balance

Cruciferous veggies like cauliflower contain a plant compound named indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which acts as a plant estrogen and may help bring about hormonal balance by regulating estrogen levels.

I3C is also possibly a means of reducing the risk of estrogen-induced breast and reproductive cancers in women as well as men. However, this requires more studies.

Rich in Fiber

One cup of cauliflower contains 3 grams of fiber which is 10% of one’s daily need.

Fiber is known to promote digestive health. It feeds the beneficial bacteria in the gut that help reduce inflammation.

An appropriate amount of fiber also prevents disorders like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and diverticulitis.

According to studies, consuming a high-fiber vegetable like cauliflower is associated with a lower risk of many diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Improves Cardiovascular Health

Cauliflower when consumed regularly can help improve blood circulation and maintain the proper functioning of blood vessels.

This can be attributed to the glucoraphanin it contains. Glucoraphanin gets converted to isothiocyanates that stimulate anti-inflammatory activities and thus can prevent lipid buildup in the blood vessels. This can help in the unhindered flow of blood which may, in turn, reduce the risk of conditions like atherosclerosis and boost cardiovascular health.

Studies have also shown that indole-3-carbinol present in abundance in cauliflower has antiplatelet and antithrombotic properties and thus contributes towards a healthy heart.

Glucoraphanin and sulforaphane in cauliflower may also reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and may also induce HDL (good) cholesterol.

Help Improve Immune System Health

Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower are loaded with sulfur and so may improve gut health and thus may help improve one’s defense against infection.

The reason for this is that sulfur boosts the production of glutathione which is essential for maintaining the integrity and generation of the gut lining. Also as a potent antioxidant, glutathione works all over the body to protect cells from inflammatory damage.

Prevents Free Radical Damage

Cauliflower is loaded with antioxidants that protect one’s cells from oxidative stress and inflammation.

Just like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is especially high in isothiocyanates and glucosinolates (namely gluconasturtiin, glucoraphanin, and glucobrassicin), two groups of antioxidants that have been found to slow down the growth of cancer cells.

These two groups have been found to be particularly protective against the cancers of the prostate, lung, and breast.

As one chews and digests cauliflower, glucosinolates in it are broken down into compounds that help protect cells from damage and help prevent cancer. They also have antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory effects.

In addition, there are flavonoid and carotenoid antioxidants too in cauliflower and they have anti-cancer properties. They can also reduce the risk of many other diseases including heart disease.

Besides this, cauliflower is rich in vitamin C which in itself is a powerful antioxidant. It has anti-inflammatory effects that promote immune health and decrease the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Cauliflower also contains manganese, vitamin E, and other potent antioxidants that prevent free radical damage. It also consists of phytochemicals named indoles which may induce helpful enzymes to protect cells from free radicals.

Helpful in Weight Loss

There are many properties in cauliflower that may aid in weight loss.

Firstly, it’s very low in calories i.e. only 25 calories per cup. So, one can eat a lot of it without any increase in weight. It’s good to replace high-calorie foods like flour and rice with low-calorie cauliflower.

Secondly, cauliflower is a good source of fiber which slows down digestion and offers a feeling of fullness. This may in turn reduce the food intake and thereby the number of calories consumed all through the day, which helps in weight loss.

Thirdly, cauliflower’s high water content helps in weight loss too. Its 92% of the weight is made of water. Such water-dense low-calorie foods are associated with weight loss.

Improves Digestion and Lowers the Risk of Serious Diseases

Being loaded with fiber and water, cauliflower prevents constipation and lowers the risk of colon cancer. It can also reduce the risk of:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Certain gastrointestinal disorders

Also, cauliflower contains glucoraphanin, glucosinolate, and sulforaphane that can protect the stomach lining and help resist the growth of Helicobater pylori bacteria.

In addition to this, dietary isothiocyanates in cauliflower can lower the risk of a variety of stomach disorders including stomach ulcers.

green cauliflower

Rich in Choline

Cauliflower is rich in choline, a compound that performs many important functions in the human body and also the one the human body is generally deficient in. cauliflower contains around 45 mg of choline per cup. This is around 11% of the adequate intake (AI) for women and 8% for men.

Choline is important for supporting metabolism, synthesizing DNA, and maintaining the integrity of cell membranes.

It has also a role to play in brain development and the formation of neurotransmitters that are essential for a healthy nervous system.

Furthermore, it also helps prevent cholesterol from building up in the liver.

People whose intake of choline is inadequate may have an increased risk of heart and liver disease, and also of neurological disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Since not many foods contain choline, cauliflower (and also broccoli) can be considered valuable because it’s a plant-based source of choline.

Slows Down the Progression of Respiratory Diseases

Human papillomavirus can cause respiratory papillomatosis that affects the trachea, lungs, bronchi, and vocal cords in the larynx.

Research conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has shown that high consumption of cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower helps in mitigating the severity of respiratory papillomatosis.

Loaded with Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is an antioxidant that has been deeply studied and cauliflower contains a lot of it.

Several animal and test-tube studies have proved that sulforaphane especially helps in suppressing the development of cancer by inhibiting enzymes that play a major role in tumor and cancer growth.

Some studies also show that sulforaphane may also be able to stop cancer growth by destroying the already damaged cells.

Sulforaphane has been found to be most helpful against prostate and colon cancer.

Studies have found that sulforaphane may also help decrease high blood pressure and promote healthy arteries. Both properties are important for preventing heart disease.

Animal studies have shown that sulforaphane may also help in diabetes prevention and reduce the chances of diabetes-induced complications like kidney disease.

Promotes Bone Health

Vitamin C in cauliflower plays a major role in the production of collagen that protects bones and joints from inflammation and can help in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Moreover increased intake of vitamin C has been associated with higher bone density.

Also, cauliflower contains a significant amount of vitamin K which pushes calcium towards bones. This may help stop bone loss.

Protects Skin

Research has shown that sulforaphane in cauliflower can protect skin against UV radiation-induced damage and skin cancer, cellular damage, and UV-induced erythema.

According to the research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, this protection in humans is long-lasting.

Reduces the Risk of Neurodegenerative Diseases

The sulforaphane in cauliflower can reduce the progression of neurodegenerative disorders. A 2018 study by Lee S et al. says that consuming cauliflower can reduce the accumulation of amyloid-beta and tau proteins in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

Low-carb Replacement for Grains and Legumes

For those who follow a low-carb diet, cauliflower can be wonderful because it has a significantly lower amount of carbs than grains and legumes. While 1 cup of cauliflower contains less than 5 grams of carbs, a cup of rice contains 45 grams of carbs which is 9 times the amount of cauliflower.

Cauliflower can replace white or brown rice if it’s grated and then cooked, or pulsed in a food processor and then made into dough, added to hummus in place of chickpeas, pulsed and mixed with eggs to make low-carb tortillas, or cooked and mixed with cheese, spices, and milk to make mac and cheese.

Easy to Add to One’s Diet

One can easily add cauliflower to their diet.

It can be consumed raw. This needs very little preparation. One can enjoy raw cauliflower florets dipped in hummus or a similar healthy vegetable dip.

One can even cook cauliflower in various ways like sautéing, roasting, or steaming.

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Cauliflower Nutritional Profile

100 grams of cauliflower contains:

Calories: 25
Carbohydrates: 4.97 grams
Protein: 1.92 grams
Fat: 0.28 grams
Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): 0.05 mg
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 0.06 mg
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 0.51 mg
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): 0.18 mg
Vitamin B9 (Folate): 57 mcg
Vitamin C: 48.2 mg
Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol): 0.08 mg
Vitamin K (phylloquinone): 15.5 mcg
Choline: 44.3 mg
Lutein + zeaxanthin: 1 mcg
Calcium: 22 grams
Iron: 0.42 mg
Magnesium: 15 grams
Phosphorus: 44 grams
Sodium: 30 grams
Potassium: 299 grams
Zinc: 0.27 mg
Manganese: 0.16 mg
Copper: 0.04 mg
Selenium: 0.6 mcg
Fiber: 2 grams
Water: 92.07 grams

Cauliflower Risk Factors

As such cauliflower is safe to eat. Still, those with certain conditions should consult their doctor before eating it.

Heart disease: If someone is a heart patient and is taking blood thinners like warfarin or statins, their doctor may suggest them to avoid foods rich in vitamin K, such as cauliflower, because vitamin K could adversely react with these medications.

Digestion problems: Cauliflower contains a lot of fiber and eating such high-fiber foods can cause gas and bloating.

Thyroid problems: As one might know, the thyroid is a gland in the neck that creates important hormones. It needs iodine for proper functioning. High consumption of cauliflower may prevent the thyroid from absorbing iodine and producing hormones. However, this can happen only when one eats a much larger quantity of cauliflower than most people could ever eat in one sitting.

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Few Final Words

With its numerous health benefits, cauliflower should be part of any well-balanced and healthy nutrition plan, mixed with other green and leafy vegetables, fruits, organic eggs, low-fat cheese, fish, poultry, and even some red meat - grains should be kept in moderation, depending on the physical activity.

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