Cauliflower Benefits: 7 Ways This Vegetable Helps Your Health

Loaded with nutrients, cauliflower has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. Learn more about this versatile veggie.

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable. Its ability to take on different forms—mashed potatoes, rice, and even pizza crust—makes cauliflower a staple for anyone watching their carb intake. The popularity of cauliflower may come as a surprise to some, but it makes sense from a nutrition perspective.

A member of the cruciferous family, cauliflower packs a nutritional punch. One cup of raw cauliflower is chockful of vitamins, nutrients, and fiber—all for just 30 calories and five grams of carbohydrates, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It also contains anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.

From a culinary perspective, cauliflower is relatively bland on its own. When combined with the right ingredients, cauliflower can be transformed into a sneaky low-carb, gluten-free substitute for rice, pasta, potatoes, and wheat flour.

Read on to learn more about the health benefits of cauliflower and its many nutrients. We also provide tips and new ideas for preparing and serving cauliflower in your kitchen.

Cauliflower Nutrition

Cauliflower is mostly water and fiber with a small number of carbohydrates. It is low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, making it a nutrient-dense food.

The health benefits of cauliflower include:

  • High nutrient density
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Ability to fight heart disease and cancer
  • Anti-aging properties
  • Detox booster
  • Rich source of fiber
  • Promoter of healthy weight loss

Cauliflower Is Nutrient Dense

One cup of raw cauliflower provides over 75% of the daily minimum target for vitamin C, according to the USDA. In addition to supporting immunity, vitamin C is needed for DNA repair and, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is essential for the production of red blood cells, collagen, and serotonin. (The latter promotes happiness and healthy sleep.)

Cauliflower is also rich in vitamin K and provides 20% of the daily target per cup, per the USDA. Vitamin K is required for bone health and a shortfall of the nutrient can increase your risk of fractures. According to research published in the journal Medicine, higher intakes of vitamin K can lower your fracture risk.

Cauliflower also contains choline, roughly 10% of the daily goal per cup, per the USDA. According to the NIH, choline plays a role in sleep, memory, learning, and muscle movement. Cauliflower also provides smaller amounts of other essential nutrients, including B vitamins, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and potassium.

Cauliflower Is Anti-inflammatory

Bioactive compounds found in cauliflower are known to reduce inflammation, as was reported in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2014. The vegetable is also rich in antioxidants, including types known to counter oxidative stress.

According to the study authors, oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body's ability to counter their harmful effects. This results in systemic inflammation, which increases the risk of premature aging and disease.

Eating cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables can help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

Cauliflower Fends Off the Nation's Top Two Killers

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, and bok choy. As such, it helps reduce the risk of both heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cruciferous veggies contain natural substances that protect the bends and branches of blood vessels—areas most prone to inflammation. This makes these veggies potent protectors of your heart. And this may explain why a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of hardening of the arteries in female participants of a 2017 International Journal of Epidemiology study.

Natural substances in cauliflower and other cruciferous veggies have also been shown to disable cancer-causing substances and stop cancer from growing and spreading, according to the results of a 2015 review published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. This review found that higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables are associated with lower risks of heart disease, cancer, and death from any cause.

As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is a key health-protective food.

Cauliflower Fights Aging

Sulforaphane, a natural substance found in cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, works at the cellular level to neutralize toxins, reduce inflammation, and protect DNA, according to the National Institutes of Health.

What's more, research published in the journal GeroScience showed sulforphane may influence genes in ways that slow the biochemical process of aging. Additional research published in the Austin Journal of Cerebrovascular Disease & Stroke in 2017 shows the compound may help protect the brain, support nervous system function, and slow age-related cognitive decline.

Cauliflower Helps You Detox

Cauliflower contains enzymes that are involved in detoxification, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2015. These enzymes act like internal garbage collectors: They scour the body for toxins and waste products, bind to them, and escort them out of the body.

Health professionals tend to dislike the word detox because it's often overused and over-exaggerated. Detoxification essentially means helping to deactivate potentially damaging chemicals or shuttle them out of the body more quickly. Eating cauliflower and other cruciferous veggies supports the detox process.

Cauliflower Is Fiber-Rich

The fiber in cauliflower—nearly 12 grams per medium head, per the USDA—supports digestive health, promotes bowel regularity, and feeds beneficial bacteria in the gut tied to anti-inflammation, immunity, and mood.

However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports most people do not eat enough fiber. The recommended daily amount of fiber are 25 grams a day for females and 38 grams a day for males. Eating cauliflower and other vegetables can help boost your fiber intake.

Cauliflower Supports Healthy Weight Loss

Cauliflower's fiber supports weight management by boosting fullness, delaying the return of hunger, and helping to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. One cup raw also provides about 3.5 ounces of water, which helps promote satiety. And eating cauliflower in place of white rice can seriously displace calories and carbs, without the need to sacrifice volume.

A three-quarter cup portion of riced cauliflower contains about 25 calories and 1 gram of net carbs (3 grams total with 2 grams as fiber). The same serving of cooked white rice provides about 150 calories and 30 grams of carbs.

A Word of Caution: Cauliflower Is a FODMAP

It's important to note, however, that cauliflower is a high FODMAP food, so it may cause digestive upset for some—particularly those with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols.

FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed from the digestive system into the bloodstream and are rapidly fermented in the gut. This combo can trigger the production of gases, which may lead to digestive bloating, pain, cramps, and flatulence.

If you have a sensitive digestive system, or you're not used to eating much fiber, it's not unusual to experience some GI issues when you up your cauliflower intake.

How To Enjoy Cauliflower

There are seemingly endless ways to eat cauliflower. Here are just a few examples:

  • Cauliflower can be whipped into smoothies for an additional boost of nutrition.
  • It can be added to oatmeal or overnight oats to add fiber to your breakfast.
  • This versatile vegetable can also be "riced," folded into, or used as a replacement for white rice in just about any dish.
  • Cauliflower mash makes a low-carb substitute for mashed potatoes.
  • Oven-roasted cauliflower can be prepared with a little avocado or olive oil and sprinkled with a combo of sea salt, turmeric, and black pepper.
  • Cauliflower is tasty steamed or grilled and drizzled with a bit of dairy-free pesto or seasoned tahini or flavored with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and fresh or dried herbs.
  • Cauliflower crust adds a healthy twist to pizza.

While most people are familiar with white cauliflower, the veggie actually comes in several different colors. You can find purple, orange, and green cauliflower varieties at some groceries or farmers markets.

Colored cauliflower exposes your body to an even broader spectrum of antioxidants. And if you're adventurous, you can incorporate cauliflower into the many dessert recipes available online, like cauliflower brownies, cake, pudding, and cheesecake. While these goodies should still be occasional treats, it's one more way to eat less-refined carbs and up your veggie intake!

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