While not as popular as its cruciferous relative broccoli, cauliflower is slowly starting to gain popularity in the culinary world. Its subtle flavor and versatile texture makes cauliflower great for transforming into vegan mock dishes such as cauliflower steaks and cauliflower Buffalo wings. In the health standpoint, cauliflower is not well studied compared to the other cruciferous vegetables; however, there are several studies that link cauliflower consumption with cancer prevention, particularly bladder, breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancer.

Disease/Ailments:

Digestive disorders
Cardiovascular disorders
Kidney disorders
Cancer prevention
Inflammation related disorders: Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis

Health benefits:

Digestive support: Cauliflower is loaded with fiber, which will improve digestive distress, constipation, and diarrhea. Phytochemicals in cauliflower called glucosinolate is converted into sulforaphane, which helps in protecting the lining of the stomach and preventing bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori.

Detox support: Detoxification occurs in two phases. Cauliflower contains antioxidant nutrients that boost Phase 1 detoxification activities and sulfur-containing nutrients to boost Phase 2 activities. In addition, phytonutrients called glucosinolates that can help detoxification enzymes and regulate their activity.

Antioxidant: As a good source of vitamin C and manganese, cauliflower provides two conventional antioxidants. In addition to the conventional nutrients, phytochemicals such as beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and kaempferol add to the antioxidant health benefits that lower the risk of oxidative stress. Chronic oxidative stress can lead to the development of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Anti-inflammatory: Cauliflower provides a rich source of vitamin K, a direct regulator of the inflammatory response. Glucosinolates found in cauliflower can be converted into isothiocyanate molecules, which are anti-inflammation compounds that prevent the initiation of inflammation at a very early stage. Chronic inflammation can increase the risk of developing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases.

Cardiovascular support: Untreated chronic inflammation can create problems for blood vessels and circulation. Vitamin K and omega-3 content in cauliflower improves blood pressure and inflammation. In addition, glucoraphanin is a phytochemical present in cauliflower that is converted into a compound that triggers anti-inflammatory activity in the cardiovascular system.

Good source of:

Provitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin B-complex, C, E, K, potassium

Purchasing, storing, & enjoying:

Purchasing: Cauliflower can be purchased as a whole head or in pre-cut florets. Look for clean heads in which the bud clusters are not separated. Spotted or dull-colored cauliflower should not be purchased. Heads surrounded by many thick green leaves are better protected and will stay fresh longer. Cauliflower is available year-round.
Storing: Raw cauliflower should be stored in a paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator where it will keep for a week. To prevent moisture from developing in the floret clusters, store it with the stem side down. If you purchase pre-cut florets, consume them within one or two days.
Enjoying:

  • The florets are the part of the cauliflower that most people eat, but the stems and leaves are also edible and especially good for adding into soups.
  • To cut cauliflower, first remove the outer leaves and then slice the florets at the base where they meet the stalks.
  • The best way to eat cauliflower is through steaming. This process retains the most nutrients without unnecessary oil. However, avoid cooking cauliflower for an extended amount of time. Sautéing florets in a little water is also a great option for retaining nutrients and bringing out the natural flavor of the cauliflower.
  • Cauliflower contains phytonutrients that release odorous sulfur compounds when heated. These odors may grow stronger with increased cooking time. In addition, iron in cookware may cause the cauliflower to turn a brownish hue. To prevent this, add a bit of lemon juice to the water you blanch it in.
  • Eating cauliflower raw is also a great option. Cut into individual florets and add them into salads or eat them alone with a dip.
  • Be creative! Transforming cauliflower into common dishes such as mashed potatoes and pizza crusts has become the latest food trend in the vegan world.

Resources & Recipes:

Unusual recipes for cauliflower: http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=5642&catId=2
Roasted Buddha bowl: http://ohsheglows.com/2013/03/05/roasted-buddha-bowl/
Mock Mashed Potatoes: http://www.vegangela.com/2012/12/21/mashed-cauliflower-with-roasted-garlic-chives/
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower: http://www.treehugger.com/easy-vegetarian-recipes/spicy-roasted-cauliflower-lemon-honey-dressing.html

 

References:

Ambrosone CB, Tang L. Cruciferous vegetable intake and cancer prevention: role of nutrigenetics. Cancer Prev Res (Phila Pa). 2009 Apr;2(4):298-300. 2009.

Fowke JH, Morrow JD, Motley S, et al. Brassica vegetable consumption reduces urinary F2-isoprostane levels independent of micronutrient intake. Carcinogenesis, October 1, 2006; 27(10): 2096 – 2102. 2006.

Higdon JV, Delage B, Williams DE, et al. Cruciferous Vegetables and Human Cancer Risk: Epidemiologic Evidence and Mechanistic Basis. Pharmacol Res. 2007 March; 55(3): 224-236. 2007.

Larsson SC, Andersson SO, Johansson JE, et al. Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of bladder cancer: a prospective cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Sep;17(9):2519-22. 2008.

Tang L, Zirpoli GR, Guru K, et al. Consumption of Raw Cruciferous Vegetables is Inversely Associated with Bladder Cancer Risk. 2007 Apr 15;67(8):3569-73. 2007.

Tang L, Zirpoli GR, Jayaprakash V, et al. Cruciferous vegetable intake is inversely associated with lung cancer risk among smokers: a case-control study. BMC Cancer 2010, 10:162. 2010.

http://www.seriouseats.com/2009/10/in-season-cauliflower-choosing-storing-recipes-20091024.html


About the Author

Ashley Kim

"Our bodies are our gardens—our wills are our gardeners." – William Shakespeare

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