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You may have heard some health buffs saying that you should avoid white foods. The truth is there may be some merit to that, as most white foods are sources of bad carbs. Cauliflower, though, is not one of those white foods that you’d want to avoid.
Don’t let cauliflower’s pale color fool you. This vegetable contains a lot of vitamins and minerals. In fact, a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed cauliflower among the powerhouse fruits and vegetables.
In this article, we’ll discuss the health benefits that cauliflower provides. We’ll also discuss the best way to prepare it to get the most nutrients out of it as well as a few minor side effects that it may cause.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
1. Packed with Nutrients
For such a bland-tasting vegetable, cauliflower is impressively loaded with vitamins and minerals.
One serving of cauliflower, amounting to around 100g, provides you with 100% of your recommended daily Vitamin C intake and approximately 25% of Vitamin K.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that’s known for its anti-inflammatory effect. It also helps boost our immune system to ward off various diseases and is crucial for the development and repair of body tissues.
Vitamin K, on the other hand, is vital in keeping our bones healthy and strong. A study has shown that Vitamin K also helps reduce the risk of fractures and has a positive effect on bone mineral density.
In addition to Vitamins C and K, cauliflower also contains other essential nutrients like Vitamin B6, folate, and potassium.
2. Reduces the Risk of Cancer
Although there is not one single food that will stop cancer, a healthy diet goes a long way towards prevention. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) includes cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower among foods that help fight cancer.
According to AICR, foods that are rich in dietary fiber like cauliflower decreases the risk of colorectal cancer. Being a non-starchy vegetable, cauliflower also reduces the risk of aerodigestive cancers.
Another study also demonstrated that cruciferous vegetables could also prevent breast cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower have been shown to have chemopreventive agents. These agents slow down the early stages of cancer development.
Also, cauliflower is rich in glucosinolates, sulfur-containing substances that are broken down into compounds as you chew and digest it. These compounds help prevent cancer cells from growing.
3. Aids in Digestion and Detoxification
Cauliflower is a good source of fiber. Fiber is crucial in keeping regular bowel movements and maintaining a healthy digestive tract.
Fiber also feeds the healthy bacteria in our stomach, which, in turn, reduces inflammation. This contributes to an overall healthy digestive system.
Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower also contain Indole-3-carbinol. This is a phytonutrient that provides nutritional support in the liver’s detoxification process.
4. Reduces the Risk of Heart Diseases
Cauliflower’s high fiber content is not only good for digestion, but it’s also good for the heart.
In addition to fiber’s role in keeping our digestive system healthy, a study shows that regular dietary fiber intake also helps lower the risk of developing stroke, hypertension, and coronary heart conditions.
Fiber also helps lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Out of all the vegetables in the cabbage family, cauliflower is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can significantly reduce triglycerides—a type of fat found in our blood that can increase the risk of heart disease.
5. Helps Keep the Brain Healthy
Cauliflower is high in choline, an essential nutrient that impacts brain development and nervous system functions.
Choline is vital in the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that allows the nerve cells to communicate. It also helps regulate our mood and memory.
Studies have also indicated that high choline intake can lead to improved learning and understanding.
6. Good for Weight Loss
If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, then you should include cauliflower in your diet.
It’s no secret that cutting back on carbs is one of the best ways to lose weight. Cauliflower can be an excellent replacement for carb-heavy foods like rice, potatoes, and wheat.
There are around 130 calories in 100g of rice. The same amount of cauliflower only contains 25 calories. That’s a significant difference. With cauliflower’s low calories, you can eat a good amount guilt-free.
Cauliflower’s high fiber content also helps keep you feeling full and aids in weight management by regulating blood sugar and insulin levels.
7. Good for the Eyes
Cauliflower contains a plant compound called sulforaphane. A study showed that this compound could protect tissues in the retinal area from oxidative stress that can cause macular degeneration, cataract, and even blindness.
Risks of Eating Cauliflower
As they say, too much of anything isn’t good. And as healthy and nutrient-dense cauliflowers may be, certain risks come with too much consumption of it.
Two of the common side effects of eating cauliflowers are gas and bloating. The reason for that is because cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower contain what is called raffinose, a complex form of sugar that the body struggles in digesting.
Cruciferous vegetables usually enter the large intestine undigested. This causes bacteria to try to break them down through fermentation. The result is flatulence and that feeling of a bloated stomach.
Another possible side effect of cauliflower is uric acid. Cauliflower contains an organic compound called purine. Uric acid forms when the body breaks down purine. And uric acid build-up can cause health problems like kidney stones and gout.
Because of cauliflower’s rich Vitamin K content, those who are taking blood thinners for heart diseases should also avoid eating it as it may adversely affect their medications.
In rare cases, cauliflower may also cause severe allergic reactions such as itching, breathing problems, and swelling of particular body parts. It’s best to refrain from eating cauliflower in case you experience any allergic reactions.
Of course, cauliflower still provides far too many health benefits to be totally removed from your diet. The key is to eat it in moderation.
Best Way to Prepare It
You may have probably boiled cauliflower in the past. It’s a pretty common way of preparing it, after all. But a study actually revealed that boiling cauliflower negatively affects its nutritional contents. You end up reducing precious compounds such as Vitamin C and other antioxidants when you boil it.
But don’t worry. You don’t have to eat cauliflower raw. The best way to prepare it is by steaming it. This method will allow you to retain cauliflower’s vital nutrients.
If you’d still prefer to boil it, though, it’s fine as long as you don’t overdo it. Around 3-5 minutes should be enough.
Start Eating Your Cauliflower
Cauliflower may not be the tastiest vegetable, and it may not be as popular as other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. But the great thing about cauliflower is that it’s versatile.
There are plenty of ways to cook it or incorporate it in just about any meal. You can grate it to make cauliflower rice. You can mash it as a replacement to mashed potatoes. You can even use it as a substitute for meat.
With all of its health benefits, cauliflower is indeed a powerhouse vegetable that you should start including in your diet regularly.