Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that belongs to the Brassicaceae family, which includes broccoli, kale, and cabbage.It derives its name from the Latin word ‘caulis‘ which means cabbage with a flower. The florets on the head of the cauliflower, also known as curd, are tightly clustered and consist of immature flower buds attached to a central stalk. To protect the flavor and softness of the cauliflower heads, they are kept away from sunlight to prevent the development of chlorophyll pigment and over-maturity.
Nutritional Value of Cauliflower
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||104 kJ (25 kcal)|
|Dietary fiber||2 g|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)||
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
Types of Cauliflower
Cauliflower is available in four major groups: Asian, Italian, northwest European biennial, and northern European annuals, represented by more than a hundred varieties. Apart from white, it also comes in several other colors mentioned below.
- Green: Green cauliflower is referred to as broccoflower. It can be found in a normal curd-shaped form as well as in a spiky variant called Romanesco broccoli.
- Purple: The antioxidant group, anthocyanins, present in the purple cauliflower provides the color of this variety.
- Orange: Orange cauliflower is highly nutritious and contains an immense amount of vitamin A, as compared to the white variety.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Let us look at some of the important health benefits of cauliflower in detail
- Prevents Oxidative Stress – Cauliflower contains vitamin C, manganese, and other potent antioxidants that help in imparting nourishment to the body. It also contains phytochemicals, called indoles and glucosinates, namely glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, and gluconasturtiin. These components stimulate cancer-blocking enzymes and protect the body cells from the oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health – Regular consumption of cauliflower ensures blood circulation and helps in maintaining proper functioning of the blood vessels, which can be attributed to the presence of glucoraphanin and vitamin K. Glucoraphanin is converted into that activate anti-inflammatory activities and prevent the accumulation of lipids in the blood vessels. This aids in the unobstructed flow of blood, which reduces the risk of conditions like atherosclerosis and promotes health. Research has also proved that the antithrombotic and antiplatelet function of Indole-3-carbinol, found in abundance in cauliflower, contributes significantly towards a healthy heart.
- Prevents Cancer – Studies have shown that indole-3-carbinol present in cauliflower has chemopreventive and anti-estrogen effects that help in hampering the growth of cancer cells. Research has provided supporting evidence for the fact that consumption of brassica vegetables such as cauliflower assists in reducing the risk of various types of cancers such as lung, bladder, breast, prostate, ovarian, and cervical cancer.
- Prevents Stomach Disorders – Cauliflower is a source of dietary fiber that aids in digestion and promotes the elimination of toxins from the body. The presence of glucosinolate, glucoraphanin, and sulforaphane in this vegetable protects the stomach lining and helps in resisting the growth of Heliobacter pylori bacteria. In addition to this defense mechanism, dietary isothiocyanates in cauliflower prevent the risk of various abdominal disorders such as stomach ulcers and colon cancer.
- Iron Absorption – Vitamin C present in cauliflower helps to better absorb iron in the blood.13). This helps to increase the hemoglobin count in the body. Cruciferous veggies like cauliflowers are also rich in carotenoids and other important nutrients like vitamins C, E, and K. All of these can help fight various forms of cancer (
- Enhances Heart Health – Cauliflower is rich in fiber, and studies show how a diet rich in fiber can boost heart health (14). The sulforaphane in cauliflower is also known to improve blood pressure levels significantly. The veggie also contains omega-3 fatty acids that regulate cholesterol levels and prevent cardiac disease.
- Boosts Brain Function – One important nutrient cauliflower is replete with is choline. Choline is a B vitamin that has a role in brain health and development. In fact, intake of choline during pregnancy had super-charged the brains of animals, and this throws light on its ability to boost cognitive function. The choline in the veggie can also prevent age-related memory decline (15). It can even help deal with other nervous disorders like Alzheimer’s.
- Cauliflower Combats Inflammation – One of the most prominent benefits of cauliflower. Some of the most potent antioxidants in cauliflower are beta-carotene, quercetin, cinnamic acid, and beta-cryptoxanthin. This help reduces oxidative stress in the body and fights inflammation (16). An important anti-inflammatory compound in cauliflower is indole-3-carbinol, which operates at the genetic level to fight inflammation. And the omega-3 fatty acids in the vegetable also work well to combat inflammatory conditions.
- Can Aid Weight Loss – The sulforaphane in cauliflower, along with vitamin C and folate, can aid weight loss. In fact, studies show that vitamin C plays a major role in determining the amount of fat burnt during physical activity. Cauliflower is also low in carbs and can hence be a safe addition to a weight loss diet. Also, the fiber in the veggie beats bloat and promotes weight loss. We also have the omega-3s, which stimulate the secretion of leptin. Leptin is a hormone that increases metabolism and helps regulate body weight.
- Cauliflower Helps Detoxify – Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants that support Phase 1 detoxification, and its sulfur-containing compounds help carry out Phase 2 detoxification (17). And the glucosinolates in the veggie also activate other detoxification enzymes.
- Strengthens Bones – A low intake of vitamin K is often linked to an elevated risk of osteoporosis and fractures. But since cauliflower is rich in vitamin K, it can modify the bone matrix proteins and improve calcium absorption – and this boosts overall bone health (18). Vitamin K also prevents the excretion of calcium through urine.
- Improves Digestive Health – The dietary fiber in cauliflower takes good care of your digestive health. Intake of adequate fiber can lower the risk of digestive issues like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and diverticulitis. The fiber even prevents colon cancer. And the sulforaphane in the veggie helps protect the inner lining of the stomach. It prevents the bacterial overgrowth in your stomach wallThe sulfur-containing compounds in cauliflowers also support proper nutrient absorption and waste removal – and this benefits digestive health too (19). The water in cauliflower can also help prevent constipation and smoothen the digestive process.
- Improves Kidney Health – The phytochemicals in cauliflower help break down toxic substances and can hence help treat kidney disease. The veggie is low in potassium and high in vitamin C – which, in addition to protecting the kidneys, also help in weight loss (as weight gain can also stress the kidneys and cause harm). Cauliflower might also benefit bladder health.
- Cauliflower Enhances Vision – The antioxidants in cauliflower, vitamin C included, can cut the risk of age-related macular degeneration. And the sulforaphane in the veggie protects the retina from damage and oxidative stress. It might also prevent cataracts.
- Balances Hormones – Taking antioxidant-rich veggies like cauliflower has shown to reduce unhealthy levels of estrogen and balance hormones (20).
- Increases Blood Flow – This can be attributed to the fiber in cauliflower. A high intake of fiber improves blood flow and enhances circulation.
- Improves Skin Texture And Hair Health – While the vitamin C in cauliflower improves collagen production and delays the signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines, the other antioxidants in the vegetable clear dark spots and enhance skin texture.
- Treats Respiratory Problems – Respiratory papillomatosis is caused by the human papillomavirus that affects the vocal cords in the larynx, trachea, lungs, and bronchi. Studies have shown that increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, aids in reducing the severity of respiratory papillomatosis.
- Improves Bone Health – Cauliflower contains vitamin C, which plays an important role in the production of collagen that protects the joints and bones from inflammatory damage. Also, it contains vitamin K, which may help in preventing bone loss in both men and women.
- Macular Degeneration – It is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants and thus, is effective in reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration which can lead to blindness, particularly in the elderly. The sulforaphane protects the retinal tissues from damage caused by oxidative stress, prevents vision impairment, and various eye ailments such as cataracts.
- Detoxifies the Body – Cauliflower contains indole-3-carbinol, a that, along with sulforaphane, helps in activating and regulating the function of detoxifying enzymes.
- Skin Care – Studies have shown that sulforaphane present in cauliflower is effective in protecting the skin against the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation. The protective action of sulforaphane defends the body against , skin cancer, UV-induced erythema, and cellular damage.
- Hair Care – Cauliflower, along with healthy skin, also promotes hair growth due to the presence of sulfur and silicon.
- Treats Nervous Disorders – The sulforaphane and indoles present in cauliflower play a key role in reducing the progression of diseases. They activate the detoxification enzymes, which elevate the glutathione level and help in treating neuronal injuries caused by inflammation and oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
- Reduces Hypertension – The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of the glucoraphanin and sulforaphane present in cauliflower help in reducing oxidative stress, along with the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol. It also promotes the stimulation of HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers . In addition to this, the fiber and omega-3 fatty acids present in cauliflower also prevent hardening of the arteries.
- Maintains Electrolyte Balance – The potassium content in cauliflower helps in maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body, which is essential for the functioning of the nervous system in the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contractions.
- Boosts Immunity – Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants and immune-strengthening nutrients. Along with other healthy components, the presence of vitamin C in it inhibits various infections and strengthens the defense mechanisms of the body by hampering the growth of disease-causing inflammation.
- Prevents Obesity – Cauliflower contains indoles, which possess anti-obesity effects. Studies have supported the fact that consumption of cauliflower is beneficial in preventing various inflammatory and metabolic disorders in the body. It also helps in the stimulation of fat-burning thermogenesis, aids in weight loss and prevents obesity.
- Helps Foetal Growth – The inclusion of cauliflower in your diet is beneficial during pregnancy due to the presence of essential folate, which helps in a healthy neural development of the baby. This is essential for the efficient functioning of the brain and nervous system for transmitting nerve signals. In addition to this, the presence of potassium and vitamin B6 in cauliflower plays an important role in maintaining brain health and promoting proper communication in the nerves.
- Controls Diabetes – Regular intake of cauliflower helps in reducing the risk of diabetes due to the presence of vitamin C and potassium. The potassium content in cauliflower helps in regulating glucose metabolism. It is also utilized by the pancreas for secreting the insulin hormone that combats high blood sugar in the body. In addition to this, studies have supported that the vitamin B6 present in cauliflower is also effective in enhancing the tolerance of glucose in patients with gestational diabetes.
- Heals Colitis – Studies have suggested that extracts from cauliflower exert anti-inflammatory effects on the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. This protective effect can be attributed to the presence of phenethyl isothiocyanate, which exerts a healing effect on the damage occurred in colon tissues and the colon epithelium.