This cruciferous vegetable is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s top powerhouse fruits and vegetables—and for good reason!
Cauliflower is an amazing source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber, yet is low in both calories and carbs. It has cancer-fighting benefits, as well as benefits to your memory, mental health, and overall weight control. Plus, it has a mild flavor that makes it easy to incorporate into just about any meal you can think of.
No wonder cauliflower boomed in popularity in the late 2010s and continues to be a favorite vegetable across the globe today!
Smaller—and less appetizing—ancestors of this vegetable originated in Asia and the Mediterranean. Overtime, thanks to selective breeding, they were developed into the bigger, more delectable cauliflower plant we have now.
By the 1500s, cauliflower had spread across Europe and become a staple of most countries’ cuisines. The vegetable didn’t spread to the United States until as late as the 1900s.
Today, California is the leading cauliflower producer in the US. Worldwide, however, China takes first place, producing about 9.5 million tonnes of cauliflower a year. The US in comparison produces about 1.3 million tonnes.
Cauliflower is one of the top 20 most popular vegetables in the United States, and has continued to grow in popularity over the years due to its amazing health benefits and delicious flavor.
Now, let’s get into some of the greatest health benefits of this superfood.
The Top Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Cauliflower can improve your memory
Choline is a compound that your body needs to accomplish a number of vital bodily functions. Strengthening cells and the nervous system are the main priorities of choline. Among those, choline also improves muscle movement, regulates heartbeat, and improves your memory.
Increasing your intake of choline throughout life may decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems in old age. Along with memory, choline also affects mood and can diminish symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Cauliflower is a major source of choline—one cup contains about 47 mg, which is about 11% of the recommended daily choline intake.
Cauliflower may reduce the risk of cancer
The antioxidants in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower are associated with a lower risk of developing cancer. Antioxidants are substances in the body that reduce the risk of free radicals which often lead to heart disease, stroke, and cancers.
Cauliflower’s carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants reduce cancer development, and its glucosinolates and isothiocyanates slow down cancer cell growth.
Meanwhile, the vitamin C in cauliflower also acts as an anti-inflammatory antioxidant that strengthens the immune system and lowers the risk of cancer.
Cauliflower can promote weight loss
High in fiber and low in calories, cauliflower is the perfect weight-loss food. As its fiber moves through the body, it slows down digestion and makes you feel fuller faster. This means you won’t have to eat as much food to feel satisfied, and you’ll be less inclined to snack throughout the day. There’s 2.1 grams of fiber in just one cup of chopped cauliflower.
Meanwhile, one cup of cauliflower only contains 25 calories, so you can eat as much as you want without having to feel guilty. Plus, it works as a low-calorie substitute to rice.
Buying Cauliflower: What to Look For
There are multiple types of cauliflower—each with their own color and flavor profile. Before you go to the grocery store or farmers market, make sure you know the differences between them.
The most common type of cauliflower is white cauliflower. It has a strong flavor with sweet and nutty undertones. Multiple strains of cauliflower fall under this category, including snowball cauliflower, white corona, cornish cauliflower, and snow spring cauliflower.
Romanesco cauliflower is a very unique type of cauliflower that has a spiky texture. Its green buds grow in tight spirals rather than mounds, and have a milder taste than white cauliflower buds.
Green cauliflower, or broccoflower, looks just like a large head of broccoli. Unlike white cauliflower which is easy to crumble, green cauliflower contains more fiber and is harder to pull apart. However, its taste is very similar to, but more mild than white cauliflower.
Purple and yellow cauliflower are extremely vibrant and colorful. Their flavor is more mild than white cauliflower, but their health benefits are much more potent. These cauliflowers contain more antioxidants than any other type of cauliflower, and contribute more to reducing risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, eye disease (yellow cauliflower), and cancer.
No matter what type of cauliflower you get, always look for a head with tightly packed flower buds, or curds—they do look like cheese curds, don’t they? If the plant’s leaves are still attached, make sure they are deep green and healthy.
You can store a cauliflower head in a plastic bag, or loose in your refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. A cauliflower head can last unrefrigerated for about 3 days, but will deteriorate in quality much faster. You’ll know if your cauliflower is bad if it develops a slimy texture or is soft to the touch.
Cooking With Cauliflower
Cauliflower is an extremely versatile vegetable that can be prepared in a wide variety of ways. Cauliflower can be boiled, steamed, fried, roasted, sauteed, mashed, pickled, and so much more. Plus, cauliflower is a hearty vegetable that’s extremely easy to work with. So, no matter how skilled you are in the kitchen, your cauliflower dish will be a success.
If you’re looking to make a side dish, try roasting cauliflower florets in the oven. Cover them in butter, oil, and salt, and let them cook for about 25 minutes at 400°F. If you want it to have a bigger flavor, try mixing in some paprika, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder before cooking.
Cauliflower can also be used to replace grains and legumes in your everyday diet.
There’s about 121 grams of carbohydrates in just one cup of pinto beans. In a cup of rice, there’s about 45 grams. If you’re trying to limit your carb intake, try replacing beans and rice with cauliflower rice.
All you have to do is grate chunks of cauliflower into “rice” and cook. You can also use a food processor. One cup of cauliflower rice contains just 3 grams of carbs!
Cauliflower rice can also be used to make low-carb mashed potato and pizza dough alternatives.