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What is cauliflower?

A cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is formed of a mass of tiny, tightly packed flower heads (known as curds). These sprout from a thick central stem to form a single, round head. Most cauliflowers are white, but it's also possible to buy green and purple varieties, as well as the sweeter romanesco cauliflower, with its characteristic pointed florets.

Over recent years, cauliflower has found culinary fame as a ‘rice’ alternative, served as ‘steaks’ or taking centre stage as a ‘roast’. It’s an easy vegetable to add to your diet – enjoy raw, steamed, puréed, mashed, grated or roasted. Don’t discard the stem – it’s equally as nutritious. Pulse in a food processor and use as a base for vegetable soup, or add to a slaw.

Health benefits of cauliflower include:

  • Source of protective antioxidants
  • Rich in sulforaphane
  • High in choline
  • May protect against heart disease
  • May support hormonal balance
  • May protect against infection
  • May support gut health
  • May help weight management

Discover our full range of health benefit guides and find out more about the health credentials of other cruciferous vegetables. Or, check out some of our best cauliflower recipes, from classics like cauliflower cheese, to twists such as cauliflower crust pizza.

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Cauliflower pieces in a colander

Nutritional profile of cauliflower

An 80g (raw) portion contains approximately:

  • 24 kcal/102 KJ
  • 2g protein
  • 3.5g carbohydrates
  • 1.4g fibre
  • 0.3g fat
  • 202mg potassium
  • 14mg calcium
  • 44mcg folate
  • 45mg vit C

Top 8 health benefits of cauliflower

1. Source of protective antioxidants

Cauliflower is a useful source of protective antioxidants, including sulforaphane, which enhances the production of glutathione, working throughout the body to protect cells from inflammatory damage. Cauliflower is also a source of carotenoids, vitamin C and protective plant compounds called flavonoids.

2. Rich in sulforaphane

Like broccoli and cabbage, cauliflower’s sulforaphane content has a number of health benefits, including potentially reducing the risk of cancer. Sulforaphane is believed to fight cancer in a number of ways, including protecting cells from DNA damage as well as inactivating carcinogens.

To date, human studies are limited, but test tube and animal studies suggest that sulforaphane may be protective against prostate cancer. However, there is more for us to learn in this area, including how to optimise the bioavailability of sulforaphane, given it is quickly metabolised and eliminated from the body.

3. High in choline

Cauliflower is a source of choline, although humans can produce a small amount of this nutrient themselves, to avoid deficiency we need to obtain it from our diet. It’s an essential nutrient that we need for mood, memory and movement, as well as supporting the central nervous system. Choline is also essential for brain development.

4. May protect against heart disease

Cauliflower is a heart-friendly vegetable, thanks to sulforaphane. Sulforaphane reduces the inflammatory damage caused by a process called oxidative stress, a process that plays a central role in the development of heart disease. In this way, it may help manage blood pressure and reduce the hardening of the arteries, known as atherosclerosis.

5. May support hormonal balance

Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower contain a plant compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which acts as a plant oestrogen and may help balance hormones by regulating oestrogen levels. I3C has also shown promise in lessening the risk of oestrogen-induced breast and reproductive cancers in both men and women, although more studies are needed.

6. May protect against infection

Being rich in sulfur, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower may support gut integrity and, as a result, improve your defence against infection. This is because sulfur supports the production of glutathione, a substance that's involved in tissue building and repair.

7. May support gut health

Cauliflower is high in fibre and water, which supports a healthy digestive system. Including cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower in your diet also supports the diversity of the beneficial microbes in your gut, known as the gut microbiota.

8. May help weight management

Low in calories yet high in fibre, this helps slow digestion and manage appetite. It may also be used as a replacement for higher calorie meal components, such as rice, grains and legumes.

Fried cauliflower with herbs

Is cauliflower safe for everyone to eat?

For most of us, cauliflower is a healthy option. However, if you have a thyroid issue, you may be advised to minimise the amount of cruciferous vegetables you eat. This is because these vegetables may interfere with the absorption of iodine, which is needed for the production of thyroid hormones. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that you would need to eat a reasonable amount – on a consistent basis – for this to be a problem.

Cauliflower is a high-fibre food, which for most of us is highly beneficial – it supports the digestive process and provides a fuel source for the healthy bacteria that reside in our gut. However, for some people, high-fibre foods may cause bloating and gas; this is especially relevant for those with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

If you are on blood-thinning medication such as warfarin, your GP or dietitian may suggest you monitor vitamin K foods like cauliflower in your diet to ensure you eat similar amounts consistently. If in doubt, consult your GP before making any significant changes to what and how much you eat.

So, is cauliflower good for you?

Cauliflower is an excellent source of protective antioxidants, is low in calories and a useful source of a number of nutrients. For the majority of people, cauliflower makes a valuable contribution to a healthy diet. Those with a thyroid condition or on blood-thinning medication may wish to moderate their intake.

Enjoyed this? Now read:

Top 5 health benefits of broccoli
10 budget 'superfood' swaps
Top 20 healthiest vegetables
Top 5 health benefits of red cabbage
Top 5 health benefits of sauerkraut

Discover our best cauliflower recipes:

Cauliflower cheese
Cauliflower tempura
Cauliflower curry
Cauliflower crust pizza

This article was reviewed on 5 June 2024 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in personalised nutrition & nutritional therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.


All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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