Top 5 health benefits of cauliflower
Nutritionist Kerry Torrens discusses what makes this versatile vegetable so healthy, from the nutrients it provides to the benefits for your body.
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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 flowers sprout from a thick central stem to form a single, round head. Most cauliflowers are white, but it's 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 being used as a ‘rice’ alternative, served as ‘steaks’ or taking centre stage in 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.
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.
Nutritional benefits of cauliflower
An 80g (raw) portion contains approximately:
- 24 kcal/02 KJ
- 2g protein
- 3.5g carbohydrates
- 1.4g fibre
- 0.3g fat
- 202mg potassium
- 14mg calcium
- 44mcg folate
- 45mg vit C
What are the 5 main health benefits of cauliflower?
1. A source of antioxidants
Cauliflower is a heart-friendly vegetable thanks to a plant compound called sulforaphane. Acting as an antioxidant, sulforaphane reduces the inflammatory damage caused by oxidative stress, a process which plays a central role in the development of heart disease. In this way it helps reduce blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
2. High in choline
Cauliflower is a source of choline, an essential nutrient we need for mood, memory and recall. As such, it is a key building block of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger involved in signalling the central nervous system. Choline is also essential for brain development.
3. Rich in sulforaphane
Like broccoli and cabbage, cauliflower’s sulforaphane content has a number of health benefits including reducing the risk of cancer. Sulforaphane fights cancer in a number of ways including protecting cells from DNA damage as well as inactivating carcinogens.
4. 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 as a means of lessening the risk of oestrogen induced breast and reproductive cancers in both men and women, although more studies are needed in this area.
5. May support the immune system
Being rich in sulfur, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower may support gut health and as a result improve your defence against infection. This is because sulfur supports the production of glutathione which is important for maintaining the integrity of the gut lining as well as supporting its regeneration. As a potent antioxidant, glutathione works throughout the body protecting cells from inflammatory damage.
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 and on a consistent basis for this to be an issue.
- 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 which 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 the 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.
Discover our best cauliflower recipes...
This article was published on 26th August 2020.
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.
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