Who isn’t familiar with cauliflower? This is one vegetable that is regularly rotated in our diets and makes way for many delicious dishes, including Asian dishes. The reason behind this veggie being so popular is its versatility. Be it roasted or slightly steamed, it is full of flavour and crunch. Some even love to eat it raw because of its meaty texture. But that’s not it, cauliflower is also super nutritious! It is low in fat, which makes sense because it is used in salads and weight loss diets. It is also a rich source of fiber, protein, vitamin K and potassium.
Cauliflower belongs to the species Brassica oleracea and hails from the same family as that of broccoli and cabbage(Brassicaceae). The vegetable derives its name from the latin word caulis, which means cabbage with a flower. Cauliflowers, as we know now, were first grown in 6th century B.C. They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century and in India in 1822 by the British.
Varieties of Cauliflower:
The global production of cauliflower records in millions of tonnes every year. India, China, Spain and Mexico are the major producers. There are hundreds of varieties used around the world which is represented by 4 major groups of cauliflower. Asian: Tropical cauliflower used in India and China. Northern European annuals: Used in Europe and North America for summer. Northwest European biennial: This specimen is used in Europe for winter and spring. Italian: This group is diverse in appearance. Cauliflowers also come with varieties of colors.
White: This is the most common color of cauliflower.
Green: The green cauliflower is a mix of broccoli and white cauliflower and is sweet in flavour. It is available is USA and Europe.
Orange: This has more vitamin A, but tastes similar to the white cauliflower.
Purple: This variety gets its color from an antioxidant group known as anthocyanins, which is also found in red cabbage and red wine.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower:
1. Fight Cancer
Cauliflower contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth. Some researchers believe eliminating cancer stem cells may be key to controlling cancer.
For instance, research has shown that combining cauliflower with curcumin (the active compound in the spice turmeric) may help prevent and treat prostate cancer.1
A study published in Carcinogenesis also found sulforaphane may reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals.2 It also inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death.
Other compounds in cauliflower also show anti-cancer effects. According to the National Cancer Institute:3
“Indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach.”
2. Boost Heart Health
Sulforaphane in cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables has been found to significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function.4Scientists believe sulforaphane’s benefits are related to improved DNA methylation, which is crucial for normal cellular function and proper gene expression, especially in the easily damaged inner lining of the arteries known as the endothelium.
3. It’s Anti-Inflammatory
You need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy. However, it’s also possible, and increasingly common, for the inflammatory response to get out of hand.
If your immune system mistakenly triggers an inflammatory response when no threat is present, it can lead to significant inflammation-related damage to the body, a condition linked to cancer and other diseases, depending on which organs the inflammation is impacting.
Cauliflower contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check, including indole-3-carbinol or I3C, an anti-inflammatory compound that may operate at the genetic level to help prevent the inflammatory responses at its foundational level.5
4. It’s Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Most Americans are seriously lacking in nutrients their body needs to function. Eating cauliflower regularly is a simple way to get these much-needed nutrients into your body. For instance, one serving of cauliflower contains 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese.
5. Boost Your Brain Health
Cauliflower is a good source of choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. Choline intake during pregnancy “super-charged” the brain activity of animals in utero, indicating that it may boost cognitive function, and improve learning and memory. It may even diminish age-related memory decline and your brain’s vulnerability to toxins during childhood, as well as conferring protection later in life.6
6. Detoxification Support
Cauliflower helps your body’s ability to detoxify in multiple ways. It contains antioxidants that support Phase 1 detoxification along with sulfur-containing nutrients important for Phase 2 detox activities. The glucosinolates in cauliflower also activate detoxification enzymes.7
7. Digestive Benefits
Cauliflower is an important source of dietary fiber for digestive health. But that’s not all. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods:8
“Researchers have determined that the sulforaphane made from a glucosinolate in cauliflower (glucoraphanin) can help protect the lining of your stomach. Sulforaphane provides you with this health benefit by preventing bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori in your stomach or too much clinging by this bacterium to your stomach wall.”
8. Antioxidants and Phytonutrients Galore
Eating cauliflower is like winning the antioxidant and phytonutrient lottery. It’s packed with vitamin C, beta-carotene, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, cinnamic acid, and much more. Antioxidants are nature’s way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS).
As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be able to resist aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants, chronic stress, and more. If you don’t have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.