If cauliflower can become pizza, you can do anything, a wise human once said. From pizza crust and rice to a mashed potato substitute and chicken wing swap, cauliflower is one of the most versatile produce picks in the entire supermarket. It’s also proof that white foods can be packed with nutrition.
Read on to get the dish on the health benefits of cauliflower, plus healthy cauliflower recipes to put the affordable, adaptable veggie to great use.
What is Cauliflower, Exactly?
Cauliflower is in the cruciferous vegetable family alongside cabbage, kale, radishes, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. The floret portions that we most often eat are the edible flower buds of the plant. Each head of cauliflower is generally six to eight inches at full size. Served raw, cauliflower can err on the sharp or slightly bitter side, but once cooked—especially roasted—cauliflower has a hint of nutty and sweet.
Cauliflower is sold year round in frozen and fresh form, but thrives in cooler weather. Fresh cauliflower is at its peak from late fall to early spring. It can be enjoyed in classic white, orange (which has 25% more vitamin A), green or purple (which has additional anthocyanins, upping the antioxidant value) varieties.
If you’re curious about cauliflower nutrition facts, each 1-cup serving offers:
- 27 calories
- 0.5 grams of fat
- 2 grams of protein
- 5 grams of carbohydrates (including 2 grams of fiber and 2 grams of sugar)
- 77% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin C
- 20% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin K
- 14% of your daily recommended intake of folate
- 10% of your daily recommended intake of vitamin B6
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Besides being a great lower-carb swap for flour or rice products, cauliflower health benefits are wide-ranging.
- Fiber and high water content helps keep you full—and regular: Only 5 percent of Americans consume the recommended daily fiber content (25 grams for women, 38 grams for men). Each cup adds 2 grams to your daily goal and potentially reduces the amount of calories you consume each day. Made of 92 percent water, it also helps fill you up with that extra hydration.
- Helps reduce inflammation, and as a result, your risk for several chronic diseases: Beyond its relationship to satiety and gut health (more on that latter point here), cauliflower has bioactive compounds that have been known to reduce inflammation. Less inflammation means you’re less likely to struggle with health challenges such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Linked to lower cancer risk: Cauliflower is rich in sulforaphane, a potent antioxidant which has been linked to suppressed tumor development in several scientific reviews. Researchers believe this might be due to sulforaphane’s ability to kill damaged cells and protect healthy body cells against certain cancers including breast, melanoma, prostate and colon, per a study in the journal, Cancer Letters.
- Keeps your bones stronger longer: Cauliflower contains vitamin K which is best known for its crucial role in bone health and blood clotting. Fall short of vitamin K, and you may be more likely to get diagnosed with osteoporosis or deal with fractures. Vitamin K can boost calcium absorption to bolster bones while limiting the amount of calcium excreted in the urine, according to a BioMed Research International study.
WAYS TO EAT IT
If you love the taste and texture of cauliflower, roast, air-fry or saute the florets. Or, for more incognito options, pulse cauliflower in a food processor to make “rice” that you can use as a side dish for other dishes, transform into a pizza crust, or blend into creamy cheese sauces (promise you won’t even notice it). Try one of these healthy cauliflower recipes for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Buffalo Cauliflower Bites
Whether you’re going veg or just want to lighten up game day fare, cauliflower is the answer. (There’s really nothing the cruciferous veg can’t do, right?) You’ll especially love this recipe for cauliflower buffalo bites because it requires just five simple ingredients. All you have to do is mix, toss, and bake—and maybe plan on making more during breaks in the game. Get the recipe here.
Strawberry Veggie Smoothie
This smoothie is filled with tons of fiber, protein, and healthy fat, and is sure to keep you full all morning long. Veggies are a smoothie secret weapon. They add so much nutritional value with minimal calories. And this blend includes some you don’t normally think of like zucchini and cauliflower. Tip: Some people prefer to steam and then freeze their veggies for easier digestion. Get the recipe here.
Chicken, Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry
We love spices because they add flavor and are packed with antioxidant power, and curry contains the best of the best—both turmeric and cinnamon. This dish also comes with plant protein and cauliflower, the most versatile of veggies, which is an excellent source of vitamin C and other nutrients. Get the recipe here.
Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce & Mashed Cauliflower
Chimichurri is an oh-so-amazing Argentinian sauce that you should absolutely learn to make. It’s basically tons of fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, and mint covered in olive oil and spiced up. Make a jar of it to keep in the fridge and then you can use it to flavor steak, chicken, eggs, salads, and more. Steak is filled with protein, iron, and zinc, while mashed cauliflower is a more nutrient-dense take on mashed potatoes.This dinner is also a perfect meal for gluten-free eaters. Get the recipe here.
Roasted Wild Salmon & Spiced Cauliflower with Pistachio-Arugula Pesto
The dairy-free spin on a classic is paired with wild salmon and turmeric spiced cauliflower may just make it to your regular dinner rotation! Protein-packed salmon is rich in omega-3s and B vitamins both which are linked to reducing inflammation and blood pressure. Just one cup of cauliflower provides over seventy-five percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin C. Plus, the leafy arugula is half of your daily dose of vitamin K. Get the recipe here.
(photo credit: Shutterstock)