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Cauliflower nutrition facts

Packed with essential nutrients, cauliflower (cabbage flower) is one of familiar vegetables. Its compact flower heads hold numerous health benefiting phtyo-nutrients such as vitamins, indole-3-carbinol, sulforaphane etc., that help prevent overweight, diabetes and offer protection from prostate, ovarian, and cervical cancers.

Botanically, it is a member in the cruciferous or brassicaceae family of vegetables and has similar nutritional and phyto-chemistry profile as that of other brassica family veggies like broccoli and cabbage.

cauliflower colourful cauliflowers
Cauliflower head. Colorful cauliflowers in a market.
Photo courtesy: La Grande

Likewise that of broccoli, cauliflower head too is made up of tightly clustered florets that begin to form but halt at its budding stage. This cool-season vegetable prefers fertile, adequate moisture in the soil to flourish. Several cultivars exist other than common snow-white variety, including green, orange, purple, and romanesco heads.

To keep its flower heads creamy white, they should be protected from sunlight, which, otherwise would turn them green due to photosynthesis. Farmers in the field, therefore, cover close-by leaves together over the heads when they reach about quarter of their destined size. Fully grown flower heads should be harvested at the right time in order to avoid them turning over-matured. Overmatured head loses compactness and its surface become grainy, discolored, and no longer own tenderness, and flavor.

Health benefits of Cauliflower

  • It is very low in calories. 100 g of the fresh cauliflower head provides just 26 calories. Nevertheless, it comprises of several health-benefiting antioxidants and vitamins in addition to be low in fat and cholesterol.

  • Its florets contain about 2 grams of dietary fiber per 100 g; providing about 5% of recommended value.

  • Cauliflower contains several anti-cancer phyto-chemicals like sulforaphane and plant sterols such as indole-3-carbinol, which appears to function as an anti-estrogen agent. Together, these compounds have proven benefits against prostate, breast, cervical, colon, ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.

  • Furthermore, Di-indolyl-methane (DIM), a lipid soluble compound present abundantly in Brassica group of vegetables, including cauliflower, has found to be effective as immune modulator, anti-bacterial and anti-viral agent. This compound brings out these functions by virtue of its ability to synthesize and potentiate Interferon-Gamma receptors at the cellular level. DIM has currently been found application in the treatment of recurring respiratory papillomatosis caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and is in Phase III clinical trials for cervical dysplasia.

  • Fresh cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C; 100 g provides about 48.2 mg or 80% of daily recommended value. Vitamin-C is a proven antioxidant that helps fight against harmful free radicals, boosts immunity, and prevents infections and cancers.

  • It contains good amounts of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins such as folates, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6) and thiamin (vitamin B1), niacin (B3) as well as vitamin K. These vitamins is essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish and required for fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

  • Further, It is an also good source of minerals such as manganese, copper, iron, calcium and potassium. Manganese is used in the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Potassium is an important intracellular electrolyte helps counter the hypertension effects of sodium.

Selection and storage

Cauliflowers can be available all around the year in the markets; however, they are at their best during winter months. In general, harvesting is done when the flower-head reaches desired size but before ts florets begin to separate.

In the stores, choose fresh heads featuring snow/cream-white, compact, even heads that feel heavy in hand. Grainy surface and separate heads indicate over maturity, while greenish coloration may be due to over exposure to sunlight. Avoid heads with bruised surface as they indicate poor handling of the flower and also those with dark color patches as they indicate mold disease known as "downy mildew".

Once at home, store inside the refrigerator set at higher relative humidity. They stay fresh for about a week if stored properly.

Preparation and serving methods

Its creamy-white flower heads are favored in variety of delicacies world-wide. To wash, place head upside down, rinsed in a large bowl of cold water or salt water brine for about 15-20 minutes to ensure removal of any insects, soil or fungicide/insecticide sprays. Gently pat dry using soft cloth. Remove tough stem and leaves.

Usually cauli-florets cut into equal sections/cubes to help cook evenly. Cook covered in boiling water, with some added common salt, until the sections tender for few minutes. Overcooking may result in loss of nutrients, especially vitamin-C.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Cauliflower mixes well with vegetables, lentils and meat.

  • Aloo-gobi (potato-cauliflower) is a very popular dish in south Asian countries, especially in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Gobi-manchurian is another Indian-chinese snack in which fried florets mixed with Chinese's style sauces in a mouthwatering recipe.

  • Its florets are added in pasta bake, casseroles and to make curry/soup.

  • It is also widely used in pickling.

Safety profile

Like other members of the brassica/cruciferous family, prolong/excessive use of cauliflower may cause swelling of thyroid gland and thyroid hormone deficiency. This is due to the presence of certain plant compounds known as goitrogens in these groups of vegetables. It is therefore, advised to avoid especially in individuals with thyroid dysfunction. However, these vegetables may be used liberally in healthy person. (Medical disclaimer).

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Further Resources:

1. USDA -National Nutrient Database.

2. Stanford School of Medicine Cancer information Page- Nutrition to Reduce Cancer Risk.

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