Cauliflower is an extremely nutritious vegetable, and surprisingly versatile! Not only is it delicious all by itself—cooked with a bit of healthy oil, salt and pepper—but you can even turn it into a low-carb pizza crust or mash it instead of potatoes for a creamy and healthy alternative.
This cruciferous vegetable shares a family with broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, and more (think crunchy and leafy), and is packed full of unique and health promoting plant compounds, micronutrients, and has even been shown to support weight loss.
If it’s not already, cauliflower should definitely be part of your diet. Read on to learn why.
4 Fun Facts About Cauliflower
You probably don’t know that there is so much more to cauliflower than meets the eye! Consider these fun facts before you dig in:
- For some, white cauliflower looks kind of…blah. If you fit into this category, choose one of the bright purple or yellow varieties instead! The same nutrient-dense veggie with even more antioxidants.
- You might already know that cauliflower is considered a “superfood,” but did you also know that it contains an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which has been shown to slow tumor growth? This compound is most effective with cauliflower (or broccoli) in its raw form, so sprinkle a bit of raw, grated cauliflower over your salads (unless you have thyroid problems, but more on this later).
- Artist Brock Davis makes art with cauliflower. Specifically art that depicts famous explosions. Check it out.
- The largest head of cauliflower ever grown was a whopping 60 pounds, compared to a typical one-pound head. Now that’s a lot of low-carb pizza dough.
Brief History of Cauliflower
Cauliflower is native to the Mediterranean region of the world, especially Turkey. It dates back at least two thousand years, although many cultures around the world use “loose curd” varieties of cauliflower—which do not have the same form as the dense, curd-like variety we here in the United States usually consume. China, for example, more commonly eats a type of cauliflower that is similar to broccoli raab, as it has long stems and a more flowery type of head.
Nowadays, China and India produce the vast majority of the world’s cauliflower. In the United States, other cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, in particular) are much more commonly eaten, and California produces by far the most cauliflower of any other state.
Cauliflower Nutrition Facts
Cauliflower undoubtedly fits the definition of a “superfood,” as it is low in calories but dense in nutrients. Just one cup of cauliflower provides the following:
- Calories: 25
- Fiber: 3 grams (10% of your daily needs)
- Vitamin K: 20% of the RDI (recommended daily intake)
- Vitamin C: 77% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 11% of the RDI
- Folate: 14% of the RDI
- As well as decent amounts of potassium, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium.
Cauliflower Health Benefits
Cauliflower’s health benefits are truly impressive, and these are just some of the top reasons to start (or continue) eating it:
Rich in Antioxidants
Not only is cauliflower quite high in vitamin C, but it also offers high amounts of beta-carotene, quercetin, kaempferol, rutin, and sulforaphane. Antioxidants are well-studied for their ability to prevent excessive free radical damage in the body.
Due in part to its antioxidant content, but also to the fact that cauliflower contains sulforaphane, cauliflower is thought to be an excellent addition to a cancer-prevention diet. One study found that cauliflower mixed with curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) was particularly effective in fighting prostate cancer. This is probably why Indian cooking frequently adds turmeric to their cauliflower recipes (and you should do the same).
Excellent for Supporting Detoxification Pathways
Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases—such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes—and cauliflower is a great food to fight this type of unwanted inflammation (as opposed to more acute inflammation that is normal and necessary). Cauliflower is rich in inflammation-fighting compounds.
Ways to Use Cauliflower
Many people are surprised to learn about just how many ways there are to cook with cauliflower. It is a very versatile veggie that you can incorporate in ways that the whole family is sure to love. Check out the following suggestions:
Cauliflower can be roasted in a seemingly endless variety of ways, and the good news is that it’s hard to go wrong. Try chopping it into small(ish) florets and tossing with some olive oil, chopped garlic and spices such as thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes, and enjoy. Depending on your oven, you might need to cook it for a bit longer, but begin checking at 30 minutes.
Enjoy a Low-Carb Cauliflower Rice
Sounds strange, but cauliflower makes an excellent rice substitution. Given its naturally neutral taste and grainy texture, it can quickly and easily be made into a rice-like consistency and served with just about any dish you might otherwise serve with white or brown rice. See below for a cauliflower rice recipe.
Make Cauliflower Pizza Crust
The words “cauliflower” and “pizza” are probably two words you don’t think should go together in a sentence, but (thankfully) you’d be wrong. Pizza is delicious, but the crust is almost always made from simple carbohydrates (in the form of white flour) that quickly elevate blood sugar levels and are linked with all kinds of chronic diseases, not to mention weight gain.
Check out this easy recipe to learn how you can turn cauliflower into a dramatically healthier pizza crust alternative.
Switch Mashed Potatoes with Mashed Cauliflower
Sound crazy? Well yes, it is: crazy delicious, and shockingly similar to the taste and texture of mashed potatoes. Potatoes are considered a complex carbohydrate, and are fine once in awhile in small portions (ideally about 1/2 cup per serving). Cauliflower is a non-starchy vegetable that can be eaten with reckless abandon, and you can turn it into a rich and satisfying “mash,” similar to mashed potatoes.
Cut your cauliflower florets into small pieces and either boil or steam them until they are fork-tender. Then, combine them with a bit of butter or whole coconut milk, minced garlic (optional), and salt and pepper to taste. Mash them with a hand masher or use a food processor or blender (process slowly so they don’t become watery), and serve. Your guests might never even guess they’re eating cauliflower.
Types of Cauliflower
Here in the United States, the most common variety of cauliflower is white cauliflower, and the head of the plant is called a curd. Other varieties found in the US include orange cauliflower (a variety higher in beta-carotene), and purple cauliflower, which tends to have a milder flavor and works well in salads.
Cauliflower romanesco has lime green curds and interesting pinnacle-type points on its surface. This variety tends to have a taste somewhat similar to broccoli.
Cauliflower Rice Recipe
The good news is that making cauliflower “rice” is quite simple, and an excellent, low-carbohydrate alternative to white rice (not to mention far richer in nutrients). Since cauliflower is great at soaking up all different sorts of tastes, you can add different spices and herbs depending on your preferences, or what else you’ll be serving. This recipe makes rice for about 4 people, and a food processor makes the job a bit easier, although it’s not necessary.
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil or butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- any other spices you want, like turmeric (as mentioned above)
- Cut your cauliflower into chunks and place in your food processor, processing until it has a rice-like consistency (depending on the size of your processor you might need to process the cauliflower in shifts).
- Once the cauliflower is done, heat your oil of choice in a big skillet on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add your cauliflower, salt, pepper and any other spices you are using.
- Stir and then cover, cooking until cauliflower is tender, usually just about 5 minutes (give or take). Serve!
There you have it—all you ever wanted to know about cauliflower. This nutrient-dense and tasty veggie should have a regular spot on your dinner (or breakfast and lunch) table, especially considering the wide variety of ways it can be prepared. Its health benefits alone might be all the convincing you need.