Evidence Update: The Wonders of Cauliflower
Does cauliflower have any nutritional benefit? I see it used in so many recipes these days I was wondering if I should avoid it because it’s white?
Rice, mashed “potatoes”, pizza crust: what do they all have in common? The Answer: Cauliflower.
Yes, I said cauliflower, that peculiar looking white vegetable that keeps sneaking its way into our favorite traditional recipes. The cauliflower craze is upon us, and it’s one craze that will do our bodies well. Cauliflower has a laundry list of health benefits, and for those who need to cut back on carbs, it seems to have the ability to disguise itself in high carb foods like mashed potatoes, rice, and pizza crust without compromising flavor.
Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family. Other family members include broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, collard greens, kale, red and green cabbage, chard, turnip greens, arugula, mustard greens, savoy cabbage, chinese cabbage, rapini and watercress. Several root vegetables like radish, horseradish, turnip, rutabaga, wasabi and oriental radish are considered cruciferous vegetables as well. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that the flavor of these vegetables is enhanced if they are eaten either raw or cooked soon after purchase, and the good news is their nutrient composition does not alter greatly with cooking.
Since most people have the misconception that “white” food is “unhealthy”, they assume the same holds true for cauliflower. Even though cauliflower isn’t as colorful as other members of its family, it’s just as nutritious, and in some cases surpasses them when it comes to several nutrients. Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6. It is a very good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin. Additionally, it is a good source of vitamin B1, B2, and B3, the minerals potassium and magnesium.
Cruciferous vegetables have several proven health benefits. One of the most exciting benefits is that it can decrease cancer risk. These amazing vegetables have the ability to decrease activity of enzymes that stimulate carcinogens in our body, and, on the flip side, they protect DNA from damage. According to the Linus Pauling Institute and the American Cancer Institute, cruciferous vegetables can prevent normal cells from becoming cancerous cells, slow the growth of cancer cells and may even cause cancer cells to self-destruct. Including cruciferous vegetables as part of your regular diet can lower the risk of lung, colorectal, prostate, bladder and breast cancers and may even protect against melanoma and esophageal cancer. In April 2012, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center scientists reported that survival rates of women diagnosed with breast cancer increased with a high intake of cruciferous vegetables.
The Take Home Message: not all “white” food is created equal, especially when it comes to cauliflower.
Linus Pauling Institute, the American Cancer Institute, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.