Benefits Of Cauliflower

Cauliflower:

Description

All cruciferous vegetables provide integrated nourishment across a wide variety of nutritional categories and provide broad support across a wide variety of body systems as well. For more on cruciferous vegetables see:

  • Eating Healthy with Cruciferous Vegetables
  • Feeling Great with Cruciferous Vegetables

Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, is in the same plant family as broccoli, kale, cabbage and collards. It has a compact head (called a "curd"), with an average size of six inches in diameter, composed of undeveloped flower buds. The flowers are attached to a central stalk. When broken apart into separate buds, cauliflower looks like a little tree, something that many kids are fascinated by.

Surrounding the curd are ribbed, coarse green leaves that protect it from sunlight, impeding the development of chlorophyll. While this process contributes to the white coloring of most of the varieties, cauliflower can also be found in light green and purple colors. Between these leaves and the florets are smaller, tender leaves that are edible.

Raw cauliflower is firm yet a bit spongy in texture. It has a slightly sulfurous and faintly bitter flavor.

The milk, sweet, almost nutty flavor of cauliflower is at its best from December through March when it is in season and most plentiful in your local markets.

Nutritional Benefits

Cauliflower is low in fat, low in carbohydrates but high in dietary fiber, folate, water, and vitamin C, possessing a high nutritional density.

  • Cauliflower contains several phytochemicals, common in the cabbage family, that may be beneficial to human health.
  • Sulforaphane, a compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed, may protect against cancer.
  • Other glucosinolates
  • Carotenoids

Indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that enhances DNA repair, and acts as an estrogen antagonist, slowing the growth of cancer cells.

Boiling reduces the levels of these compounds, with losses of 20–30% after five minutes, 40–50% after ten minutes, and 75% after thirty minutes. However, other preparation methods, such as steaming, microwaving, and stir frying, have no significant effect on the compounds.

A high intake of cauliflower has been associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Health Benefits

While cauliflower is not a well-studied cruciferous vegetable from a health standpoint, you will find several dozen studies linking cauliflower-containing diets to cancer prevention, particularly with respect to the following types of cancer: bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer. This connection between cauliflower and cancer prevention should not be surprising, since cauliflower provides special nutrient support for three body systems that are closely connected with cancer development as well as cancer prevention. These three systems are

  • The body's detox system
  • Its antioxidant system
  • Its inflammatory/anti-inflammatory system

Chronic imbalances in any of these three systems can increase risk of cancer, and when imbalances in all three systems occur simultaneously, the risk of cancer increases significantly.

Detox Support Provided by Cauliflower

The detox support provided by cauliflower includes antioxidant nutrients to boost Phase 1 detoxification activities and sulfur-containing nutrients to boost Phase 2 activities. Cauliflower also contains phytonutrients called glucosinolates that can help activate detoxification enzymes and regulate their activity. Three glucosinolates that have been clearly identified in cauliflower are glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, and gluconasturtiian. While the glucosinolate content of cauliflower is definitely significant from a health standpoint, cauliflower contains about one-fourth as much total glucosinolates as Brussels sprouts, about one-half as much as Savoy cabbage, about 60% as much as broccoli, and about 70% as much as kale.

If we fail to give our body's detox system adequate nutritional support, yet continue to expose ourselves to unwanted toxins through our lifestyle and our dietary choices, we can place our bodies at increased risk of toxin-related damage that can eventually increase our cells' risk of becoming cancerous. That's one of the reasons it's so important to bring cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables into our diet on a regular basis.

Cauliflower's Antioxidant Benefits

As an excellent source of vitamin C, and a very good source of manganese, cauliflower provides us with two core conventional antioxidants. But its antioxidant support extends far beyond the conventional nutrients into the realm of phytonutrients. Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol are among cauliflower's key antioxidant phytonutrients. This broad spectrum antioxidant support helps lower the risk of oxidative stress in our cells. Chronic oxidative stress - meaning chronic presence over overly reactive oxygen-containing molecules and cumulative damage to our cells by these molecules - is a risk factor for development of most cancer types. By providing us with such a great array of antioxidant nutrients, cauliflower helps lower our cancer risk by helping us avoid chronic and unwanted oxidative stress.

Cauliflower's Anti-inflammatory Benefits

As an excellent source of vitamin K, cauliflower provides us with one of the hallmark anti-inflammatory nutrients. Vitamin K acts as a direct regulator of our inflammatory response. In addition, one of the glucosinolates found in cauliflower - glucobrassicin - can be readily converted into an isothiocyanate molecule called ITC, or indole-3-carbinol. I3C is an anti-inflammatory compound that can actually operate at the genetic level, and by doing so, prevent the initiation of inflammatory responses at a very early stage.

Like chronic oxidative stress and chronic weakened detox ability, chronic unwanted inflammation can significantly increase our risk of cancers and other chronic diseases (especially cardiovascular diseases).

Cauliflower and Cardiovascular Support

Scientists have not always viewed cardiovascular problems as having a central inflammatory component, but the role of unwanted inflammation in creating problems for our blood vessels and circulation has become increasingly fundamental to an understanding of cardiovascular diseases. The anti-inflammatory support provided by cauliflower (including its vitamin K and omega-3 content) makes it a food also capable of providing cardiovascular benefits. Of particular interest is its glucoraphanin content. Glucoraphanin is a glucosinolate that can be converted into the isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane. Not only does sulforaphane trigger anti-inflammatory activity in our cardiovascular system - it may also be able to help prevent and even possibly help reverse blood vessel damage.

Cauliflower and Digestive Support

The fiber content of cauliflower - nearly 12 grams in every 100 calories - makes this cruciferous vegetable a great choice for digestive system support. You're going to get nearly half of the fiber Daily Value from 200 calories' worth of cauliflower. Yet the fiber content of cauliflower is only one of its digestive support mechanisms. 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.

Other Health Benefits from Cauliflower

The anti-inflammatory nature of glucosinolates/isothiocyanates and other nutrients found in cauliflower has been the basis for new research on inflammation-related health problems and the potential role of cauliflower in their prevention. While current studies are examining the benefits of cruciferous vegetables as a group rather than cauliflower in particular, promising research is underway that should shed light on the potential benefits of cauliflower in relationship to our risk of the following inflammation-related health problems: Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.

Consumption Tips

Its creamy white flower heads are favored in variety of delicacies world-wide. To wash, place heads 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 florets cut into equal sections to help cook evenly. Cook covered in a little boiled salted water until 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.
  • The florets are added in pasta bake, casseroles and to make curry/soup.
  • It is also widely used in pickling.

Caution

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

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