Cauliflower is routinely ignored by many folks in favor of its overbearing big brother, broccoli. Granted, broccoli is delicious and highly nutritious, but so is cauliflower, offering all sorts of tasty nutrients for the palette to enjoy. Cauliflower can be eaten raw – commonly with a dressing of some sort – and can provide fun, intense colors to dishes you might cook up with broccoli.
Incorporating cauliflower into your vegetarian diet will surely yield fantastic health benefits, as well as brighten your plate. Try to eat a couple one cup servings a week, in addition to the other cruciferous vegetables already in your diet. You’ll have more energy, fight off disease, and increase your overall health.
Cauliflower History and Culture
Cauliflower originated in the Mediterranean region over 2,000 years ago, having the same parentage as most other cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, etc.) in wild cabbage. It has been a part of the European diet since around 600 BC and remains popular there today.
In 2003, the average American was eating a meager 2 pounds per year. America produces 11% of cauliflower exports around the world, with Spain on top, producing 36% of exports. China produces 44% of all cauliflower in the world, but consumes most of it at home in the domestic market. Cauliflower is usually sold fresh, but can be found frozen, as well.
Cauliflower Health Benefits and Nutrition
One of the more surprising nutritional aspects of cauliflower is its high vitamin C content. The nutrition facts illustrated on the right represent 62gr of cauliflower per serving (1/2 cup). In a mere 14 calories, there is 46%DV of your vitamin C. Getting enough vitamin C daily is important, as it is water soluble and cannot be stored in the body like other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C performs a variety of functions in the body, but one of its more notable tasks is its anti-oxidants property.
Anti-oxidants actively seek out and neutralize free radicals in the body. Studies show, these free radicals are partially responsible for causing cancer. Free radicals are electrically unbalanced molecules (missing an electron or two) that steal electrons from their neighboring molecules. These affected molecules then look to their neighbors for electrons, and a chain reaction occurs. With high levels of free radicals for prolonged periods of time (years and years), this can eventually affect whole cells that mutate under stress when they replicate themselves – hence the birth of cancer cells. Vitamin C helps to neutralize free radicals in the body, keeping them at a manageable level, and decreasing your overall risk to all types of cancer. The high levels of manganese in cauliflower also help out in this regard.
Cauliflower also has high levels of vitamin K with 15%DV in a one cup serving. This functions as an anti-inflammatory in the cardiovascular system, decreasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Excessive inflammation in the cardiovascular system puts lots of stress on blood vessels and circulation, which can lead to problems down the road. The Vitamin K in cauliflower helps to mitigate this risk.
The high dietary fiber in cauliflower helps clean out the digestive system. Studies show that high levels of dietary fiber regularly ingested in the vegetarian diet helps to lower the risk of colon cancer, chalking up another point for cauliflower.
Eating More Cauliflower
Again, it’s best to eat cauliflower at least once a week, one cup a serving, to experience the health benefits associated with it. This should be augmented by daily consumption of some kind of cruciferous vegetable, such as kale, broccoli, or Swiss chard. Simply adding cauliflower to your weekly grocery list, and purchasing a single head, will keep enough around the kitchen to get the cauliflower you need to help you feel healthy.
Part of the fun of selecting cauliflower is deciding what color you want. Cauliflower is most commonly found in its white form, but can also be found in orange, green, and vibrant purple. These specialty varieties can often be found at co-ops or health food store, in addition to farmers’ markets. When selecting heads, make sure the heads are firm and compact. Size is not an issue, and is not an indicator of quality. When storing, wrap in a plastic bag and put in your refrigerator’s vegetable crisper. It should keep for a week or so, giving you plenty of time to go through it.