Without being fooled by its pungent smell, cauliflower is a real cure-all for health. Rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, it is a valuable vegetable in the prevention of cancer. Let’s see all the benefits of cauliflower and its nutritional properties.
Cauliflower (from the Latin caulis-floris) together with its brothers broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, savoy cabbage, black cabbage, green cabbage etc… is one of the most common varieties of cabbage and belongs to the vast family of Cruciferae (genus Brassica).
Originally from Europe, it is now grown all over the world. Its production runs from November to March. It is a vegetable that tolerates low temperatures well and for this reason it is an eco-sustainable crop that requires little water and energy. Now let’s see what are the nutritional characteristics and properties of cauliflower.
Cauliflower: calories and nutritional values
Cauliflower has a high water content, provides few calories (100 g provide only 25 kcal ) and is low in fat, so it can be safely included in a low-calorie diet both as a side dish and as a condiment for first courses. In addition, it has a good fiber content (2.4 g per 100g of vegetable) useful for keeping blood sugar under control and reducing the sense of hunger by improving satiety.
As anticipated it is a mine of mineral salts, above all: potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. There is no shortage of vitamins, in particular vitamins A, C and K. It also contains two molecules, sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, responsible for many of the beneficial properties of cauliflower.
Nutritional values per 100g of cauliflower:
- Waterfall: 90.5 g
- kcal: 25
- Proteins: 3.2 g
- Carbohydrates: 2.7 g
- Of which soluble sugars: 2.4 g
- Fibers: 2.4 g
- Fat: 0.2 g
- Sodium: 8 mg
- Potassium: 350 mg
- Phosphorus: 69 mg
- Soccer: 44 mg
- Magnesium: 28 mg
- Iron: 0.8 mg
- Zinc: 0.7 mg
- Copper: 0.13 mg
- Thiamine (Vit. B1): 0.1 mg
- Riboflavin (Vit. B2): 0.1 mg
- Niacin (Vit. B3): 1.2 mg
- Vitamin A retinol eq.: 50 µg
- C vitamin: 59 mg
- Vitamin K: 15.5 mcg
- Glycemic index: 15
- Cholesterol: 0 g
Cauliflower: nutritional properties
In addition to being low- calorie, cauliflower is a treasure trove of micronutrients that give it nutritional properties useful for the health of our body. Let’s examine together which are the most abundant.
- Potassium: cauliflower is rich in this mineral, 350 mg per 100 g of vegetable, essential for regulating blood pressure and heart rhythm. It also intervenes in muscle contraction, therefore it is useful to prevent muscle cramps;
- Phosphorus: present in good quantity, it is a constituent of bones and teeth, it also participates in important biochemical processes for the production of energy;
- Calcium: its role in building bones and teeth is known, but this is not the only function it plays in our body. This mineral regulates many enzymes and participates in blood clotting;
- Magnesium: participates in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, together with calcium and phosphorus is another component of bone tissue, it also acts on the nervous system by promoting the transmission of signals;
- Vitamin A: cauliflower has a good content of this vitamin which has numerous functions in our body. It is now known that vitamin A plays a role in vision but also intervenes in cell differentiation and in the immune response by acting on the activity of T lymphocytes;
- Vitamin C: necessary in the synthesis of collagen as it intervenes in hydroxylation reactions and is also part of a complex system of protection against free radicals;
- Vitamin K: cauliflower, like other brassicaceae, is a good source of this vitamin, which is important for blood clotting as it regulates the activity of various proteins involved in this function;
- Sulforaphane: is an isothiocyanate that we find in cauliflower and also in other cruciferous plants. This, in addition to being responsible for the pungent odor of this vegetable, has proved to be one of the most valid molecules with a protective action against cancer;
- Indole-3-carbinol: This is also a molecule that we find in cauliflower and its siblings. It derives from the degradation of glucosinolate and appears to have an antioxidant and antitumor action.
Cauliflower: health benefits
The health benefits of cauliflower derive from its nutritional characteristics and the presence of particular molecules. Let’s find out in detail.
✓ Detoxifying action of cauliflower
Consuming cauliflower helps detoxify us. This action is determined by the presence of isothiocyanates and indoles which favor the activity of some liver enzymes responsible for detoxification, helping the liver and the whole organism to purify itself.
✓ Against anemia
Cauliflower contains a fair amount of vegetable iron (0.8 mg per 100 g of vegetable), but what makes it useful in combating anemia is the good content of vitamin C which improves intestinal absorption of iron.
✓ Against overweight and constipation
This vegetable is useful in weight loss diets because it provides very few calories, in fact a 300 gram serving provides only 75 calories. In addition to being low-calorie, it has a good fiber content and it is precisely this that is useful in combating overweight and constipation as it has a satiating effect and modulates intestinal activity with a therapeutic action towards constipation.
✓ Supportive in cancer prevention
There are numerous studies that have evaluated the action of cauliflower and cruciferous trees in general in the prevention of cancer. Those responsible for this protective action are the antioxidant molecules (vitamins A and C) and glucosinolates, particular compounds that can be hydrolyzed into isothiocyanates (such as sulforaphane) and indoles.
These molecules have shown anti- cancer activity because they act by neutralizing the negative action of carcinogenic or mutagenic molecules. From these considerations, consuming cauliflower frequently is a very simple way to fill up on beneficial and protective molecules against cancer.
✓ Benefits of cauliflower for bone health
Cauliflower is one of the richest vegetables in calcium, just think that one serving (about 300 g) provides the same amount of calcium contained in 100 ml of cow’s milk. This vegetable also contains phosphorus and magnesium which together with calcium are structural elements of the bone. In consideration of this, cauliflower is a useful food for the health of bones and teeth, especially for those who follow a vegan diet.
✓ Control of blood sugar and cholesterol
A diet rich in fiber helps to keep blood sugar levels under control as it manages to interfere and slow down the intestinal absorption of sugars. Similarly, fiber is useful in keeping blood cholesterol levels low. Therefore, cauliflower with its good fiber content is indicated in case of diabetes and / or hypercholesterolemia.
✓ Anti-inflammatory properties of cauliflower
It is now known that inflammation is at the root of many diseases, including obesity. Some preliminary studies have shown an anti-inflammatory effect of glucosinolates, especially sulforaphane which manages to regulate some genes involved in inflammation.
✓ Reduces pressure
With its high potassium intake, cauliflower is a natural blood pressure regulator. There are several studies that have evaluated the action of this mineral, in particular, a study has shown that people with hypertension can benefit from an increased intake of potassium.
✓ Against skin aging
Cauliflower is a source of vitamins A and C. These work synergistically to counteract skin aging. Vitamin A is essential to protect and keep the skin healthy, while vitamin C plays a fundamental role in the growth and repair of tissues, and is involved in the synthesis of collagen, an important protein whose reduction leads to the appearance of wrinkles and sagging skin.
Cauliflower: some usage tips
Cauliflower is a vegetable that spoils easily. To buy it fresh and at the right point of ripeness, check that the external leaves are green, firm, crunchy and well adherent to the inflorescence which must be compact, white and must not have dark spots.
After choosing a good cauliflower, in the kitchen you can give free rein to your imagination because it is a very versatile vegetable. It can be used, for example, to make excellent preserves in vinegar or in oil to be consumed all year round.
Furthermore, cauliflower lends itself to being a simple side dish to be seasoned with oil and balsamic vinegar or for making creams, velvets and soups. It is also perfect in the preparation of tasty first courses such as risotto.
While cooking cauliflower allows to activate the anticancer molecules (glucosinolates), it must not be cooked for too long to preserve its nutritional characteristics. The ideal would be to steam the cauliflower for about 5 minutes in order to preserve all the nutrients, alternatively it can be cooked in pans using very little water.
Cauliflower: contraindications and potential negative effects
Now let’s see what are the contraindications of cauliflower. First of all, it is good to keep in mind that excessive consumption of this vegetable is not recommended for those suffering from irritable colon as it could cause and increase discomfort such as meteorism and swelling.
It should also be taken in moderation if you follow a specific diet for the treatment of gout and hyperuricemia since this vegetable has a good content of purines, nitrogenous molecules, which are not recommended in these problems.
In case of iodine deficiency hypothyroidism it is advisable to eat cauliflower occasionally, especially if raw, since by interfering with iodine metabolism, it increases its requirement, and can inhibit thyroid activity.
Finally, due to the presence of vitamin K, cauliflower is not recommended for those who use warfarin and other anticoagulants as it can reduce their effectiveness.
To prevent the smell of cauliflower from spreading around the house, it is useful to add half a lemon wedges during steam cooking to put in the water.