Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, often overshadowed by its green cousin broccoli. This is one vegetable that deserves a regular rotation in your diet, however, as it contains an impressive array of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.
Adding to cauliflower’s appeal is its extreme versatility. You can eat it raw, add it to salads, or use it in your cooking. Cauliflower can even be seasoned and mashed for a healthier version of “mashed potatoes.”
8 Top Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Because of its beneficial effects on numerous aspects of health, cauliflower can easily be described as a superfood. Ten of its most impressive benefits follow:
1. Fight Cancer
Cauliflower contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth. Some researchers believe eliminating cancer stem cells may be key to controlling cancer.
For instance, research has shown that combining cauliflower with curcumin (the active compound in the spice turmeric) may help prevent and treat prostate cancer.1
A study published in Carcinogenesis also found sulforaphane may reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals.2 It also inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death.
Other compounds in cauliflower also show anti-cancer effects. According to the National Cancer Institute:3
“Indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to inhibit the development of cancer in several organs in rats and mice, including the bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach.”
2. Boost Heart Health
Sulforaphane in cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables has been found to significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function.4 Scientists believe sulforaphane’s benefits are related to improved DNA methylation, which is crucial for normal cellular function and proper gene expression, especially in the easily damaged inner lining of the arteries known as the endothelium.
3. It’s Anti-Inflammatory
You need some level of inflammation in your body to stay healthy. However, it’s also possible, and increasingly common, for the inflammatory response to get out of hand.
If your immune system mistakenly triggers an inflammatory response when no threat is present, it can lead to significant inflammation-related damage to the body, a condition linked to cancer and other diseases, depending on which organs the inflammation is impacting.
Cauliflower contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients to help keep inflammation in check, including indole-3-carbinol or I3C, an anti-inflammatory compound that may operate at the genetic level to help prevent the inflammatory responses at its foundational level.5
4. It’s Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
Most Americans are seriously lacking in nutrients their body needs to function. Eating cauliflower regularly is a simple way to get these much-needed nutrients into your body. For instance, one serving of cauliflower contains 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese.
5. Boost Your Brain Health
Cauliflower is a good source of choline, a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. Choline intake during pregnancy “super-charged” the brain activity of animals in utero, indicating that it may boost cognitive function, and improve learning and memory. It may even diminish age-related memory decline and your brain’s vulnerability to toxins during childhood, as well as conferring protection later in life.6
6. Detoxification Support
Cauliflower helps your body’s ability to detoxify in multiple ways. It contains antioxidants that support Phase 1 detoxification along with sulfur-containing nutrients important for Phase 2 detox activities. The glucosinolates in cauliflower also activate detoxification enzymes.7
7. Digestive Benefits
Cauliflower is an important source of dietary fiber for digestive health. But that’s not all. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods:8
“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.”
8. Antioxidants and Phytonutrients Galore
Eating cauliflower is like winning the antioxidant and phytonutrient lottery. It’s packed with vitamin C, beta-carotene, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, cinnamic acid, and much more. Antioxidants are nature’s way of providing your cells with adequate defense against attack by reactive oxygen species (ROS).
As long as you have these important micronutrients, your body will be able to resist aging caused by your everyday exposure to pollutants, chronic stress, and more. If you don’t have an adequate supply of antioxidants to help squelch free radicals, then you can be at risk of oxidative stress, which leads to accelerated tissue and organ damage.
Cauliflower Is Only One Type of Cruciferous Veggie
If cauliflower isn’t your favorite vegetable, don’t worry. You can get many of these same benefits by eating other members of the cruciferous vegetable family. Broccoli is one of them, but there are others too, including:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Chinese cabbage
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
The more vegetables you eat from this list the better, as each offers unique and wonderful benefits to your health. For instance, just one cup of kale contains over 10,000 IUs of vitamin A, the equivalent of over 200% of the daily value. Cabbage, meanwhile, is rich in vitamin K1 and B vitamins, which many are deficient in, and has been shown to help heal stomach ulcers and offers benefits to digestion. Additionally:9
- 100 calories’ worth of cruciferous vegetables can provide you with up to 40 percent of your daily fiber requirement
- Cruciferous vegetables contain protein, as much as 25 percent of the daily value in three cups
- Cruciferous vegetables, especially kale and collard greens, provide high amounts of vitamin K, which may have benefits for fighting cancer and inflammation
However, don’t underestimate the nutritive value of cauliflower. If it’s been a while since you’ve given it a try, make it a point to give it another chance soon. When picking out a head of cauliflower, look for a firm feel with no brown or soft yellow spots. If it’s surrounded by green leaves it’s likely to be especially fresh. If you want to know even more about cauliflower, be sure to read “What Is Cauliflower Good For?”
5-Minute Cauliflower with Turmeric
Considering the research showing that cauliflower sprinkled with turmeric (which contains the powerful golden-hued polyphenol curcumin) may be especially powerful in fighting cancer, I wanted to share this quick recipe with you, from the World’s Healthiest Foods.10 This anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich dish cooks up in just five minutes, making it perfect for lunch, dinner or even a quick snack. Impressively, one serving of this dish provides 181% of the daily value for vitamin C, 46% for vitamin K, and 33% for folate!
Healthy Cauliflower with Turmeric
- 1 lb cauliflower
- 5 tbs low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 tsp turmeric
- Mediterranean Dressing
- 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or chopped
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Cut cauliflower florets into quarters and let sit for 5 minutes to bring out their hidden health benefits.
- Press or chop garlic and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Heat 5 tbs broth in a stainless steel skillet on medium heat.
- When broth begins to steam, add cauliflower and turmeric and cover. For al dente cauliflower, cook for no more than 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a bowl. For more flavor, toss cauliflower with the remaining ingredients while it is still hot. (Mediterranean Dressing does not need to be made separately.)
- Serves 2