Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that consists of white florets that come together to form a cabbage-like head known as a curd. While related to broccoli, cauliflower has a much more dense, compact head and is often white.
As it’s flowering, cauliflower is surrounded by thick green leaves that completely protect it from sunlight, which prevents chlorophyll from being created. In the past, these leaves would be tied around the cauliflower bloomed. Recent farming practices have removed the need for this and cauliflower now grows naturally with its leaves intact.
Cauliflower is a tasty cabbage-like vegetable that is more creamy in texture than other cruciferous veggies, slightly sweet, and somewhat nutty. Although eating the white fleshy part of the flower is most popular and most common, the leaves and stem are also edible.
Types of Cauliflower
There are four types of cauliflower, each with a different appearance, and ever-so-slight variations in taste and nutrient composition.
The white cauliflower is the most common and most consumed variety of cauliflower. It’s often sold with the leaves attached and is generally available year round, although it tends to be in season in late summer and into fall depending on where you live.
Orange cauliflower is similar to white cauliflower in appearance and taste, other than its bright orange coloring. Orange cauliflower is believed to have first been discovered in a Canadian cauliflower field in the1970s. However, the version you might find in your grocery store today is very different. It took many decades of crossbreeding to arrive at the modern orange cauliflower variety.
The orange color is partly due to its high beta-carotene content. It’s also rich in vitamin A. In fact, it possesses about 25% more vitamin A than white cauliflower does. Orange cauliflower is often referred to as “cheddar” or the “orange bouquet.”
The green cauliflower is a cross between cauliflower and broccoli. Green cauliflower is available in a regular curd-shaped form and also in a fractal spiral curd, which is more commonly referred to as Romanesco broccoli. Romanesco broccoli’s green color lends itself to a sweeter taste when it’s raw. When green cauliflower is cooked it more closely resembles the taste of broccoli. You can prepare, cook, and consume green cauliflower just as you would orange and white cauliflower.
While the purple cauliflower is possibly the most exotic looking of the bunch, its flavor profile is almost exactly that of regular white cauliflower. The purple is created from the presence of anthocyanins, which are water-soluble pigments similar to those found in red cabbage or red wine.
Cauliflower Nutritional Profile
Cauliflower is surprisingly high in vitamin C, containing about 77% of your recommended daily value. It’s rich in B vitamins and a good source of vitamin K, which is essential for proper blood clotting function. Cauliflower is also full of several other nutrients including riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, dietary fiber, folate, potassium, and manganese. Just one serving of cauliflower (about a cup) contains about 25 calories, which makes it an excellent addition to any low-fat, low-calorie, or high-fiber diet.
Benefits of Cauliflower
Cauliflower is one of the cruciferous vegetables thought to possess important cancer-fighting benefits. Broccoli and cabbage also maintain this elite status. Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants and is also a natural anti-inflammatory. Here are some of the white little curd’s most impressive benefits.
Cauliflower and Cancer
Sulforaphane is a sulfur compound that has been shown in several studies to kill cancer stem cells and as a result slow tumor growth. There is research to indicate that by slowing the growth of cancer from stem cells, cancer may be more readily controlled.
Studies documenting the treatment of cancer and prevention through cell apoptosis (aka cell death), have found that sulforaphane is beneficial for eradicating several forms of cancer, including prostate and breast cancers.
In combination with a superfood spice, such as turmeric, cauliflower can genuinely be a beneficial preventative for cancer, and possibly inhibit active cancer cells from continuing to grow. According to an article in the National Cancer Institute, several initial studies with rats indicate success in the inhibition of tumor blood vessel formation and tumor cell migration.
Cauliflower and Heart Health
The same sulforaphane that we’ve been discussing as it relates to cancer prevention has also been shown to improve blood pressure and kidney function by a significant amount. Sulforaphane is also believed to protect cells from DNA damage and DNA methylation, which has been linked to hypertension.
Your Brain on Cauliflower
One cup of cauliflower contains about 48 mg of choline, which is extremely beneficial for brain health. Choline has been linked to improvements in cognitive function, learning, and memory. There is some evidence to suggest it may also be beneficial for relieving or even preventing the effects of dementia or early onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Anti-inflammatory Benefits of Cauliflower
Inflammation in your body can be triggered by several internal and external factors ranging from diet to pollution to genetic dispositions for a specific disease. As your body adjusts and fights these triggers, cells may become inflamed and, as a result, create further damage to your body.
Cauliflower’s natural anti-inflammatory properties are a great way to promote proper cell health, perhaps even at a fundamental cell level. Cauliflower contains a compound known as Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) commonly found in cruciferous vegetables. This powerhouse nutrient has been shown in several studies to be able to minimize inflammation associated with genetic dispositions to a certain disease.
Cauliflower can be roasted, steamed, fried, boiled, or eaten raw. Typically the outer green leaves are removed before cooking.
When selecting a cauliflower, look for tightly packed creamy white florets. It should feel a bit heavy considering its size. Cauliflower that is turning brown or wilting at the leaves may not be as fresh. While perfectly acceptable to remove the brown bits, you’ll likely enjoy the taste of a fresher head of cauliflower. The best way to know if cauliflower is spoiled is to test the bottom of the head. If it’s no longer firm and is instead squishy or soft, it’s turned.
We’ve got a yummy treat for you! Check out our recipe for Tumeric Spiced Cauliflower Mash.