Cauliflower: Its Whats for Dinner

Cauliflower is everywhere these days. It’s been turned into gnocchi, pizza crust, and even rice. And for good reason. This humble vegetable deserves its moment in the spotlight. After you see all the good things cauliflower can do and become, you’ll be a cauliflower true believer!

What’s So Great About Cauliflower?

Cauliflower gives you a lot for a little. One cup of raw, white cauliflower is a mere 30 calories, contains 2 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and a negligible amount of fat. In the veggie world cauliflower contains one of the highest levels of Vitamin C and also respectable amounts of folate and Vitamins B6 and K.
Cauliflower has a high water content, 92% in fact. This makes it a great vegetable to help keep our bodies hydrated and consuming lots of water-dense, low calorie foods can assist with weight loss.
Cauliflower is a great source of folate which helps ensure normal fetal development making it a great addition to the diet of women expecting.
The Vitamin K helps keep bones strong and healthy preventing bone mineral density loss which can lead to osteoporosis.
As a cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower contains several phytochemicals that may block the growth of tumors, helps rid our bodies of carcinogens, and limits the body’s production of cancer-related hormones.
Cauliflower reinforces our intestinal defenses which lowers incidents of gut problems like ulcerative colitis and leaky gut syndrome. A phytonutrient abundant in the vegetable can strengthen our immune systems from intestinal pathogens and boost overall immune functions. It’s also been shown to lower LDL, the bad cholesterol.
The sulforaphane in cauliflower can protect the skin from UV exposure. Sulforaphane also protects the retinas from oxidative stress which can lead to vision problems like cataracts and macular degeneration.
So many “it” foods are expensive. Goji berries and avocados come to mind but cauliflower is cheap and available year round. And unlike produce such as tomatoes or peaches, buying the regular old cauliflower you see in the grocery doesn’t really taste much different than the more expensive heads you can find at a pricey farmer’s market. 

Preparation Matters

Some preparation and cooking methods will make all of the benefits of cauliflower more available and more potent. In order to unlock the powerful enzyme sulforaphane, cauliflower should be chopped and left to “rest” for 40 minutes. This allows for the production of that enzyme and makes it heat stable meaning it won’t be lost in the cooking process. Something similar happens with garlic.
If you’ve got to get dinner on the table fast, instead of waiting the 40 minutes, you can simply sprinkle the cauliflower with some dry mustard powder which encourages the formation of sulforaphane without the wait.
There are benefits to eating both cooked and raw cauliflower. Quick cook methods like steaming, microwaving, and stir-frying reduces the nutrient loss that can happen during a long cooking method like boiling. The quick cook methods also tend to yield tastier results than boiling (and less of that distinctive cauliflower smell!). Cooking can result in a reduction in some of cauliflower’s water-soluble nutrients but it can increase the bioavailability of some of those nutrients that would otherwise remain locked up in the cell walls.
Chewing raw cauliflower can also break down these cell walls to make nutrients like carotenoids more bioavailable but be sure to chew each bit well.
If you want to prep and freeze cauliflower the best way to do so is to blanch it in not-quite boiling water for three minutes. Cool and freeze and the nutrients will remain stable for up to one year in the freezer. If you choose this method, label the storage back with the date is was frozen.

Get Creative

If your only experience with cauliflower was as a kid when your parents boiled it to a fine, gray paste, I urge you to give it another try! Cauliflower rice is a good place to start. You can rice your own but it’s something of a time consuming and messy process. Floret detritus everywhere!
You can buy already riced cauliflower in most supermarkets and while you can find it pre-flavored, but that may contain ingredients you’d rather not have if you’re trying to eat clean. Cauliflower rice makes great fried rice and because of its rather mild flavor, tossing a handful into a smoothie will give your drink a big boost of nutrition without a strong taste.
Cauliflower can be cut into “steaks” or even roasted as a whole head. Roasting it this way provides a rich, toasty flavor that’s hard to beat.
Cauliflower can be steamed and mashed with regular milk and even coconut milk for a low carb version of mashed potatoes. It can be added to a pasta sauce, blend before serving and you’re unlikely to even notice it’s there.
Pickled cauliflower is also delicious, providing a nice contrast to heavier foods. It’s easy to make at home too if you grow cauliflower in your garden and have a bumper crop.

Cauliflower in the Spotlight

I’m so happy to see cauliflower take its rightful place in the pantheon of health giving foods. For so long it was just a humble vegetable forgotten by most unless it was covered in cheese sauce. We’re often told to “eat the rainbow” meaning to eat lots of vegetables and fruits with vibrant colors as those colors are often a marker of how nutritious something is.
But white foods should be part of the rainbow too and cauliflower should be at the front of the line.