May. 14. 2013
Nutrition Articles
McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

Cauliflower…brain food! Hopefully I’m not creating a visual that’s going to turn you away from eating cauliflower, but cauliflower has always made me think of a brain. In anatomy class (if you’ve never seen a real brain, just trust me on this one), cauliflower has a striking resemblance to a brain. Anyways, back to the star of the show, cauliflower. Cauliflower is a white (most common color, but also seen in green, purple, and orange) vegetable containing many small florets that make up one large head, and is also part of the cruciferous vegetable family (funny name, I know). The cruciferous vegetable family also includes: brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, cabbages, choy, mustard greens, collards, watercress, radish, etc.

I have to say, cauliflower was one of my least favorite vegetables as a little me, the only way I would eat this white, flaky/crumbly vegetable, involved grabbing little pieces covered in Italian or French dressing out of my parents salad bowls (ha). As I’ve grown of course, I think I’ve learned to appreciate and love every vegetable I’ve come across especially cauliflower. Cauliflower has several unique culinary qualities to it which allows a variety of uses. Have you ever thought of making mashed “potatoes”, rice, bread, muffins, pizza crust or even dessert out of a vegetable? No? Well this vegetable may now be your favorite, especially for any of you living a low carb, paleo lifestyle, or trying to fit specific macros (a.k.a. macronutrients) for all you athletes and fitness models/bodybuilders out there.

Favorite ways to prepare cauliflower |

  • Simply raw as a snack with hummus, avocado, salsa, etc. 
  • Steamed
  • Pureed for a side dish or a “bed” to add toppings onto
  • Chopped in a salad
  • Roasted (with turmeric and coconut oil), one of my favorites
  • Steamed and “mashed”
  • Soups
  • And many more creative and fun ways I’ll keep a secret for now until a post comes along 😉

TIP  // regarding cooking methods and nutrient loss. If possible, try to consume cauliflower either in it’s raw state or lightly steamed, which results in the least nutrient loss via cooking (especially the vitamin C and glucosinolates content, which are more sensitive to nutrient loss via cooking).

How to shop and store cauliflower |

  • Shop |
    • Consume organic varieties as often as possible
    • Look for a white color free from mold spots, brown spots or any soft areas
    • Florets should be intact and hard to touch
    • Choose heads of cauliflower with more thick green leaves, this may better protect cauliflower from going bad
  • Store |
    • Simply in a storage ziplock bag after using in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days, depending on cool settings and how quickly the cauliflower will spoil.

Now that we’ve talked a litte about the diversity of cauliflower and how to choose the right one, let’s take a macro look (literally) of cauliflower!

Cauliflower has tremendous compounds involved in cancer protection, anti-inflammation, cardiovascular benefits, digestive health (sulforaphane found in cauliflower helps protect the digestive lining and prevents bacterial overgrowth such as H. pylori.), and detoxification support (phase I and phase II). Although cauliflower hasn’t been individually studied, cauliflower containing diets and the cruciferious vegetable family has been studied most in relation to cancer protection.

Nutrition Stripped nutrient breakdown of CAULIFLOWER |

  • Vitamin C | great source of 
  • Vitamin K | especially great for anti-inflammation
  • Vitamin B | Folate, B6, B1, B2, B3, B5
  • Choline
  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Molybdenum
  • Iron
  • Fiber | nearly 10g of fiber per 100 calories (about 400g)
  • Protein
  • Antioxidants | phytonutrients } beta-carotene, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, kaempferol, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, quercetin, and rutin.
  • Glucosinolates | glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, and gluconasturtiian. Mainly glucobrassicin–> which converts into isothyocinate–> which converts into indole-3-carbinol (a.k.a. I3C) which is a powerful anti-inflammatory compound (fancy process for saying it helps with chronic inflammatory disease, cardiovascular disease, and oxidative stress)
  • Sulforaphane
  • DIM (diindoleylmehtane) | a phytonutrient and plant indole found in most cruciferous vegetables, most notably studied with cancer prevention and anti-estrogenic properties for prostate, ovarian, cervical, and breast cancers.

Do you like cauliflower? If so, what are your favorite ways to eat it? Have you tried any experimental non-traditional ways to eat cauliflower? Share below, I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to in the kitchen!

I challenge you to incorporate cauliflower into your diet at least 1 time this week, are you ready for the challenge?

xo McKel