Cauliflower: More than broccoli's paler counterpart

January 18, 2021 Providence Nutrition Team

Photo by Irene Kredenets on Unsplash

Key takeaways:

  • Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferous family and a cousin to broccoli, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts and kale.
  • The high levels of anti-inflammatories and antioxidants in cauliflower may help reduce your risk of chronic disease and cancer, and even lose weight.


Cauliflower is everywhere—rice, pizza crust and even cauli-cheese. And although you can still pick up raw cauliflower in the produce aisle, there are more ways than ever to add this versatile veggie to your snacks, meals and even drinks. Cauliflower has recently become a regular resident at many tables as much more than a simple side dish. Why is it so popular all of a sudden? When you want to increase your nutrition and find a simple substitute for carbs, put down the bread and pasta—it’s cauliflower to the rescue!

Cauliflower deserves a prominent spot in your diet. It's a cruciferous vegetable, which means it's a cousin to other nutritious veggies like broccoli, kale, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, and shares many of the same health benefits. Even more importantly, it's loaded with fiber, chock- full of antioxidants and may help you lose weight.

Still not convinced? Take a look at all the ways eating cauliflower benefits your health.

Nutrition superstar

Cauliflower is cholesterol-free and has no fat. A one-cup serving contains only 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates. With minimal sodium and 2 grams each of sugar, protein and dietary fiber, cauliflower is a healthy way to get many essential vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin B, vitamin C, potassium and folate. It's also a good source of iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. Not to mention, it fills you up fast, giving you a more fill with less calories than carbs.

Helps lower cancer risk

Cauliflower contains substances called glucosinolates. Glucosinolates break down into compounds that may help prevent cancer cells from forming. They protect from cell damage and have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral properties. They're also responsible for the distinctive smell that permeates your kitchen when cruciferous veggies are cooked—but don't hold that against them.

Fights inflammation with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds

Inflammation causes a multitude of health issues and chronic diseases. Lowering its levels can have a profound impact on your health. Cauliflower contains beta-carotene and a host of other antioxidants that can help prevent cancer cells from reproducing. Its anti-inflammatory compounds help lower oxidative stress and reduce cancer-causing free radicals.

Full of fiber

One serving of cauliflower provides 10% of your daily fiber requirements. The fiber in cauliflower may help prevent a wide range of health conditions, including diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease and constipation. It promotes gut health and feeds the healthy bacteria in your intestines. Fiber stabilizes your blood sugar levels and lowers your risk of developing diabetes or heart disease.

Boosts weight loss

A cup of cauliflower has a mere 25 calories, which makes the pale, white vegetable an excellent addition to most any weight-loss plan you choose. Roughly 92% of cauliflower's weight is water and its high fiber count helps you feel full longer.

Selecting, storing and preparing cauliflower

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, most cauliflower is white, cream or creamy white. However, some varieties are shades of purple, orange or green—it just depends on what variety they are. For the best flavor and nutritional properties, cauliflower should have clean, compact florets with bud clusters set closely together. It should be free from damage caused by bruising, discoloration, insects or mold. Plants with thick green leaves surrounding the head are generally fresher than those without that protective covering.

Store clean, raw cauliflower in a plastic container or paper bag in your refrigerator. To prevent moisture from forming on the florets, store them stem side down. Placing a dry paper towel inside the container absorbs moisture and helps keep your produce fresher, longer.

Whole heads of cauliflower generally last four to seven days. Cut florets tend to last four days or less.

Cauliflower is a very versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked and prepared in multiple ways. Mash it, boil it, steam it, roast it, puree it or rice it. The possibilities for adding it to your diet are endless.

Healthy ingredient swap

Cauliflower can be a healthy alternative to boost the nutrition and lower the fat, carbs and calories in many of your favorite recipes. Many people use cauliflower as a carbohydrate replacement for a number of foods including pizza crust, rice and mashed potatoes.

  • Mash steamed cauliflower into a velvety-smooth texture for a healthy dish that takes the place of potatoes but still tastes like comfort food.
  • Grate cauliflower and use the rice-like results as a base for pizza, tortillas or flatbread that's low in carbohydrates, sugar and fat. Or just use them in place of rice.
  • Puree cooked cauliflower to make an excellent substitute for cream sauces or a healthy smoothie add-in.
  • Roasted cauliflower can serve as a stand-in for many popular snack choices such as buffalo chicken wings.

Check out these recipes from Allrecipes for delicious and nutritious ways to add cauliflower to your meal plan.

Too much?

Can you get too much of a good thing?

For the most part, the worst thing that happens if you eat excessive amounts of cauliflower is an excessive amount of gassiness or bloating. If you have any of the health conditions below, you should talk to your doctor about how much cauliflower your diet can handle.

  • If you're taking blood thinners such as Coumadin, cauliflower's vitamin K levels may reduce your medication's effectiveness.
  • Eating large amounts of cruciferous vegetables may accelerate thyroid issues if you have an iodine deficiency.
  • Cauliflower contains purines that can break down to form uric acid in your urine. This could be a problem if you have gout or kidney stones.

Cauliflower is more than just a trendy health fad. Underneath all the hype it’s a nutrition powerhouse that can help reduce your risk of developing multiple health issues and improve your health overall.


Has #Cauliflower earned a permanent spot on your menu? Share your family's favorite recipes with readers @providence.


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Related resources

How to stock your pantry, fridge and freezer

Tips to make your produce last

Treat Your Immune System to Healthy Foods

Red flags your diet isn't balanced

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About the Author

We are all about food! The Providence Nutrition Team loves to talk about and share our expertise on how to help you find the right diet, food types and maintenance tactics to help you live life to the fullest...while also enjoying the best foods that mother nature has to offer.

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