When it comes to vegetables, cauliflower tops the list of one of the most nutritionally complete options. This crunchy and versatile vegetable is high in fiber, vitamin C (one cup has over 80% RDI), potassium, B vitamins, and believe it or not, it is a decent source of protein as well. All this goodness packaged in one bundle is sure to pack some powerful health benefits, here are eleven of them
1. Improves Digestion
Dietary fiber is not only important for digestive health, it is essential. Unfortunately, the typical western diet is severely lacking in natural sources of dietary fiber, such as cauliflower. A medium sized head of cauliflower contains about twelve grams of dietary fiber, and single cup will fill you up with a little over two grams.
Cauliflower also contains glucosinolate, which has been shown to protect the stomach and its lining. This means fewer episodes of indigestion and possibly less acid reflux.
2. Clears Away Brain Fog
Cauliflower is a great source of one member of the B vitamin family known as choline. While choline serves many vital roles in the body, one of the most important is the role that it plays in a process called methylation. The exchange of signals in the brain is dependent upon methylation, and without adequate choline intake you might suffer from a decline in mental function and memory. The jury is still out on just how much choline to include in your diet every day, but cauliflower surely hits the mark as a choline rich food with nearly 50 mg per cup.
3. High in Antioxidants
When you think of antioxidant rich vegetables, you probably think of known superfoods such as dark, leafy greens, sweet potatoes and carrots. From a visual standpoint, it seems that the more colorful a fruit or vegetable is, the higher it ranks on the antioxidant scale. Looking at cauliflower in all its pale colored glory, you might not suspect that it is an often-overlooked antioxidant powerhouse.
Cauliflower contains antioxidants including vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin and cinnamic acid, just to name a few. Antioxidants like these help to heal and protect your body by neutralizing damaging free radicals that cause the oxidative stress that leads to disease, tissue damage and sometimes cancer.
4. Natural Sunscreen
Cauliflower contains sulforaphane, a compound that is a product of glucosinolate. Early studies indicate that sulforaphane can help protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation, by reducing ultraviolet induced inflammation and damage.
Cauliflower is one of several foods with known protective qualities against sun damage. This does not mean that if you eat these foods, you can forgo the sunscreen. Dietary components, like cauliflower, can complement and increase the effectiveness of your daily sunscreen, rather than replace it.
5. Helps you Lose Weight
When it comes to weight loss, not all vegetables are created equal. True, any vegetable is better option than highly caloric processed foods, but not all vegetables pack the pound shedding punch that cauliflower does.
Cauliflower is high in fiber, while being low in calories and carbohydrates. Because of this, cauliflower is a low calorie option that will fill you up fast, without causing spikes in your blood sugar, which can impede upon your weight loss efforts.
Another fat busting property of cauliflower is that it contains indoles, which are another phytonutrient product of glucosinolate. Indoles are partly responsible for the somewhat bitter flavor of cauliflower. They also play a role in balancing the hormones that can contribute to unwanted weight gain, so that even the most stubborn of pounds begin to melt off.
6. Hormonal Balance
The indoles in cauliflower, technically referred to as indole-3-carbinol, that we just mentioned above play an important role in balancing estrogen, a process that has many benefits in addition to weight loss.
Excess estrogen is connected to serious health conditions including hypothyroidism, certain autoimmune diseases and types of estrogen sensitive cancers such as those of the breast or ovaries.
Studies show that the consumption of indole-3-carbinol, causes a notable increase in the amount of estrogen excreted through the urine, indicating that vegetables that contain this indole, such a cauliflower, help to reduce the amount of estrogen in the body and are important nutritional components for reducing the health toll of unbalanced hormones.
7. Cauliflower Reduces the Risk of Macular Degeneration
Are you coming up on a big birthday and are concerned because it seems that everyone in your family wears glasses once they reach a certain age? Are you finding that lately your vision has been a little fuzzy and you find yourself reaching for your reading glasses more and more? It could be that it is time to load some extra cauliflower onto your plate.
Cauliflower is high in vitamin C, which has been shown to reduce the risk and slow the progression of age related macular degeneration. One cup of cauliflower contains a significant portion of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Additionally, as if we aren’t impressed enough with the sulforaphane in cauliflower, there is evidence to suggest that it also offers protection from oxidative damage to the retinal tissue of the eyes.
8. Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
The vitamin C, vitamin B6 and potassium found in cauliflower make it a powerful ally in the fight against diabetes. Potassium deficiencies are thought to be linked to the development of diabetes, possibly because potassium, when combined with sodium, plays an important role in glucose regulation and metabolism.
Vitamin C levels are shown to be indirectly proportional to the development of diabetes, meaning the higher your vitamin C levels, the lower your risk of the disease. This could be in part because we get almost all our vitamin C from fruit and vegetable sources, so a high level of vitamin C in the body is indicative of a diet rich in these foods, which just happens to also the type of diet that you want to be eating to prevent the onset of prediabetes or full-blown diabetes later in life.
9. Boosts the Immune System
Antioxidants, vitamin C, and selenium are all powerful immune system support agents, which are readily available in a bowl full of crunchy cauliflower. In a sense, it is true that you are what you eat, and in this case, eating immune boosting cauliflower builds a healthier, stronger defense system in your body. Eat immune boosting foods, and you become someone with a strong immune system. More reason to add some roasted cauliflower to your holiday dinner table to fight off the cold that always seems to hit that time of year.
10. Promotes a Healthy Pregnancy
Pregnant women and women of childbearing age are advised to take folic acid supplements, or to increase the folate intake through dietary choices. Cauliflower is a great source of this important vitamin. Without adequate folate, a fetus is at a higher risk of certain birth defects such as spina bifida.
Also, the vitamin B6 found in cauliflower has been shown to offer some protective qualities against the development of gestational diabetes.
11. Cancer Fighting Food
If you take a quick look over all the health benefits of cauliflower listed above, you might notice a pattern. Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, high fiber, immune booster… these are all elements of a cancer fighting food. Antioxidants help to fight off the free radicals that cause cancer, while anti-inflammatory agents soothe inflammation that can sometimes develop into cancer. Fiber rich foods keep your digestive system healthy, further reducing the risk of colon cancer and a healthy immune system helps to support all of it. Add to it that research has shown a connection between the intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, and a significantly reduced risk of certain cancers, you can see why cauliflower should be a staple part of any anti-cancer diet.
The next time you are in the grocery store, or the local farmer’s market, don’t let the cauliflower get lost in a sea of deeply colored vegetables. Cauliflower is naturally delicious, versatile and has so much to offer you and your healthy lifestyle.