Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Health benefits of cauliflower include relief from indigestion, ultraviolet radiation, diabetes, colitis respiratory papillomatosis, macular degeneration, obesity and hypertension. The antioxidant power of cauliflower helps in strengthening the immune system and helps in reducing risk of stroke, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Cauliflower also aids in maintaining bone health, brain and cellular health, electrolyte balance, optimum cholesterol levels and prevents cardiovascular disorders.
Cauliflower belongs to the Brassicaceae family which also includes broccoli, kale and cabbage. Cauliflower derives its name from Latin caulis which means cabbage, with a flower. The florets in the head of the cauliflower, also known as curd are tightly clustered and consist of immature flower buds attached to central stalk. To protect the flavor and softness of the cauliflower heads, they are protected from the sunlight to prevent development of chlorophyll pigment and over-maturity.
Cauliflower has been suggested to draw its historical origination in the ancient Asia and re-emerged in the Mediterranean region, Turkey and Italy around 600 BC. Around the mid-16th century, cauliflower achieved recognition in France and Northern Europe. Today, India, China, Italy, France and United States are among the top producers of cauliflower across the world.
Cauliflower: Nutrition facts
Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), folate, vitamin K (phylloquinone) and vitamin B-6. Vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), E (alpha-tocopherol) are also present in small quantities. Cauliflower provides vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and manganese with no harmful cholesterol. It is a source of protein and offers and very low amounts of fats of which the substantial amount comes from unsaturated fats and essential omega-3 fatty acids. It also provides dietary fiber and contains lesser amount of natural sugars as compared to other members of its botanical relatives such as broccoli.
Cauliflower is available in four major groups namely, Asian, Italian, Northwest European biennial and Northern European annuals with more than hundred varieties. Apart from white, cauliflower also comes in several other colors mentioned as under.
Green: Green cauliflower is also referred to as broccoflower. It can found in normal curd shaped form as well as in spiky variant called Romanesco broccoli.
Purple: The antioxidant group anthocyanins present in the purple cauliflower brings the color to the vegetable.
Orange: Orange cauliflower is very nutritious and contains immense amount of vitamin A as compared to the white variety.
Health benefits of cauliflower
Besides the delicious savor, cauliflower offers a great nutritional value attributing to the presence of power-packed phytochemicals which help in fighting various diseases and promote stronger immunity and aids in maintaining a clean system.
Antioxidant capacity: Brassica vegetables such as cauliflower contain vitamin C, manganese and other potent antioxidants which help in imparting nourishment across a wide array of healthful categories. Cauliflower also contains phytochemicals, called indoles and glucosinates namely, glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin and gluconasturtiian. These healthful components stimulate cancer-blocking enzymes and protect the body cells from the oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals.
Cardiovascular health: Cauliflower contains vitamin K which possesses anti-inflammatory qualities. Regular consumption of cauliflower ensures healthy blood circulation and helps in maintaining the blood vessels attributing to the presence of glucoraphanin. Glucoraphanin gets converted to isothiocyanates which activates anti-inflammatory activities and prevents accumulation of lipids in the blood vessels. This aids in unobstructed flow of blood which reduces the risk of conditions like atherosclerosis and promotes cardiovascular health. Isothiocyanate, indole-3-carbinol or I3C is an anti-inflammatory component which functions at the genetic level and inhibits the instigation of inflammatory activities at an early stage. As supported by studies, indoles have been proven effective on the synthesis of lipids, levels of triglycerides, cholesterol and maintain cardiovascular health. Research has also proved the anti-thrombotic and anti-platelet function of Indole-3 –carbinol which contributes significantly towards a healthy heart. Omega-3 present in the form of alpha-lenolenic acids in cauliflower adds up to this beneficial activity.
Stomach disorders: Cauliflower is a source of dietary fiber that aids in digestion and promotes elimination of toxins from the body. The presence of glucosinolate, glucoraphanin and sulforaphane in cauliflower protects the stomach lining and helps in resisting the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria. In addition to this defense mechanism, dietary isothiocyanates in cauliflower prevents the risk of various abdominal disorders such as stomach ulcers and colon cancer.
Respiratory papillomatosis: Cauliflower contains indole-3-carbinol which is effective in the treatment of recurrent respiratory papillomatosis. Respiratory papillomatosis is a disease caused by human papilloma virus which affects the vocal cords in the larynx, trachea, lungs and bronchi. Studies have shown that increased consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower aids in reducing the severity of respiratory papillomatosis.
Cancer: Cauliflower contains glucosinolates which breaks down to provide healthful compounds such as sulforaphane and isothiocyanates, called indole-3 carbinol. Studies have shown that these compounds have chemopreventive and anti-estrogen effects which help in hampering the growth of cancer cells. Research has provided supportive evidence for the fact that consumption of brassica vegetables such as cauliflower assists in reducing the risk of various types of cancers such as lung cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer.
Bone health: Cauliflower contains vitamin C which plays an important role in the production of collagen which protects the joints and bones from inflammatory damage. Also it contains vitamin K which may help in preventing bone loss in men and women.
Macular degeneration: Cauliflower rich is vitamin C and antioxidants may also be effective in reducing risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) which can lead to blindness, particularly in the elderly. Sulforaphane present in cauliflower protects the retinal tissues from damage caused by the oxidative stress, prevents vision impairment and various eye ailments such as cataracts.
Detoxification:-Inclusion of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower is extremely important for the body detox system. Cauliflower contains Indole-3-carbinol, a phytonutrient which along with sulforaphane helps in activating and regulating the function of detoxifying enzymes.
Ultra violet radiation: Research study has shown that the component sulforaphane present in cauliflower is effective in protecting the skin against the damage caused by ultra violet radiation. The protective action of sulforaphane defends the body against inflammations, skin cancer, UV-induced erythema and cellular damage.
Neurodegenerative disorders: Sulforaphane and indoles present in cauliflower play a key role in reducing the progression of neurodegenerative diseases. It activates the detoxification enzymes which elevates the level of glutathione and helps in treating the neuronal injuries caused by inflammation and oxidative stress in the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
Hypertension and cholesterol: Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of glucoraphanin and sulforaphane present in cauliflower helps in reducing the oxidative stress along with the levels of LDL and total cholesterol. It also promotes stimulation of HDL cholesterol and lowers the blood pressure. In addition to this, the fiber and Omega-3 fatty acid present in cauliflower also aids in reduction of bad cholesterol and prevents the hardening of arteries.
Electrolyte balance: Cauliflower contains potassium which is one of the major electrolytes in the body. The potassium content helps in maintaining the electrical balance in the body which is essential for the functioning of nervous system in the transmission of nerve impulses and muscle contractions.
Immune system: Cauliflower is rich in antioxidants and immune-strengthening nutrients. Along with other healthful components, the presence of vitamin C in the cauliflower helps in preventing various kinds of infections and strengthens the defense mechanism of the body by hampering the growth of disease-causing inflammation.
Obesity: Cauliflower contains healthful components such as indoles which possess anti-obesity effects. Studies have supported the fact that consumption of cauliflower is beneficial in preventing the inflammation and metabolic disorders in the body. It also helps in the stimulation of fat-burning thermogenesis and prevents obesity.
Pregnancy: Inclusion of cauliflower in the diet is beneficial during pregnancy attributing to the presence of essential folate which helps in healthy neural development of the baby and other essential vitamins and minerals along with fiber which promote overall health.
Brain and cellular health: Cauliflower contains choline and phosphorous which are effective in the repairing of cell membranes. This is essential for an efficient functioning of brain and nervous system for transmitting nerve signals. In addition to this, the presence of potassium and vitamin B-6 in the cauliflower also plays an important role in maintaining the brain health and promoting proper communication in the nerves by producing a range of required neurotransmitters including dopamine and norepinephrine.
Diabetes: Regular intake of cauliflower helps in reducing the risk of diabetes attributing to the presence of vitamin C and potassium. The potassium content in the cauliflower helps in regulating glucose metabolism. It is also utilized by the pancreas for secreting insulin hormone for taking action against the raised level of blood sugar in the body. Low levels of potassium in the body can eventually elevate the levels of blood glucose and pose a threat for diabetes. In addition to this, studies have supported that vitamin B-6 present in cauliflower is also effective in enhancing the tolerance of glucose in the patients with gestational diabetes.
Colitis: Studies have suggested that extracts from cauliflower exert anti-inflammatory effects in relieving the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. This protective effect attributes to the presence of the component, phenethylisothiocyanate which exerts healing effect on the damage occurred in colon tissues and colon epithelium.
Stroke: Research suggests that consumption of white flesh fruits and vegetables such as cauliflower helps in reducing the risk of stroke attributing to the presence of the compound allicin which also aids in cleansing of liver and blood.
Culinary usage: Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable which can fit smartly in the menu as a side dish or in the main course in diverse cuisines across the world. It can be lightly steamed or microwaved or can also be combined with other vegetables such as potatoes and peas for a delicious stir fry. Cauliflower can also be added to soups or can be shredded and used as a stuffing in the paranthas or stuffed Indian bread.
Cauliflower with clean, tightly bundled, creamy white florets with bright green leaves is the best ones to pick. Yellow, spotted florets with saggy leaves are the ones devoid of nutrition and freshness. Dark colored patches on the cauliflower may indicate the presence of mold disease known as downy mildew.
Cauliflower- word of caution
Warfarin: Cauliflower is rich in vitamin K which is utilized by the body for normal blood clotting. It can interact and reduce the effectiveness of anticoagulants like warfarin and coumadin which are prescribed to prevent the clotting of blood in the body. If taking anticoagulant drugs, it is always advisable to discuss regarding the dietary intake of foods rich in vitamin K such as cauliflower with a health professional.
Gas: Cauliflower contains complex carbohydrates which do not get broken down entirely in the digestive tract. These carbohydrates are fed upon by intestinal bacteria. This can sometimes result in bloating and release of odorous gases such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide.
Purines: Cauliflower contains purines which can cause health concerns, if consumed in excess. Purines break down to form uric acid and excessive intake of purine-rich foods can lead to buildup of uric acid in the body. This can further pave the way for uric acid related problems such as kidney stones and gout. It is advisable for people with such complications to limit their intake of purine-rich foods like cauliflower.
Anaphylaxis: Cauliflower may prompt anaphylaxis in some people causing a severe body allergic reaction to a substance. Warning signs of such allergic reactions include swelling in body parts, itching, dyspnea and breathing complications. It is always advisable to discontinue the usage of cauliflower in the occurrence of such critical symptoms and seek medical attention immediately.
Cauliflower also promotes hair growth and healthy skin attributing to the presence of sulphur and silicon content which also promotes the development of blood hemoglobin in the body. Cauliflower is an all-rounder vegetable which brings a nice flavor along with low-calorie nutrition to the diet. Inclusion of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower in the diet would go a long way in providing multi-dimensional benefits in the lifestyle.