Whether they’re your all-time favorite side dishes or your childhood archnemeses, there’s no denying broccoli and cauliflower are some of the healthiest veggies around.
These cruciferous compadres are rich in antioxidants, surprisingly high in vitamin C, and low in calories. Since they’re both from the plant family Brassicaceae — which also includes their cousins cabbage and kale — it’s no coincidence that broccoli and cauliflower have a strong resemblance in nutrition and appearance.
But despite their shared roots, these two veggies aren’t identical twins. Beyond their obvious color difference, broccoli and cauliflower each shine in unique ways.
Does it really make a difference which one you pile on your plate? We’ve got the scoop.
Because they’re related, broccoli and cauliflower naturally provide lots of comparable nutrients.
They’re neck and neck in terms of calories, carbs, fiber, and protein, although cauliflower comes in slightly lower than broccoli in each of these categories. Broccoli is richer in some important micronutrients, like vitamins C and K.
Another area where broccoli and cauliflower are matchy-matchy (in a good way): They both fall under the umbrella of the “Clean Fifteen,” fruits and veggies grown with minimal pesticides.
Here’s a look at how the green and white bundles stack up nutritionally:
|1 cup (91 g) raw broccoli||1 cup (107 g) raw cauliflower|
|Carbs||6 g||5.5 g|
|Fiber||2.5 g||2 g|
|Protein||2.5 g||2 g|
|Vitamin C||90% Daily Value (DV)||57% DV|
|Vitamin K||77% DV||14% DV|
|Folate||14% DV||15% DV|
|Potassium||6% DV||7% DV|
|Manganese||8% DV||7% DV|
|Magnesium||5% DV||4% DV|
Similarities and differences
Cup for cup, cauliflower is ever-so-slightly lower in calories and carbs than broccoli but also contains less fiber. Broccoli, meanwhile, boasts significantly more of vitamins C and K than cauliflower does.
Cauliflower is definitely having a moment. With its mild, versatile florets replacing everything from rice to pizza crust, you might think it’s the low carb savior of humankind. But broccoli’s health benefits are just as impressive.
We’re happy to crown (pun intended) broccoli the antioxidant king.
Along with a select group of other green veggies, like bok choy and cabbage, it contains a compound called sulforaphane, which research suggests may reduce blood sugar and overall inflammation. Plus, it packs plenty of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants known for boosting eye health.
Not to be outdone, cauliflower boasts several cell-cleaning antioxidants of its own, including protocatechuic acid, quercetin, pyrogallol, and vanillic acid.
Both broccoli and cauliflower are rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that might play a role in the prevention of cancer, according to some research. In fact, a high intake of any cruciferous veggie has been associated with reduced risk of cancers of the lungs and colon, stomach, breast, and prostate.
While they’re busting free radicals and fighting cancer, broccoli and cauliflower also get to work for your heart.
A large research review from 2016, which looked at 25 years’ worth of studies, concluded that people who ate more cruciferous vegetables had reduced risks of several types of cardiovascular disease.
Good gut health is about so much more than taming tummy troubles. Your gut microbiome — the balance of bacteria in your digestive tract — can impact everything from type 2 diabetes risk to mental health.
Both broccoli and cauliflower help support a healthy microbiome. Their significant fiber content provides “food” to help the beneficial bacteria in your gut flourish.
You spy it out of the corner of your eye in the produce section: a swirl of lime-green, spiky peaks nestled in thick, cabbage-like leaves. Doth thine eyes deceive thee? Is this a magical hybrid of cauliflower and broccoli?
This unique veggie is known as broccoflower — and yes, it’s a cross-pollination of cauliflower and broccoli. It comes in two varieties. One looks essentially like cauliflower dyed green, while the other (also called Romanesco broccoli) has pointier peaks and a pyramid-like shape.
You can cook both types of broccoflower with the same methods you’d use for broccoli or cauliflower. With their funky, otherworldly appearances, you might even have more fun while you’re at it.
Once you’ve tried a truly amazing preparation of broccoli or cauliflower, there’s no going back to childhood disdain.
Looking for ways to up your veggie game? Start with roasting. Baking broccoli and cauliflower at high temps brings out their natural sweetness and adds a crisp tenderness that softens their bite. (We see you sneaking that perfectly browned floret right off the pan before dinner!)
Other high heat cooking methods, like grilling and pan-frying, do the same in even less time.
If you’ve never been a fan of broccoli or cauliflower but want to keep an open mind, try them in one-dish meals where they’ll blend with other flavors. Soups, salads, casseroles, and stir-fries all lessen the impact of the veggies’ more bitter flavor compounds.
Quick go-to broccoli recipe
Sweet Broccoli Salad
Whisk together a dressing of 1/2 cup olive oil mayo, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour it over 4 cups broccoli florets, 3 tablespoons diced red onion, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, and 1/4 cup slivered almonds. Stir to combine.
Quick go-to cauliflower recipe
Garlic Roasted Cauliflower
Preheat oven to 425°F (200°C). Chop one head of cauliflower into bite-size florets. Toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread evenly on a sheet pan and roast for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
If you’re eating both broccoli and cauliflower on the regular, good on you. We could all use more veggies in our diets, and joining forces with the cruciferous family is an especially nutritious choice.
For low carb, low calorie eating, cauliflower may have a slight edge over broccoli. But for vitamin and mineral content, broccoli comes out on top. You can’t go wrong including either (or both! or broccoflower!) as often as possible.