Cauliflower is a member of the Brassica family, which includes other cruciferous goodies like broccoli, cabbage, turnips, mustard greens, and brussels sprouts. Although it originated in the Mediterranean, cauliflower is now common worldwide. Thank goodness.
Benefits of cauliflower: In brief
Among other benefits, cauliflower supports good bone, heart, digestive, and immune health. It may help prevent cancer too. How?
- It’s a nutrient-dense, plant-based whole food.
- It’s loaded with antioxidants, choline, and fiber.
- It’s a source of sulforaphane.
- It can support weight loss efforts.
- It’s a satisfying and low carb alternative to grains and legumes.
- It’s an incredibly versatile, easy-to-use ingredient.
Plus, cauliflower — in some form — is usually pretty easy to find. #AccessibleNutrition
In addition to being completely delish, cauliflower is a total win for your well-being. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and other wellness-boosting nutrients.
As a result, cauliflower helps support and promote robust and balanced health. Your heart, immune system, hormones, brain, and digestion will thank you for noshing on cauliflower.
Consuming a variety of fruits and veggies is critical because each offers a unique bundle of nutrition that you can’t find elsewhere. This brings us to some of the reasons cauliflower kicks ass and takes names…
If a food is nutrient-dense, that means it has a high ratio of nutrients to calories.
And for the 25 measly calories in 1 cup of chopped cauliflower, its lineup of nutrients is impressive and comprehensive. It provides at least some of almost all the macronutrients, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for adults.
So, what’s in cauliflower? Here’s how that 1 cup shapes up nutritionally. We’ve also calculated the percentage of the Daily Value (% of the DV) using the Food and Drug Administration’s updated figures.
|Amount||% of the DV|
|Total carbs||5 g||2%|
|Dietary fiber||2.1 g||7.5%|
What does this mean? Well, cauliflower provides a pretty good chunk of the daily fiber you need without overloading your carb count, and it’s super low in fat.
This is what makes it such a stellar low carb alternative to grains such as rice (as you’ll see below).
|Amount||% of the DV|
|Vitamin C||51.6 mg||57.3%|
|Pantothenic acid||0.714 mg||14.28|
|Vitamin K||16.6 µg||13.8%|
|Vitamin B6||0.197 mg||11.6%|
There you have it: packed with plant compounds and micronutrients and low in calories, carbs, and fats. It’s not a bad day at the office for cauliflower.
Cauliflower’s pretty abundant in antioxidants — especially when you eat it raw, according to a 2019 study. This being said, it still packs a hefty antioxidant punch when cooked. Steaming is the cooking method that retains the most antioxidants.
Free radicals are molecules that can cause the premature or harmful deterioration of cells — aka oxidative stress. This can lead to disease and issues related to aging. Antioxidants are the super-soldiers that snuff out the harmful free radicals roaming through your body. Antioxidants, assemble!
According to research from 2021, the main types of antioxidants in cauliflower are glucosinolates, phenolics, flavonoids, and chlorophyll. Many of the other vitamins and minerals in cauliflower — like vitamin C and manganese — also act as antioxidants.
These compounds might have the following effects in your bod:
- preventing and inhibiting cancer growth by protecting DNA from damage, working against cancer-causing compounds, triggering the death of cancer cells, and blocking blood vessel formation in tumors
- protecting against cardiovascular disease (CVD) — according to a 2018 research review, 26 studies back the powerful CVD-preventing properties of cruciferous veggies
- boosting your immune system and helping reduce inflammation
If you like good digestion and a healthy GI tract (and who doesn’t?), fiber is your BFF. Getting enough fiber in your diet can help keep your poops regular. It can also help support your immune system and reduce inflammation.
Research indicates that consuming ample dietary fiber every day has significant links to a lower risk of conditions like:
- Diabetes. According to a 2020 review of 44 studies, this goes for any type of fiber and any type of diabetes.
- Obesity. Fiber helps keep you full and slows down your stomach’s rate of emptying. This may contribute to weight loss and help reduce the health risks associated with obesity, such as CVD.
- Colorectal cancer. According to a 2020 review, dietary fiber may help protect against colorectal carcinoma — although the authors note that further studies are needed to find out more.
That’s a check in the “Win” column for cauliflower.
Choline is an essential nutrient that is key to brain and nervous system function. And cauliflower provides a significant amount.
Choline helps your body regulate your mood, memory, and muscle control, and you need it to make the membranes that surround your cells.
Your liver can produce a little choline, but most of what you need comes from foods. Aside from some beans and grains, cruciferous vegetables — like brussels sprouts, broccoli, and, yes, cauliflower — are among the richest plant-based sources of choline.
Sulforaphane is a plant chemical that hangs out in cruciferous veggies.
It has a good reputation for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and cell-protective properties. The authors of a 2019 review believe that these qualities make sulforaphane effective at countering the effects of:
- certain cancers
- heart disease
Research suggests it might also prolong the life span of your cells during aging and help reduce the risk of psychosis in people with schizophrenia.
People follow all kinds of diet protocols for all kinds of reasons. And those who are sticking to a reduced-carb (like keto) or legume-free (like paleo or Whole30) eating plan need reasonable alternatives for these staples.
Cauliflower is a great choice because it vibes with a variety of nutritional goals and, if prepped properly, can be a deceptively similar stand-in for grains and beans. It’s a shape-shifter and a plate-lifter.
Behold, rice’s Oscar-winning understudy.
If you’re looking for foods that can help you reach or maintain a moderate weight, cauliflower fits that bill.
Cauliflower can help in a couple of ways:
- Its high fiber and water content keep you feeling full longer than options with less fiber and water. In fact, several studies have cited cauliflower as a top veggie for bolstering weight loss efforts.
- When you replace less-nutritious foods with nonstarchy, nutrient-dense veggies like cauliflower, you’ll get the benefits of additional vitamins and minerals. Research suggests these nutrients can help regulate factors that influence your weight, such as metabolism, food intake, and energy levels.
Unless you’ve been living under a head of cauliflower in the dirt patch out back for the last several years, you probably know there’s no shortage of cauliflower recipes.
This just goes to show you how flexible and adaptive cauliflower is. Be sure to check out the recipes below to get your gears turning.
Broadly speaking, you can find cauliflower in one form or another at most grocery stores year-round.
Look in the produce area and you’ll probably find whole heads, precut florets, and riced bits. In the freezer section you’ll likely see florets, riced cauliflower, and premade side dishes. Some stores also have vacuum-sealed cauliflower rice packets and soups with cauliflower.
With so many options available, this wholesome veggie can be an easy and affordable addition to your routine.
If you’re looking to eat fewer carbs and calories, cauliflower can be a fantastic sub for white rice.
The calories are the first clear difference. One cup of chopped cauliflower has 28.8 calories, while the same amount of cooked glutinous white rice has 169 calories.
But how does cauliflower rice (we’ve used the data for 1 cup of chopped cauliflower below) compare to that cup of cooked white rice?
|% of the DV in cauliflower||% of the DV in white rice|
Most people can tolerate cauliflower pretty well. Allergic reactions to this veggie are rare. Gas (this, too, shall pass…) and bloating are possible side effects of consuming cauliflower.
But, as is probably the case with every other thing you slide down your gullet, some folks should approach cauliflower with care, including:
- People taking blood thinners. Due to its high level of vitamin K, cauliflower might interfere with these meds.
- Anyone taking medications that the liver metabolizes. Cauliflower could speed up the rate at which the liver metabolizes meds, which could make them less effective.
- Folks with digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Cauliflower is high in FODMAPs, complex carbs that may prove too tough to digest for folks whose GI tracts are compromised or already stressed. This may trigger IBS symptoms.
- Those with an iodine deficiency. Cauliflower may contribute to hypothyroidism (according to animal studies) or increase the risk of thyroid cancer in these individuals.
If any of the above applies to you, ya might wanna have a chat with your doc before re-cauli-brating your diet.
Cauliflower has a delicate flavor and pleasant texture that make it a very versatile vegetable. There are varieties that are gorgeous (and distinctively nutritious) shades of purple, green, and orange too. This means there are infinite delicious and beautiful ways to use this awesome veggie.
Here are some ideas to get your culinary creativity coursing. Consider these jumping-off points for your cauliflower explorations, and don’t be afraid to experiment with other flavor profiles by switching up the seasonings you use.
How to make your own cauliflower rice in 3 easy steps
For the gung-ho DIYers out there, making cauli rice is pretty easy.
- Cut your washed, dried, and trimmed cauliflower head into smaller, manageable sections.
- Grate the cauliflower chunks (or blitz them in a food processor) to create “grains.”
- Using a clean kitchen towel or paper towels, squeeze out any lingering water. This step is optional, but excess moisture can lead to mushy rice.
Now that you’ve riced your cauliflower, go forth and cook!
Basic and trending cauliflower recipes
- Cauliflower rice. Master the basic recipe, and then you can branch out into delights like stuffed peppers, lettuce cups, and fried rice.
- Cauliflower pizza crust. You didn’t think we’d forget to put a recipe for this in our list, did you? Once you’ve got the pizza crust done, go wild with all your fave toppings. Cauliflower is also useful in other baked goods, like bagels, breads, and rolls.
- Baked Buffalo cauliflower bites. You may never want a chicken wing again after munching on these oh-so-satisfying morsels that have rave reviews.
Tasty cauliflower treats and meals
- Very-veggie cauliflower hash brown breakfast bowl. You’ll really rise and shine if you start the day with this nutritious morning meal.
- Low carb stuffed cauliflower. Sometimes, you want to make something a tad more elaborate that serves as an all-in-one meal. This is that.
- Roasted shrimp and cauliflower with a Meyer lemon salsa. With herbs, aromatics, capers, and zest, this recipe has umami written all over it.
Savory snacks and sides
Beyond stepping in for rice or potatoes, cauliflower is finding itself in loads of other food-hack recipes too. For instance, you can create a “cream” alternative and swap cauliflower in for grains to make tortillas and noodles.
- Oven-roasted cauliflower with Parmesan. With a 5-star rating from more than 400 people, this toasty, caramelized preparation will surely be a palate pleaser.
- Cauliflower nachos. In lieu of chips, you’ll load thinnish cauli slices with go-to nacho garnishes. It’s a fiesta for your senses!
- Keto paleo roasted cauliflower hummus. This creamy spread is sure to win over a crowd of many. Or just yourself.
- Cinnamon bun cauliflower smoothie. OK, we know what you’re thinking. But give smoothied cauliflower a chance before you vote it off the island.
You can even make desserts with cauliflower! Check these out:
- Cauliflower dessert pizza with chocolate, almonds & berries
- Vegan strawberry cheesecake
- Vegan chocolate cauliflower bars
- Lemony cauliflower cake
- Cauliflower ice cream
Now, really — stop drooling or you’ll short out whatever electronic device you’re reading this on.
Working cauliflower into your dining regimen doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming or require extreme kitchen skills. And you won’t have to wrestle this into finicky mouths or plead with your fussy foodies until you’re blue in the face.
Consider these suggestions for adding more cauliflower to your eats and drinks:
- Try advanced food prep. Set aside some time each week to prep food (either whole meals or components you can toss together quickly). It’s often faster and easier to do all your cooking at once than several times throughout the week.
- Go bulk. Make a bunch at once and feed off of it for days. Or you can even freeze part of the bulk cauliflower you’ve just cooked.
- Buy pre-prepped. It’s cool if you wanna grab that carton of frozen riced cauliflower or bag of washed and cut florets. These convenience items can be huge time savers! Just remember that you’ll get the most health benefits by avoiding highly processed products.
- Get sneaky. Seriously, if you sneak some cauli rice into your soups, pasta sauces, etc., no one but you will know. In fact, the little bits may dissolve completely.
- Blenderize! Along the same lines, if you mince or puree the cauliflower enough, it’ll get creamy and combine well with ingredients to make dips or smoothies.
- Have fun with it. Get your family involved, maybe by taking turns picking out new recipes to try. If you view food prep as something enjoyable, it’ll likely feel like less of a chore.
- Remember why you’re doing it. What’s your reason for upping your cauliflower intake? Staying focused on your goals or purpose may help you stay motivated.
Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse. As a cruciferous vegetable, it’s jam-packed with vitamins and minerals — many of which are hard to come by in other food sources. It’s high in fiber and water and low in calories, carbs, sodium, and fat.
Given its strong nutrient profile, cauliflower boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities. It may be an effective functional food to help address health concerns such as:
- heart disease
- metabolic syndrome
- neurodegenerative disorders
- mental and behavioral health conditions
In addition to being a nutritional powerhouse, cauliflower is a readily available, easy-to-use, and versatile ingredient that’s a treat for all your senses.