Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea in the genus Brassica, which is in the Brassicaceae (mustard) family. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Only the head is eaten – the edible white flesh sometimes called “curd” (with a similar appearance to cheese curd).
Cauliflower is available in four major groups: Asian, Italian, northwest European biennial, and northern European annuals, represented by more than a hundred varieties. Apart from white, it also comes in several other colors listed below.
Orange: Orange cauliflower is highly nutritious and contains a huge amount of vitamin A, as compared to the white variety.
Purple: The antioxidant group, anthocyanins, available in the purple cauliflower provides the color of this variety.
Green: Green cauliflower is referred to as broccoflower. It can be found in a normal curd-shaped form as well as in a spiky variant called Romanesco broccoli.
Health benefits of cauliflower are as follows:
- Prevents stroke. White flesh fruits and vegetables like cauliflower protects the brain from injury associated with stroke due to the presence of compound- allicin. These effects may be due to allicin’s anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to prevent programmed cell death (apoptosis).
- Helps fetal growth. Including this vegetable in your diet during pregnancy helps in the healthy neural development of the baby preventing neural tube defects.
- Iron absorption. Vitamin C in cauliflower helps to better absorb iron in the blood which helps to increase the production of hemoglobin in the body.
- Detoxifies the body. Indole-3-carbinol, a phytonutrient that, along with sulforaphane, helps in activating and regulating the function of detoxifying enzymes responsible for metabolizing and getting rid of harmful compounds from the body.
- Hair care. Promotes hair growth due to the presence of sulfur-containing amino acids (precursor for making hair keratin proteins), and silicon (responsible for promoting growth and shine).
- Reduces the risk of nervous disorders. The sulforaphane present in cauliflower plays a key role in reducing the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.
- Maintains electrolyte balance. Potassium in cauliflower helps in maintaining the electrolyte balance in the body, which is needed for blood pressure control and nervous system function including muscle contractions and transmission of nerve impulses.
- Boost immunity. Rich in antioxidants and immune-strengthening nutrients. Along with other healthy components, the vitamin C in it inhibits various infections and strengthens the defense mechanisms of the body.
- Heals colitis. Extracts from cauliflower exert anti-inflammatory effects on the symptoms of ulcerative colitis. This effect can be attributed to the phenethyl isothiocyanate, which exerts a healing effect on the damage occurring in colon tissues and the colon epithelium.
- Manage diabetes. Regular intake of cauliflower may help in reducing the risk of diabetes due to the presence of potassium (helps in regulating glucose metabolism) and Vitamin C. Also vitamin B6 is effective in enhancing the tolerance of glucose in patients with gestational diabetes.
- Improve brain health. Cauliflower contains phosphorus and choline, which are both effective in repairing cell membranes. This is necessary for the efficient functioning of the brain and nervous system for transmitting nerve signals. Also vitamin B6 and potassium plays a key role in maintaining brain health and promoting proper communication in the nerves.
- Prevent obesity. Cauliflower is beneficial in preventing various metabolic and inflammatory disorders in the body. It also helps in the stimulation of fat-burning thermogenesis, aids in weight loss and prevents obesity.
- Reduce hypertension. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of the glucoraphanin and sulforaphane in cauliflower help in reducing oxidative stress, along with the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, promotes the stimulation of HDL (good) cholesterol and lowers blood pressure.
- Skin care. Sulforaphane present in cauliflower is effective in protecting the skin against the damage caused by ultraviolet radiation such as UV radiation-induced inflammations and skin cancer, against UV-induced erythema, and cellular damage.
- Macular degeneration. It is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and thus, may slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness, particularly in the elderly. The sulforaphane protects the retinal tissues from damage which can help prevent vision impairment.
- Improve bone health. Cauliflower contains vitamin C, which plays an important role in the production of collagen that protects the bones and joints from inflammatory damage. It can even help in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Also, it contains vitamin K, which “attracts” calcium to the bone.
- Slows the progression of respiratory problems. Eating cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, aids in reducing the severity of respiratory papillomatosis.
- Prevent stomach disorders. The presence of glucosinolate, glucoraphanin, and sulforaphane in this vegetable protects the stomach lining and helps in resisting the growth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria. The dietary fiber aids in digestion and helps getting rid of toxins from the body.
- Anticancer potential. Indole-3-carbinol has chemopreventive and anti-estrogen effects that help in hampering the growth of uterine cancer cells.
- Improve cardiovascular health. Eating this vegetable helps blood circulation and maintain the proper functioning of blood vessels. The antithrombotic and antiplatelet function of Indole-3-carbinol, contributes towards a healthy heart.
- Prevent oxidative stress. Cauliflower contains vitamin C, Vitamin E, manganese, and other powerful antioxidants that help in passing on nourishment to the body.
Excess eating of this vegetable can lead to the following:
- Gas. Cauliflower contains fiber and complex carbohydrates that do not get broken down entirely in the digestive tract thus resulting in bloating and release of odorous gas.
- Allergies. May cause a severe bodily allergic reaction. Warning signs of such allergic reactions include swelling of certain body parts, itching, dyspnea, and breathing complications.
- Uric acid. Cauliflower contain purines which break down to form uric acid and excessive intake can lead to a build-up of uric acid in the body thus making way for uric acid-related problems such as kidney stones and gout.