Cauliflower is Everywhere

by Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN on April 11, 2019 · 0 comments

What makes cauliflower so popular and versatile as an ingredient? It is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family – cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale. All these vegetables are rich in glucosinolates which stimulates the body’s natural antioxidant systems. Once these systems are triggered a cascade of antioxidant activity is created that cycles over and over again for up to four days after a vegetable, like cauliflower, is eaten. This differs from the one-shot effect that is delivered from most antioxidants.

In plants, glucosinolates act as natural pesticides that are released from plant cells when there is tissue damage. When we eat plants, like cauliflower, the action of chewing releases glucosinolates into the body. They are believed to have anti-cancer properties, triggering the body’s detoxification system, slowing cancer cell growth and supporting cell repair. In addition to glucosinolates, cauliflower is rich in vitamin C and fiber and a good source of vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin K.

Though cooked fresh cauliflower contains many health-promoting products, some of the new cauliflower-containing foods may be far from the original plant and may not confer the same health benefits. When stored whole, with or without refrigeration, 11% to 27% of the natural glucosinolates were lost over seven days. When finely shredded, 75% was lost after only six hours. Like chewing, fracturing the vegetable – shredding or ricing – creates nutrient release and loss before you eat the food.

Cooking also destroys some of the beneficial properties of cauliflower. Boiling is the worst with over 50% of glucosinolates inactivated. In some cases 90% is lost. Steaming, microwaving and stir-frying showed the least nutrient loss. The size of the cauliflower pieces is also important. The bigger the more nutrients available. Though cauliflower rice may be all the rage it may prove to be less healthy than a head of cauliflower.

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