The health benefits of cauliflower

    julesjulesjules m on flickr

    Looking to freshen up your plate with a nutritional powerhouse? Food experts seem to agree that a vegetable to consider eating more of is the humble cauliflower. Long neglected as broccoli’s milder, paler cousin, this cruciferous vegetable is taking over from kale as the superfood du jour.

    While many people may be a bit put off by memories of the soggy, overcooked cauliflower that adorned weekday dinners in their youth, there is good reason to get on board with this versatile ingredient. When prepared properly, it’s tasty, filling and enormously nutritious – and this talented veg can do everything from flesh out a soup or salad, to stand in for starchy side dishes. It can even make a delicious, low-calorie pizza base!

    Nutritional benefits of cauliflower

    As more and more people take an interest in healthy eating, there’s a greater awareness than ever about the nutritional content of our food. No doubt that’s why cauliflower has emerged as a nutritional superstar – it boasts numerous health benefits.

    Like all cruciferous vegetables (these include broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts), cauliflower is high in fibre and an assortment of vitamins and minerals that are essential to good health. It contains numerous antioxidants that help combat free radical damage in the body (which can lead to cancer and other diseases), including a major dose of vitamin C, which plays a role in tissue repair and immune system support.

    Cauliflower is also rich in potassium (which helps regulate blood pressure) and folic acid (vitamin B9, which is especially important for foetal development). It is also a source of key sulphur-containing compounds that help detoxify and neutralise potential carcinogens, as well as vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids which help combat inflammation in the body.

    Cauliflower is an excellent choice for those watching their weight – 100g of cauliflower only contains 25 calories, so you can fill up guilt-free. It’s also low-glycaemic and virtually fat-free, making it a much healthier substitute for creamy, high-glycaemic sides such as mashed potatoes.

    How to prepare cauliflower

    Another great benefit of cauliflower is its versatility – there are many ways to prepare this vegetable and some fantastic cauliflower recipes, so you can easily incorporate it into your diet several times a week. Start by removing the outer green leaves and trimming any brown sections. Most people only eat the cauliflower florets, but the stems and stalk are also edible and are great for adding to soup stock or stews for extra flavour and nutrients.

    Cauliflower is delicious when lightly steamed or sautéed until just tender – be careful not to overcook it or you’ll lose some of the nutritional value and end up with a less appealing flavour and texture. You can also roast cauliflower in the oven or even carefully grill it. Crumble cauliflower florets to make a low-calorie couscous replacement, or add them to pasta sauce or rice dishes for extra texture.

    Of course, cauliflower is also delicious raw, whether chopped in a salad or served on its own with dip. Think hummus with cauliflower slices – this makes a balanced, filling snack that won’t impact your diet. To make it more visually appealing, try cauliflower in colours other than the standard white – it now comes in shades of orange, purple and pale green, as well.

    Low-carb cauliflower substitutes

    For those following a low-carb, low-fat or gluten-free diet, cauliflower can also be used in a variety of ingenious ways. Blend cooked cauliflower with a bit of water to make a smooth, fat-free replacement for cream in sauces or soups, or mash it and serve in place of potatoes as a side. As mentioned above, cauliflower can also stand in for couscous, or chop it finely to make “rice” – this cauliflower rice recipe from Paleo Cupboard is healthy, flavoursome and easy to make.

    Surely one of the cleverest uses of cauliflower, though, is as a low-carb pizza crust. By piling healthy veggie toppings on a cauliflower pizza base, you can still indulge your pizza cravings while saving on the fat and calorie content. Check out this lovely low-carb pizza from The Londoner for tips on how to do it.