The Health Benefits Of Cauliflower Feature Image

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Introduction

Cauliflower is a vegetable that is part of the same species as kale, broccoli, cabbage, and brussels sprouts. This species is known as Brassica oleracea. Interestingly, cauliflower is often forgotten about when people list healthy vegetables, but it has many of the same qualities as the other vegetables within this species.

In this article we are going to be taking a look at the seven health benefits of cauliflower.

1. Cauliflower Is An Excellent Source Of Vitamin C

While you may not think of cauliflower as your typical source of vitamin C, it actually contains 58% of your daily recommended intake (48.2mg per 100g).

Vitamin C has many benefits, particularly when it comes from your dietary choices rather than as a supplement. Studies have shown that it can reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress [1]. It may also fight inflammation, though more evidence is required.

A 2012 study on vitamin C found that it increased blood flow, possibly due to its effect on oxidative stress [2].

2. Cauliflower May Help Balance Hormones

Cauliflower is part of the Brassica oleracea family, all of which contain indole-3-carbinol. This is digested and then turned into a compound called Diindolylmethane (DIM). This compound has many benefits, and one of them is of particular interest.

There is a mistaken belief among many that DIM can increase testosterone in men by blocking estrogen. Because of this belief, many testosterone boosting supplements contain DIM. When taken in small doses (for example, when eating cauliflower) it can reduce excess estrogen activity. However, this will only happen if you have an excess of estrogen.

If you have excess testosterone, DIM can actually increase estrogen activity. This means that if you are a man suffering from elevated estrogen DIM can help to reduce estrogen and your testosterone levels will recover.

But if you have high levels of testosterone and take DIM it could actually increase estrogen rather than testosterone [3].

3. Cauliflower May Protect Against Breast Cancer

Again, thanks to cauliflower containing DIM it may very well have a protective effect against breast cancer. According to examine.com:

“Mechanistically, DIM appears to increase the activity of a genetic repair enzyme which is reduced in some breast cancers which is thought to confer protective effects” [4].

A 2001 study by Terry et al found that women who ate large amounts of cruciferous vegetables (which includes cauliflower) saw a reduced risk of developing breast cancer [5]. Another study by Zhang et al (1999) found that vegetables that were high in specific carotenoids and vitamins had a small yet significant association with reduced breast cancer risk in premenopausal women [6].

A 2015 study believes that a possible reason why cruciferous vegetables may prevent cancer is that the compounds contained within (indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane) “causes cancerous cell lines to take on a healthier, and more normalized appearance” [7].

But it is not just breast cancer that cauliflower may help to protect against. Studies have found that people who ate more cruciferous vegetables are lower at risk of developing prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancer [8].

4. Cauliflower May Prevent Cognitive Decline

As we get older our ability to think, remember, and reason can begin to decline (though this does not happen to everyone). Finding ways to prevent cognitive decline is becoming more and more important as humans are living longer and longer.

A 2012 study by Loef & Walach looked at the effect of eating fruit and vegetables on preventing cognitive decline and dementia [9]. The study found that increasing your intake of vegetables (including cauliflower) was associated with a reduced risk of dementia, and a slowing down of cognitive decline in the elderly.

5. Cauliflower Is High In Fiber

100g of cauliflower contains 2g of fiber, which is a decent amount. High fiber diets are all the rage, due to their ability to improve heart health, reduce the risk of certain cancers, and help you during diets (by keeping you fuller for longer).

A diet that contains lots of foods like cauliflower that are high in fiber is less likely to lead to obesity, as the fiber will help to reduce overall calorie intake [10].

6. Cauliflower Is The Perfect Low-Calorie Replacement Food

You may have noticed that recently a lot of diets have used cauliflower as a replacement for certain foods. Cauliflower rice instead of regular rice, grilled cauliflower instead of grilled steak etc., this is because cauliflower has quite a neutral taste and can pick up flavors from other foods easily, making it perfect as a replacement food.

100g of cauliflower contains just 25 calories, compared to 130 calories in 100g of rice, or 271 calories in 100g of beef steak. By replacing calorie-dense foods with lower-calorie replacements such as cauliflower you can continue to eat a large volume of food without consuming a lot of calories. Check out our article on the volumetrics diet if you are interested in this concept.

Conclusion

Cauliflower is a very healthy food, particularly thanks to it containing indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane. It is very adaptable in the kitchen and is a brilliant option for those of us looking to lose weight through a lower-calorie diet.

The possible ability of cauliflower and all cruciferous vegetables to prevent certain cancers is a huge bonus, though of course more research needs to be completed before we can say for sure whether there is a cause and effect relationship.

Check out some recipes for cauliflower steaks, curries, or even try cauliflower rice. This vegetable is going through something of a culinary renaissance after years of being seen as a dull vegetable that should be boiled and served with little thought for how tasty (and healthy) it can be!

Matthew Smith, BSc
Matthew Smith, BSc
Staff Writer & Fact Checker at DietProbe
Matthew Smith is a qualified sports scientist and registered exercise professional. He's a fitness and nutrition enthusiast and has a background in coaching and personal training.
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This article has been reviewed and fact-checked by a certified nutritionist, and only uses information from credible academic sources.