Cauliflower has versatile nutrient profile as a vegetable with an easy-to-cook nature which makes it a staple of diet for many. You can make cauliflower into a dozen different dishes, from cauliflower steaks to cauliflower rice to creamy cauliflower bacon.
Cauliflower is low in carbs and high in vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and fiber. It also has a moderate amount of vitamin K1 and contains sulforaphane, glucosinolates, carotenoids, and indole-3-carbinol. The following are the functions of the nutrients:
You need vitamin C for collagen and connective tissue formation. Your body also uses it to manufacture glutathione, enhance immune function, and prevent free radical damage.
Vitamin C is sensitive to heat, so you will lose a lot of cauliflower’s vitamin C if you cook it. You can help preserve vitamin C by cooking cauliflower at lower temperatures, or by eating it raw. If you insist on cooking your cauliflower, you may want to consider supplementing with vitamin C.
Sulforaphane is what gives your kitchen that funky smell when you’re cooking cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. This compound has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It also works with glutathione to remove toxins from human cells.
Glucosinolates and Indole-3 Carbinol
Like sulforaphanes, glucosinolates are sulfur-containing compounds that give off a pungent aroma. Glucosinolates are broken down (through food prep, digestion, and chewing) to form biologically active compounds — indoles, nitriles, thiocyanates, and isothiocyanates. Studies show that these compounds, especially indole-3-carbinol, inhibit the development of cancer in rats and mice. Glucosinolates also protect cells from DNA damage and have anti-inflammatory effects.
There is some concern about glucosinolates inhibiting thyroid function, particularly in iodine-deficient people with autoimmune issues. If you fit that bill, stick to cooked cauliflower, or try a small amount of raw cauliflower and see how it makes you feel. If you do not have an autoimmune issue, you are probably fine eating raw cauliflower, provided you are not eating tons of it.
Cauliflower has a moderate amount of vitamin K1 (31µg/100g). Your body converts some K1 into K2, but humans don’t convert it very efficiently and we don’t absorb much dietary K1. That’s why some prefer to get K2 from grass-fed animal products like butter and organ meat.
Still, K1 will give you a modest boost in K2. Cooking doesn’t damage K1, and studies show microwaving can even enhance its absorption (but that is definitely not a compelling enough reason to start using the microwave).
This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 6, 2016.