Cauliflower is a vegetable most notable for its rounded white curds surrounded by a bed of leafy greens. This healthy vegetable is closely related to broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and turnips -- and similarly is good for you. Of the many ways to cook cauliflower, steaming it is one of the best, as it helps to retain nutrients and other phytochemicals for optimal health.
Cauliflower is a cool season crop and part of the Brassica family of vegetables. Although it is typically available with a white head of curds, cauliflower comes in a variety of colors from lime green to orange to bright purple. The purple varieties are a rich source of valuable antioxidants called anthocyanins that are not present in traditional white cauliflower. Usually, the curds are used in cooking and the leafy stems surrounding the cauliflower head are discarded.
Cauliflower is very low in fat and cholesterol-free. A 100 gram, or 3.5 ounce, serving of cooked white cauliflower has 23 calories, 4 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 2 grams of sugar and about 2 grams of protein. This size serving contains only 15 grams of sodium. Cauliflower is a rich source of vitamin C, with 44 milligrams, and folate, with 44 micrograms in a 100 gram serving.
Steaming cauliflower helps to retain its nutrients. Boiling can wash important water-soluble nutrients away into the cooking water. Sometimes more salt is added when boiling vegetables, unnecessarily increasing the sodium content. Also, researchers at the University of Warwick note that the Brassica family of vegetables contain substances called glucosinolates that may have cancer-fighting properties. When researchers tested glucosinolate levels in cauliflower after boiling, more than 75 percent had been lost. However, steaming and other cooking methods such as microwaving and stir frying were found to help retain glucosinolates in cauliflower and other Brassica vegetables.
When choosing white cauliflower, look for heads that are creamy colored and tightly packed and compact. Avoid cauliflower with brown spots and loose heads. The leaves surrounding the curds should be bright green and not wilting. You can refrigerate cauliflower in a plastic bag for up to five days. Cauliflower is a versatile food -- you can eat it raw, steamed, boiled, microwaved, baked or roasted. You can add it to salads, top it with cheese as a side dish or cook it with Indian spices for a tasty curry dish.
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: Cauliflower
- Food and Nutrition Board - Institute of Medicine: Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins
- North Carolina State University Horticulture Information Leaflets: Cauliflower
- University of Warwick: Research Says Boiling Broccoli Ruins Its Anti Cancer Properties
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Cauliflower
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.