Rachel Whitehall, student dietitian, Glasgow Caledonian University.

 

You may have heard that you should be eating the rainbow when it comes to vegetables however don’t write off cauliflower and other white vegetables just yet, as you will find that they are packed full of nutrients with many health benefits.

Cauliflower belongs to the brassica family, also commonly known as cruciferous vegetables, alongside some of its cousins, broccoli, cabbage, kale and turnip. Although cauliflower is available all year round, its peak season is between February to May and again from August to December.1 It can be bought frozen or fresh, and it is best to choose those with firm, compact, creamy heads with no dark spots and bright green leaves attached to their stem, to ensure you are buying them at their freshest.

One portion (80g) of chopped, raw cauliflower that will count as 1 of your 5 a day contains 24 calories, 2 grams of protein, 0.3 grams of fat, and 3.5 grams of fat.2

Cauliflower is a rich source of Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin meaning that our bodies cannot store it, so it is necessary to make sure we are getting adequate amounts from our diet. Vitamin C is essential for the growth and repair of body tissues, as well as the synthesis of collagen an important protein that helps give our skin strength and elasticity, along with replacing dead skin cells. It also plays an important role in the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and is a powerful anti-oxidant, protecting the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. The UK recommended nutrient intake (RNI) of Vitamin C for children aged 1 to 10 years is 30mg/day, 11-14 years 35mg/day and Adults (15 years +) 40mg/day.3 Eating one portion of raw cauliflower that’s in-season will provide around 45mg of Vitamin C and give you your full Vitamin C requirements for the day in one serving!2

Cauliflower is also a rich source of Folate containing 44µg within one raw portion, and is one of the B vitamins that help the body convert food into fuel, which is used to produce energy. Folate also works together with Vitamin B12 help make healthy red blood cells in the body and assist iron to work properly in the body. Folate is crucial for normal structure of the nervous system and proper brain functioning, and is essential for the synthesis of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material, which is particularly important during periods when cells and tissues are growing rapidly, such as in childhood, adolescence and pregnancy.

The UK recommended nutrient intake (RNI) of Folate for Adults and children over 11 years is 200 µg/day, and so consuming one portion of in season cauliflower will provide you with around 22% of your daily requirements. The RNI for children aged 4 to 6 years is 100 µg/day and increases to 150 µg/day for children aged 7-10 years due to the associated periods of rapid growth in childhood.3 Children, men and women not considering pregnancy should be able to obtain sufficient amounts of folate in their diet, however it is worth noting that women considering pregnancy are recommended to take 400 µg/day of folate preconception and up until 12th week of pregnancy to prevent the risk of neural tube defects.4

Cauliflower will also provide you with smaller amounts of a number of minerals and vitamins such as calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin, which are essential nutrients your body needs in order to work properly.  Cauliflower can also be a good source of dietary fibre, containing around 2 grams per raw portion, which may help to prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive system and reduce the risk of colon cancer.5 Increased fibre intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.6

As mentioned earlier, cauliflower belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables, which have been the subject of increasing health-related research due to their rich nutrient profile. Cruciferous vegetables contain a group of natural phytochemicals known as glucosinolates, which are sulphur-containing compounds and are responsible for the strong aroma of cauliflower. Currently ongoing research is investigating whether cruciferous vegetables may reduce the risk of certain cancers; however further investigations are required to be certain of their role in cancer prevention. Although in general, higher consumption of vegetables is associated with a lower-risk of all cause mortality, particularly cardiovascular disease. 7

Although cauliflower is most commonly baked or boiled, other ways to incorporate more cauliflower into your diet include blitzing florets of cauliflower in a food processor to be enjoyed as an amazingly lower-calorie, alternative to rice, that you won’t even be able to tell the difference. Just toss the blitzed cauliflower into a pan and add some seasonings such as garlic or parsley for extra flavour. Another tasty way of getting more cauliflower into your diet is to roast the vegetable in the oven.  Drizzle some olive oil and lemon zest over the florets and combine with two tablespoons of cumin and two teaspoons of turmeric and roast for around 30 minutes or until browned and tender, to create a spicy flavoursome, aroma.

 

References

  1. Vegetarian Society (2016), Seasonal UK Grown produce. Available from: https://www.vegsoc.org/page.aspx?pid=525 Accessed on 06.02.2017
  2. McCance, R.A., Widdowson, E.M., Royal Society of Chemistry. Information Services, Public Health England, Institute of Food Research & Great Britain. Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (2015), McCance and Widdowson’s the composition of foods, 7th summary edn, Royal Society of Chemistry.
  3. Gandy, J., Askews, British Dietetic Association & EBL 2014, Manual of dietetic practice, 5th edn, Wiley-Blackwell.pp.
  4. British Dietetic Association (2016) Food Fact Sheet- Folic Acid. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/FolicAcid.pdf Accessed on 06.02.17.
  5. World Cancer Research Fund (2011) Colorectal Cancer 2011 Report. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer. Available from: http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/Colorectal-Cancer-2011-Report.pdf Accessed on 06.02.17
  6. British Nutrition Foundation (2015) Dietary Fibre. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/dietary-fibre.html?limit=1&start=3 Accessed on 06.02.17
  7. Wang, X., Ouyang, Y., Liu, J., Zhu, M., Zhao, G., Bao, W. & Hu, F.B. 2014, Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies, BMJ (Clinical research ed.), vol. 349, pp. g4490.