Did you realise that cauliflower can fight various types of cancers, improve cardiovascular health and detox the body? The secret is in the cooking.
Cauliflower is the often overlooked member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Better known are the green cruciferae – broccoli, broccolini, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and collards. Yet, although not green, cauliflower’s white head contains a powerhouse of antioxidants, cancer-fighting compounds, anti-inflammatory nutrients and easily digested fibre.
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Cauliflower Improves Health Three Ways
There are three major ways in which eating cauliflower contributes to healthy living. They are:
The results are reduced risks of a range of cancers – bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer – according to a paper, Cruciferous vegetable feeding alters UGT1A1 activity: diet- and genotype-dependent changes in serum bilirubin published in April 2009 in the journal Cancer Prev Res. Eating cauliflower also contributes to improved cardiovascular health, and removal of harmful toxins.
Cauliflower’s Antioxidants Fight Cancer
Cauliflower is an excellent source of vitamin C and a very good source of manganese, as well as containing a large range of phytonutrients, all of which fight oxidative stress in the body’s cells.
These phytonutrients include beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol. Chronic oxidative stress causes cumulative damage to our cells and is a risk factor for development of many cancer types.
Cauliflower’s Anti-inflammatory Benefits
Chronic inflammatory responses, especially to unknown triggers, can significantly increase our risk of cancers, cardiovascular diseases and other chronic diseases. The effect of inflammation on cardiovascular risks was documented in Inflammatory mechanisms in ischemic stroke: therapeutic approaches published in November 2009 in the Journal of Translational Medicine
Researchers are looking into links between inflammatory responses and conditions such as Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, insulin resistance, irritable bowel syndrome, metabolic syndrome, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis.
Cauliflower provides us with two major ant-inflammatory compounds: vitamin K and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid. Vitamin K acts as a direct regulator of our inflammatory response, and ALA is the building block for several of the body’s anti-inflammatory messaging molecules.
As well as these two major compounds, cauliflower is a source of anti-inflammatory molecules called glucosinolates, which seem to work at genetic levels to prevent an anti-inflammatory response.
Detoxing with Cauliflower
We all know the benefits of regularly detoxing to remove unwanted environmental toxins from our bodies, but some detox regimes can be rather harsh. Cauliflower is full of detoxing antioxidants and its glucosinolates, including glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, and gluconasturtiian, all help to remove unwanted toxins.
Detoxing by eating healthy foods is the best and safest way to support the body’s immune system and prevent the development of inflammatory diseases or cancer.
The Best Way to Cook Cauliflower
Cauliflower is a mild flavoured vegetable, and its head, or curd, is quite soft compared to cabbage or Brussels sprouts. It is very easy to overcook it and destroy its antioxidants, as well as producing an unappealing mushy vegetable to put on the dinner plate. Overcooking also releases sulphurous odours from some of the phytonutrients
The best way to cook cauliflower is to stirfry the florets briskly, so that they remain slightly crisp, or to sauté them for five minutes in a little simmering stock. Do not use iron cookware or the cauliflower will turn an unattractive brown.
The cauliflower head can be broken up into really small florets and added to a salad, to be eaten raw, although not everyone enjoys the slightly bitter and sulphurous flavour. This can be minimised by briefly blanching in boiling water, and then dropping straight into iced water to stop the cooking.
The tiny leaves between the bigger sections of the head may also be eaten raw (but not the large outer leaves). These bigger leaves and the cauliflower stem can be added to soup stock.