Cauliflower is part of a family known as cruciferous vegetables. This class of vegetables also include broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage. Surprisingly, cauliflower is the most consumed vegetable of its class.
Cauliflowers origins are thought to be from Cyprus with documentation of this vegetable dating back to the 12-13th Centuries. It was introduced in France during the 16th Century and during this time, was considered a delicacy. Its introduction into India commenced in the mid 19th centuries by British explorers. Today, China and India produce 74% of the world’s cauliflower.
There is quite often a misconception that because cauliflower is white, it doesn’t have the same nutritional benefit as its greener relatives. This is certainly not the case. It contains a high amount of Vitamin C, K and B group vitamins and is extremely rich in phytonutrients.
The largest phytonutrient class that cauliflower comprises of are called glucosinolates. These glucosinolates are sulphur containing compounds that are of interest for researchers. Some research is indicating these compounds have a beneficial role with improving liver detoxification and may have some antioxidant properties and therefore reducing oxidative stress in the body. There is still much research that needs to be conducted to determine the absolute benefit these compounds can have on the human body.
The way in which cauliflower is prepared, can greatly impact its nutritional value and the availability of certain nutrients. Steaming and stir frying are the best ways to prepare this vegetable. When it is boiled, 20-30% of nutrients can be lost within 5 minutes and 40-50% after ten minutes and 75% after thirty minutes.
There have been constant concerns surrounding the consumption of cauliflower and its goitrogenic effect. It is correct that cauliflower does has goitrogenic properties however, the form it is consumed in, plays a huge role here. Goitrogens can inhibit the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland and as a result, are to be avoided when the thyroid is under functioning. However, goitrogens are only detrimental to the thyroid gland, when consumed in their raw state. Consuming cooked cauliflower will not have a detrimental effect on thyroid function and should be encouraged for its antioxidant properties.
Cauliflower is quite a versatile vegetable and can be added to a variety of different cuisines and with its promising nutritional benefits, it’s a great vegetable to add to your daily diet.
Written by Annmarie Cannone
M.Hum Nut, Grad Dip Naturopathy, B.App Sci (Naturopathic Studies)