You've no doubt heard all about cauliflower. This protein-packed vegetable has become more and more popular and the star of many meals over the last few years as an excellent starch replacement for a surprising amount of foods. From comfort foods to energizing and making fast food even more healthful, it seems like it's everywhere—and for a good reason! But have you ever wondered why cauliflower, especially cauliflower rice is now such a popular choice for many Americans to include in their family meals? What exactly are the benefits of eating cauliflower rice over regular rice? Let's dive into this powerfully nutrient rich food and explore many of the benefits that come from adding it to your diet.
What is cauliflower anyway?Cauliflower is one of several vegetables that belong to a species called Brassica oleracea in the genus Brassica, which is in the Brassicaceae family, also known as the Mustard family. It's an annual plant which typically only the head is eaten. The edible white flesh is occasionally referred to as 'curd.' Cauliflower heads resemble broccoli, though broccoli differs in having tiny flower buds that are the edible portion. Other vegetables in the Mustard family include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, and kale.
What Health Benefits are There to Cauliflower?If you've ever looked at the nutrient profile of cauliflower, you'll find it is packed heavily with impressive vitamins and minerals. Let's go over a quick overview of exactly what nutrients are found in 1 cup or 128 grams of raw cauliflower:
- 25 calories.
- 3 grams of fiber.
- 77% RDI (Recommended Dietary Intake) of Vitamin C
- 20% RDI of Vitamin K1
- 11% RDI of Vitamin B6
- 14% RDI of Folate
- 7% RDI of Pantothenic acid
- 9% RDI of Potassium
- 8% RDI of Manganese
- 4% RDI of Magnesium
- 4% RDI of Phosphorus
FiberAs you can see, cauliflower is very high in fiber, which overall benefits many aspects of our health—those 3 grams found in just one cup of cauliflower equal roughly 10% of your daily needs. Getting enough fiber in your daily meals is essential as it feeds the healthy bacteria in our gut that helps reduce inflammation and promote digestive health.(1) Ensuring you add good sources of dietary fiber to your meal plans may also help prevent or reduce the risk of some digestive conditions such as constipation, diverticulitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).(2) (3) Research suggests consuming a diet high in fiber-rich vegetables like cauliflower could be linked to lowering the risk of several other illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, and even diabetes.(4) (5) (6) (7)
A Source for AntioxidantsCauliflower and cauliflower rice is full of antioxidants like vitamin A and vitamin C. These antioxidants are known to remove free radical particles from your body(8) and protect cells from inflammation. Free radicals are loose oxygen molecules that can damage your cells and may lead to cancer. By removing or reducing free radicals, antioxidants can assist in lowering the risk of cancer. Cauliflower is also high in glucosinolates and isothiocyanates.
Possibly Linked to Lowered Blood PressureA chemical found in broccoli and cauliflower, called sulforaphane, may be linked to lowering blood pressure.(9) Studies have shown that a correlation exists between regular consumption of this substance and lowered blood pressure. However, more studies need to be done in this area; the research so far remains extremely promising.
A Perfect Low Carb AlternativeRice is delicious food that is enjoyed across cultures worldwide. However, rice can turn into an unhealthy meal, depending on proportions as well as how it is prepared and a person's health factors (such as low-carb dietary needs). Suppose you have been looking for a low-carb alternative to rice as it is one of your favorite dishes or are simply trying to cut calories while increasing your vegetable intake. In that case, cauliflower rice is the perfect solution.
Tips for Preparing Cauliflower RiceLuckily, sources for cauliflower rice are in season all year round in various locations across North America. As a result, you can get cauliflower rice pre-prepared and frozen in grocery stores, health food stores, or purchase raw cauliflower from grocery stores and produce places to make your own. To create cauliflower rice from raw cauliflower, all you need to do is make sure the cauliflower is organic and break the head into smaller florets. Next, you'll place these florets into a food processor and pulse until the cauliflower pieces are roughly the size of a grain of rice.
- When it comes to cooking your cauliflower rice, don't use a pot and boiling water. It's a great stand-in for rice, but cauliflower rice doesn't need to be cooked in water like rice. Simmering it in water often leads to soft, mushy cauliflower rice that removes that toothsome texture that makes cauliflower rice such a great replacement.
- If using cauliflower rice in soups or salads, there's no need to cook it first. If it's used in a side dish, in a pilaf, or as a base for a delicious veggies bowl, a very quick sauté will soften it just enough without losing the firm bite. Cook in a bit of butter, olive, or avocado oil on the stovetop for roughly three minutes over medium heat should do the trick.
- If you enjoy meal prepping to create a week's worth of meals, making a week's worth of cauliflower rice at once can be tricky. Left in the fridge only after two days, cauliflower rice can become soft, not to mention, cauliflower can begin smelling strongly of sulfur. The pungent smell isn't an indication of spoilage, but it can quickly spread through your entire fridge. It's best to use your cauliflower rice the day it's been made.