Cauliflower tends to be one of the unsung heros of the winter vegetables, often overlooked in favor of the more popular vegetables in the Brassica species, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or kale. A good mix of these cruciferous vegetables is an important staple in the human diet, especially in the winter time, where this plant family is famed for thriving and providing a good variety of season-specific nutrients; however, due to a wide variety of preparation options, as well as an extremely impressive nutrient profile, cauliflower stands out as a true necessity in cold weather cooking. One of the most often quoted health benefits of cauliflower is its surprisingly high vitamin C content, with a cup of cauliflower fulfilling 86% of the daily recommendation for human consumption of this water-soluble vitamin. Most people know that vitamin C is used to help reduce the frequency and severity of winter’s most frequent visitor, the common cold, but other health benefits include this vitamin’s essential role in the production of collagen, which functions to build up the body’s tissue and bones, and it can also serve to combat fatigue and listlessness in the body. Additionally, this vitamin helps to improve iron absorption from food sources (a good iron intake is crucial for peak energy and mental performance), so try to be conscious of pairing your vitamin C with lentils, beans, or some spinach! Cauliflower also provides a good source of vitamin K (1 cup of cauliflower meeting 20% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin), which plays a big part in the formation of bones, and is also a direct regulator of our inflammatory responses. The list goes on and on: vitamin B, potassium, magnesium, molybdenum, manganese, iron, etc etc etc – but in addition to the impressive array of vitamins found within this surprisingly packed vegetable, there is also a all-in-one detox package present. Cauliflower is an incredible food for the detoxification of the body for several reasons: first, it contains a large amount of fiber, which is used to support the body’s natural cleansing process, but secondly, and this part is the real digestive gem, cauliflower contains , which makes sulforaphane,a molecule that breaks down toxins and fats, and helps to protect the stomach lining while also preventing bacterial overgrowth in the stomach. As if this remarkable molecule wasn’t enough, cauliflower does even more to support detoxification, as it is armed with exactly the right properties to provide antioxidant support through the first phase of detoxifying, and the nutrients needed to boost the second phase. So eating large amounts of raw cauliflower on a pretty regular basis is like giving your body a constant, and complete, detox package, which will in turn lead to a far healthier and more balanced digestive system and overall positive health functioning.
Note: ideally, try to consume cauliflower raw when you can, or at least very lightly steamed, as a lot of the vitamin C content, as well as the glucosinolates, are lost in cooking.
Now that we’ve completely dissected why cauliflower is such a little-known nutritional powerhouse, it would probably be helpful to figure out exactly how to eat this thing, because even though it does have a nice, crisp, fresh taste to it, I don’t think there are many people out there who would enjoy eating a bowl of raw cauliflower once or twice a day. So, here are some ideas on how to get your fill of this deliciously helpful vegetable:
– Baked: Personally, my absolute favorite way to consume cauliflower is lightly baked, along with chopped sweet potatoes and a handful of chickpeas, all covered in a drizzle of olive oil and some red pepper flakes. You bake them until slightly crispy, and then serve the mixture over a base of sauteed kale and mushrooms. Simple, delicious, and ridiculously nutritious, this tends to be my winter go-to for a quick and easy meal.
– Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes: A funky, healthy take on the traditional American mashed potato, the taste and consistency is surprisingly really, really similar, but the health benefits of this version are obviously significantly more impressive. To make, you simply cauliflower with a few white potatoes for about eight minutes, and then toss into a food processor with some garlic, sea salt, olive oil, and almond milk. When it’s finished processing, top with a dab of olive oil, a shake of sea salt, and some thyme.
– Cauliflower rice: Another traditional carb source turned health bomb, you can use cauliflower to make a scarily realistic rice substitute, which, in my opinion, tastes and feels much better than the original. Cauliflower is obviously far lighter and less course than rice, and so diving into a bowl of cauliflower rice is a much more pleasant prospect than to one of cooked white rice. You can use cauliflower rice in any rice recipe you know, but I tend to make it somewhat of an Asian dish, and my favorite recipe I’ve found so far has been for a cauliflower rice curry. To make this, you simply process the cauliflower lightly in a food processor, then sauté it with a little bit of coconut oil, stirring in some grated ginger, chili flakes, curry powder, sauteed mushrooms, and a few bamboo shoots.
– Roasted Moroccan Cauliflower: Because everything ever made Moroccan-style is just absolutely ridiculously delicious. Toss cauliflower in a mix of cumin, olive oil, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander seeds, grated ginger, lemon juice, and ground pepper, then roast them. Add some carrots in there too, if you’re feeling extra adventurous. Top this with raisins and almonds, and maybe even a dash of cinnamon.
– Raw, raw, raw: As much as we would love to always love raw foods, because of the maximum nutrient content, it’s not always the easiest, especially with vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. But even in the winter, I do have an undeniable love for Raw Spice Bowls, which are simply bowls full of raw mixed vegetables topped with various spices. My current go-to is shredded red cabbage, spiralized carrots, cauliflower, kale, sesame seeds, chili flakes, cilantro, and sriracha, and topped with walnuts, a dash of sea salt, and a tiny bit more cilantro (never enough..). Pictured below.
– Quinoa Cauliflower Patties: Some link love here, but this recipe from Sprouted Kitchen is too perfect to pass up. Quinoa and cauliflower in one meal? With lemon and parsley, served on top of greens? Yes, please and thank you.