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Cauliflower Packs a Cancer Fighting Punch

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

July 6, 2021

Yes, you have been bombarded with information about the health benefits of cauliflower in low-card diets. But did you know that this vegetable is packed with cancer-fighting proteins and nutrients, perfect for your next dinner party.  It’s time to give this versatile food another five minutes of fame.

Cauliflower is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, and as such, it has extraordinary health benefits. One cup of white cauliflower provides only 28 calories, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamins B5, B6, and B9, among other nutrients.

Cauliflower also contains several cancer-fighting phyto-chemicals and plant sterols such as indole-3-carbinol, sulforaphane, and Di-indolyl-methane. These compounds help the body produce a greater number of liver enzymes that can help detoxify and facilitate the elimination of carcinogens from the body. They also give the cauliflower antioxidant properties. Here some specific functions of these compounds:

  • Sulforaphane compounds may block tumor initiation by inhibiting the conversion of procarcinogens to carcinogens. Once cancer exists in the body, sulforaphane may also act, via several mechanisms that modulate cell growth and cell death signals, to suppress cancer progression.
  • Indole-3-carbinol is an antioxidant that may reduce plaque formation in the blood vessels, and may support regulation of healthy estrogen levels in men and women. Indole-3-carbinol also may inhibit cell proliferation and may induce cell death for a variety of tumors in the breast, endometrium, prostate, and colon.
  • Di-indolyl-methane may modulate the immune system and have anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects.

Phytochemicals from cruciferous vegetables may lower overall cancer risk, including colon and prostate cancer, by acting as chemo protective agent inhibiting enzymes involved in carcinogen activation, and including cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (death of cancer cells).

Due to its texture and being low in carbs, cauliflower is a healthier substitution for potatoes or rice in several dishes. However, one should be careful when cooking cauliflower because its enzymes and phytonutrients are heat-sensitive. Avoid boiling the cauliflower. Cooking for 30 minutes or more actually decreases cauliflower’s health benefits by 75%.  Instead, prefer quick cooking methods to preserve more phytochemicals (steaming or quick stir-fries).

How to buy: Look for heads that are white or vibrant in color, are compact, and feel heavy. Avoid heads that have separated or have bruising or damage.

How to store: Store in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator in a plastic or paper bag. Place stem side down to prevent the moisture from collecting in the florets. Fresh cauliflower stored in this manner will keep for 7-10 days.

Fun facts

  1. Cauliflower originally came from Cyprus, and was introduced to France in the sixteenth century.
  2. Cauliflower is a flower that has not fully developed yet and it comes in four colors: white, yellow, green and purple.
  3. Green cauliflower is actually a cross between cauliflower and broccoli.
  4. The leaves on cauliflower are edible. Find my original recipe here.
  5. As it grows, cauliflower head is surrounded and protected by leaves. The lack of sunlight results in no color pigmentation, leaving it white.

The recipe of the week comes via: Once upon a chef

Cauliflower fried rice

Ingredients

  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Salt
  • 1 cup chopped scallions, light and green parts separated (you’ll need 5-6 scallions)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 lbs. ready to cook’ cauliflower
  • 4-5 tablespoons soy sauce (or aminos sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Asian/toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup cashews or peanuts (optional)

Directions

  • Heat 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil in a large (10 or 12-inch) nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the eggs and a pinch of salt and scramble until the eggs are cooked. Transfer to a small plate and set aside. Wipe the pan clean.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil to the pan and set over medium heat. Add the light scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the grated cauliflower, 4 tablespoons of the soy sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes. Add the peas and carrots and continue cooking until the cauliflower “rice” is tender-crisp and the vegetables are warmed through, a few minutes. Stir in the rice vinegar, sesame oil, dark green scallions, nuts and eggs. Rectify seasoning with remaining soy sauce if necessary.

References:

  1. http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/cauliflower.html
  2. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103345/nutrients
  3. http://academics.hamilton.edu/foodforthought/our_research_files/cabbage_cauliflower_kale.pdf
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6141106/
  5. http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/124303/1/Indole-3-carbinol.pdf
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5989150/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4197384/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2579766/
  9. http://plants.alaska.gov/pdf/Cauliflower%20Brochure.pdf
  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cauliflower
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