The Power of the Humble Cauliflower

The Power of the Humble Cauliflower

Discover the versatility and health advantages of the Cauliflower, the head of the cruciferous vegetable family with Sunila Kelkar

Cauliflower is a humble vegetable which is available throughout India all year round. It is gluten free and has a low glycaemic index making it a good inclusion in a diabetic friendly diet. The health benefits of cauliflower are such that they will put many often touted vegetables to shame. It provides a good substitute for foods in recipes that include carbohydrates and proteins.

Raw cauliflower nutritional facts

  • Vitamin C – 46.4 mg

  • Vitamin K – 16.0 mcg

  • Folate – 57.0 mcg

  • Vitamin B6 – 0.2 mg

  • Fibre – 2.5 g

  • Manganese – 0.2 mg

  • Vitamin B 5 – 0.7 mg

1 cup of steamed cauliflower (124 gms) contains 29 kcal.

Health benefits of eating cauliflower

The important health benefits of cauliflower include providing substantial protection against cancer, Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Cauliflower as an antioxidant

Phytochemicals are plant compounds that display anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-proliferative properties, making them ideal cancer fighters. Cauliflower contains compounds called indoles which are crucial for cellular health. Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a compound that supports the immune system and also prevents hormone imbalance. Dim protects normal cells and tissues of cancer patients during therapy and helps prevent illness caused by radiation exposure in healthy people. Additionally, cauliflower when combined with turmeric is known to reduce risk of prostate cancer.

  • Anti-inflammatory Benefits

Cauliflower is as an excellent source of vitamin K – the direct regulator of our inflammatory response. In addition, compounds found in cauliflower are readily converted to indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which is an anti-inflammatory compound that works at the genetic level and prevents the initiation of inflammatory responses at a very early stage. Cauliflower contains glucoraphanin content that can be converted into the isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane which triggers anti-inflammatory activity in our cardiovascular system. This prevents chronic unwanted inflammations which significantly increase our risk of cancers and other chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases. Cauliflower which is rich in vitamin C helps modulate inflammation

  • Cauliflower aids digestion

Researchers have determined that the sulforaphane made from a glucosinolate in cauliflower) can help protect the lining of your stomach.

Cauliflower and Diabetes

Inflammation plays a rather sinister role in the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. Chronic inflammation results in insulin resistance which in turn disrupts normal glucose tolerance. This eventually leads to the development of Type 2 Diabetes.

A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine showed that people with low potassium blood levels had a 64 per cent greater risk for Type 2 Diabetes. Potassium is required by the beta cells in the pancreas to identify an increase in blood sugar levels. The beta cells then secrete the hormone insulin to regulate the increase. In people with low levels of potassium, beta cells have a decreased sensitivity to an increase blood glucose levels. As a result, they fail to identify and initiate the corrective measure of increasing the insulin output. Over time, this impairs glucose tolerance and increases the risk of Diabetes. Cauliflower which is rich source of potassium, might help regulate glucose metabolism.

Cauliflower selecting and storing tips

  • Cauliflower is freshest during the growing season from December through March.

  • Select a cauliflower that has a full, creamy white head and tight bud clusters. Heads surrounded by many thick green leaves are better protected and tend to be fresher. Avoid cauliflower with the appearance of small brown spots.

  • Pre-cut cauliflower needs to be eaten within one or two days. Cooked cauliflower which has been placed in the refrigerator needs to be consumed within two to three days.

How to eat it?

Ways in which Cauliflower can be consumed are many – it can be eaten cooked/ blended/ pickled/ raw/ blanched/ caramelised in a skillet/ roasted/ purreed.

Ideally cauliflower should not be cooked beyond 20 minutes. There is no significant loss of nutrients if it is:

  • Steamed up to 20 minutes

  • Cooked in a microwave up to three minutes

  • Stir fried up to five minutes

The worst way to cook cauliflower is by boiling it. Scientists from the University of Warwick have pointed out that boiling seriously hampers the cancer-protective substances called glucosinolates. The cauliflower loses 75% of its nutritive value after being boiled for 30 minutes.

Cauliflower Methi Subji

Recipe by Tushima Mashelkar, Consultant Nutritionist at Chellaram Diabetes Clinic Ingredients:

  • 1 medium cauliflower chopped into florets (cleaned and soaked in salt water)

  • 2 bundles of cleaned and washed fenugreek (methi leaves)

  • 3 medium onions

  • 3-4 green chillies

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

  • Salt as per taste

  • 1 tablespoon oil


  • Finely chop onion. Heat oil in a nonstick pan. Add chopped garlic and green chillies.

  • Add chopped onion and cauliflower florets and sauté for five minutes till it is done.

  • Add methi leaves and sauté for another few minutes.

Diabetes Health Magazine