Food as Medicine: Cauliflower

March 23, 2017
By: Kathleen Walters


Making the Case for Cauliflower

Cauliflower is a staple vegetable that is not only versatile in the kitchen, but it also packs a nutritious punch. It provides a good source of vitamins A, C, and K as well as folate, potassium, and magnesium.  A cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower runs in the same family as broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, radishes, collards, and watercress, among others. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower contain phytochemicals that reduce inflammation and protect against cancer.

Sulfur-Containing Compounds and Cauliflower

Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates, the sulfur-containing compounds that cause the bitter flavor and strong aroma of cauliflower. When cruciferous vegetables are chopped or chewed, myrosinase plant enzymes catalyze the hydrolysis of glucosinolates and bioactive compounds are produced, including indoles and isothiocyanates. These hydrolysis products may protect against cancer by altering cell-signaling pathways, eliminating carcinogens before DNA damage occurs, and by affecting metabolism or hormone activity to impede hormone-sensitive cancers from developing.

Cruciferous Vegetables and Genetics

Genetic variants also may play a role in the effectiveness of cruciferous vegetables in cancer prevention. Some genetic polymorphisms have been identified that result in lower activity of glutathione S-transferase (GST) enzymes that eliminate isothiocyanates from the body.  Lower activity of these enzymes could result in isothiocyanates remaining in the body for longer periods of time.  In fact, research has shown inverse associations between intake of cruciferous vegetables that produce isothiocyanates and risk of colon and lung cancer in individuals with these genetic variants. GST enzymes are also important for the detoxification of carcinogens, so consuming cruciferous vegetables is even more critical for individuals with lower amounts of GSTs.

Cauliflower is Versatile in the Kitchen

Although cauliflower is a nutrient-dense vegetable with great benefits, it may not be at the top of your grocery list or those of your patients and clients. As previously mentioned, cauliflower has a bitter flavor and strong aroma caused by sulfur-containing glucosinolates, potentially making it less appealing. However, cauliflower can be prepared in a number of ways that make it a satisfying and tasty food.

Below are a few recipes to help you reap the benefits of cauliflower and enjoy a scrumptious meal:

Try this cauliflower rice recipe with a blend of kidney beans, diced bell peppers, and green onions as a flavorful and filling dish.



Serve cauliflower mashed potatoes as a side to your favorite entrée.

Create a nutritious, powerhouse dish with this roasted turmeric cauliflower recipe from The Endless Meal.



Swap beef, pork carnitas, or shredded chicken for cauliflower in this cauliflower bean burrito recipe.

Try this cauliflower pizza crust recipe and add your favorite toppings to create a filling, delicious meal that your whole family will enjoy.


You can also try cauliflower recipes to make bread, “steak,” soup, stir fry, “Alfredo sauce,” tacos and more! The possibilities are endless with this cancer-fighting, delicious veggie.