Ingredient Spotlight: Cauliflower

Cauliflower is actually a type of cabbage, but one in which the flowers never get beyond the bud phase. Like the other brassica family members, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, it seems to be especially protective against cancer and heart disease


It is packed with vitamins, minerals and powerful anti-carcinogenic compounds including the phytochemical sulforaphane, which not only stimulates the body’s own defences against disease, but also directly blocks tumours. In a recent study, it disrupted the growth of breast cancer cells in later stages. It is thought that brassicas reduce the risk of cancer by protecting DNA from being damaged, and research into the effects of eating cruciferous vegetables found a significant reduction in DNA cell damage in 20 healthy volunteers who had eaten 113g of cruciferous sprouts a day for two weeks.


Cauliflower’s main vitamin is C, with 100g – which is about a sixth of a medium-sized cauliflower head. Vitamin C’s primary role is in the production of collagen, which helps to form teeth, bones, skin and cartilage, but it is also a powerful antioxidant. Not only does it play an important role in wound healing, immunity, and the nervous system, it also helps to protect against cancer, as well as shielding ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol from the free radical damage that can lead to cardiovascular disease


B vitamins are well represented, with 100g of cauliflower providing excellent quantities of folate (essential for preventing spina bifida in the developing foetus but can also help reduce the risk of heart disease, vitamin B6 (gives you energy by helping the body to produce proteins and to metabolise) and vitamin B5 (essential for the proper function of the adrenal glands).


Eating good amounts of cauliflower could be a good way of protecting against inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. It’s an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are used by the body to produce anti-inflammatory prostaglandins – these can reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks and also protect against arthritis and rheumatism. And remember those huge vitamin C levels? Epidemiological research suggests that diets rich in vitamin C can protect against a type of rheumatoid arthritis, with those who ate the smallest amounts three times more likely to develop it than those who ate the most.

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