Health Benefits of Cauliflower (White, Purple and Yellow Varieties)
Everyone is familiar with the white cauliflower, but there are purple, orange, and yellow cauliflower varieties, too. Although all these cultivars have some nutritional characteristics in common, they also show some interesting differences when it comes to cauliflower's health benefits. Purple cauliflower, for example, gets its rich purple color from anthocyanins, flavonoid pigments that also give red cabbage, purple carrots, and many berries their purplish hues – and their extraordinary health benefits. Yellow and orange cauliflower varieties, on the other hand, get their bright colors from carotenoids, vital nutrients that help keep your skin, mucous membranes, and eyes healthy. To learn al about how eating white, yellow, and purple cauliflower florets can boost your health, keep reading.
Step Up Your Vitamin C Levels with Cauliflower
When we think of vitamin C, we typically think of citrus fruit such as lemons or navel oranges. But also many cruciferous vegetables contain significant levels, and cauliflower is one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin C among cruciferous vegetables. With 46 milligrams of vitamin C per a 100-gram serving, cauliflower outshines crucifers like red cabbage, broccoli rabe, Chinese broccoli, bok choy, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, and savoy cabbage in terms of vitamin C content. Vitamin C is perhaps best known for its immune-boosting properties, but the vitamin C in cauliflower can also help keep your skin, bones, and teeth strong and healthy.
To get the most vitamin C out of your cauliflower dishes, only buy cauliflower that looks fresh – cauliflower that's been in the grocery store for several days contains significantly less vitamin C than freshly harvested produce. Furthermore, a study published in the February 2009 edition of the journal Food Chemistry reported that also freezing can reduce the vitamin C content of white and green cauliflower varieties significantly (but not of purple cauliflower).
Benefits for the Heart
A growing body of evidence also suggests that vitamin C may help reduce the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases. A study published in the April 2004 edition of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that the study participants who received a daily Vitamin C supplement experienced a 24% drop in their plasma CRP levels after just two months. CRP levels, which stand for C-reactive protein levels, are considered to be a good measure of a person's heart disease risk, potentially even better than cholesterol levels.
In addition, cauliflower supplies your body with a good amount of vitamin K, another nutrient that is believed to play a key role in keeping your heart and overall cardiovascular system strong and healthy. Vitamin K appears to work its cardioprotective magic by pushing calcium into your bones, instead of directing it into your arteries.
Add Cauliflower to Your Anti-Cancer Diet
Even though cauliflower does not provide quite as much glucosinolates as some stronger-tasting Brassica vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts or the nutritional superstar broccoli), it can still provide your body with a good amount of glucosinolates. Although glucosinolates themselves have limited health benefits, the human body can convert them into isothiocyanates which have significant anti-cancer properties. In laboratory studies, these highly active compounds have been shown to induce Phase II enzymes, detoxifying enzymes that facilitate the removal of cancer-causing substances from the body, and to stimulate apoptosis (self-destruction) of cancer cells.
Purple Cauliflower Contains the Same Flavonoid as Many 'Superberries'
You may have already heard of anthocyanins, health-enhancing flavonoids that give many black and purple berries – such as wild blackberries, aronia berries, purple grapes, blueberries, blue honeysuckle berries, and elderberries – their intense colors and wonderful health benefits. But anthocyanins are also found in a number of vegetables, including purple carrots, purple/red cabbage, and – that's right – purple cauliflower.
Anthocyanins – along with carotenoids which are abundant in orange and yellow cauliflower – are considered one of the most important nutrients for eye health. Furthermore, research suggests that anthocyanins may help alleviate certain inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, due to their strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Orange and Yellow Cauliflower Varieties Provide Tons of Carotenoids
Looking for ways to get more carotenoids, those wonderful nutrients that are crucial for keeping your skin, mucous membranes, and eyes healthy? In that case, consider adding yellow or orange cauliflower to your diet! Unlike white cauliflower, yellow and orange cauliflower cultivars contain significant amounts of carotenoids. But keep in mind, carotenoids are fat-soluble, meaning that you will reap their health benefits only if your carotenoid-containing meal also contains some fats.
Tip: For a healthy side dish, steam a few florets of yellow or orange cauliflower, and toss the steamed florets with a generous splash of omega-3 rich walnut oil before serving.
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