These are tightly packed bunches in an array of colors, such as pearly white, verdant green, appealing purple, earthy brown, and even orange. No, we aren’t talking about your typical floral bouquet. Once seen as a bland afterthought, cauliflower is now making a name for itself in the culinary world. Cauliflower comes in a striking variety of colors, and this is just one of the reasons it is becoming increasingly popular among chefs and home cooks alike. Cauliflower also boasts a variety of health benefits and an incredible adaptability that makes it perfectly suited to stand in for some of your favorite starchy foods.

“Eat the rainbow” is a popular adage that is often repeated in order to encourage us to eat a varied diet. Cauliflower is the perfect vegetable to do just that. “White cauliflower has several health benefits, including being very low in calories, containing antioxidants and vitamins, and being very low in fat and containing no cholesterol,” states YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad, MS, RDN, LD. Muhammad is a licensed dietician who encourages her clients to eat a naturally colorful diet. “Cauliflower also contains several phyto-chemicals including sulforaphane and plant sterols. Fresh cauliflower provides an excellent source of vitamin C and contains good amounts of many vital B-complex groups of vitamins including folates, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (vitamin B1), and niacin (B3),” Muhammad continues.

When we look at the colorful varieties of cauliflower, the advantages increase. Orange cauliflower has 25 percent more vitamin A than the white variety. Additionally, purple cauliflower is especially high in the flavonoid group anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have been shown to exhibit antioxidant properties and may carry anti-viral and anti-cancer benefits.

With many of us becoming increasingly health conscious, there has been a desire to decrease caloric and carbohydrate intake. Many home cooks have had success with substituting cauliflower for starchy foods, such as rice and potatoes. “Cauliflower is considered a non-starchy vegetable due to its very low carb content and low glycemic index rating. Cauliflower and other non-starchy vegetables can be substituted for peas, potatoes, and corn for diabetic and other patients looking to reduce their carbohydrate intake with meals,” Muhammad encourages.

This simple vegetable is extremely versatile when it comes to culinary applications. Cauliflower’s high pectin content makes it a perfect substitute for mashed potatoes, as it easily mimics the mouth feel of the traditional recipe. Simply steam cauliflower florets until soft and toss into the food processor or blender. A few tablespoons of cream cheese or organic butter can be added for flavor. Milk should be included for additional richness. This is a technique that Candis Robinson has tried with much success.

Robinson struggled with gestational diabetes while pregnant with her son. As a result, she is at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes in the future. This has been a catalyst for Robinson to work at keeping her blood sugar levels steady. One way to do that is to decrease her carbohydrate consumption. “I was looking for a way to enjoy some of my favorite foods while continuing to reduce my carbohydrate intake,” Robinson explains. “Using cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes is a perfect way to have my favorite comfort food without the carbs. Plus, it’s yummy. I forget I’m eating vegetables,” Robinson continues.

Recently, many home cooks have developed creative and delicious applications for cauliflower, including pizza crust, cauliflower “tater tots,” and more. With a variety of vitamins and nutrients, plus a surprising amount of versatility, we should all be encouraged to take a second look at this colorful, cruciferous vegetable.


Three-Step Cauliflower “Rice”

Amani Jabbar is a certified fitness instructor and second grade teacher. She holds an MA in English and enjoys coupling her love of writing with her passion for health and wellness.