By Casey Seidenberg
We’ve all heard that brown rice is more nutritious than white, whole wheat bread beats plain white and white sugar not only lacks health benefits but could be toxic. We’ve heard the darker the green vegetable the better and other encouragements to eat a rainbow of colorful foods. So what’s the story with cauliflower? It is not colorful. It is white. Is it really good for us? Unlike processed white foods, cauliflower has many health benefits:
- The antioxidants avert oxidation and damage to our cells, helping to prevent cancer and other diseases.
- The anti-inflammatory properties of the vegetable help to prevent arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, IBS and other inflammatory diseases.
- The fiber helps to support digestion and detoxification.
- Cauliflower is full of B vitamins, potassium and phosphorous, which support the nervous system, muscles and bones, respectively.
We have been experimenting with the vegetable, because with all of those health benefits, I would like to secure a place for cauliflower in our family’s dinner rotation. My favorite is cauliflower soup with chives, but my children’s preference is what I call “cauliflower popcorn.” They claim it isn’t nearly as tasty as real popcorn, but they agree it has a similar flavor and texture. They tend to eat more when I add a little cinnamon to the recipe, and little do they know that cinnamon is beneficial to their blood sugar levels.
Here are some fun facts about the vegetable:
- The head, which is called a curd, is a bunch of undeveloped flower buds.
- The trunks are edible, too.
- The coarse outer leaves protect cauliflower from sunlight, preventing the chlorophyll from turning it green. Broccoli’s outer leaves don’t cover its flower buds as extensively, so it has more opportunity to turn green from the sunlight.
- It is in the same family as broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and collards; these are called the cruciferous vegetables.
- It is easy to overcook and turn into mush, so be careful.
When cooking, avoid aluminum and iron pots: Cauliflower incites a chemical reaction with these surfaces, turning the vegetable yellow. Science experiment, anyone?
Instead of fixing a bowl of buttery popcorn, try this veggie snack. It's good as is, or you can sprinkle it with a mixture of cinnamon, paprika and turmeric -- or to make it more kid-friendly, with just cinnamon.
- 1 medium head cauliflower, broken into bite-size pieces, washed and thoroughly dried (2 pounds)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the cauliflower pieces in a large bowl and toss with the oil, making sure each piece is coated. Sprinkle with the salt and spices of choice.
Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden brown. Taste, and add salt as needed.
First published in the Washington Post on Thursday, December 6, 2012