Cauliflower Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cauliflower nutrition facts

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

With the rise of low-carb, ketogenic, and Paleo diets, cauliflower has become increasingly popular, as it can sub for starchier foods like rice and even pizza dough. This veggie is versatile, non-starchy, and contains a lot of fiber and other beneficial nutrients. Whether you eat it raw, roasted, or riced, cauliflower offers a lot of bang for your nutritional buck.

Cauliflower ​​Nutrition Facts

One cup of chopped cauliflower (107g) provides 27 calories, 2.1g of protein, 5.3g of carbohydrates, and 0.3g of fat. Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and magnesium. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 27
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 32.1mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5.3g
  • Fiber: 2.1g
  • Sugars: 2g
  • Protein: 2.1g
  • Vitamin C: 51.6mg
  • Vitamin B6: 0.2mg
  • Magnesium: 16mg

Carbs

Like all vegetables, cauliflower is a carbohydrate. But it's the non-starchy, complex kind with lots of fiber and low amounts of natural sugar. It has a low glycemic index rating, somewhere between 15 and 30, meaning that it won't cause a blood sugar spike.

One cup of cauliflower contains about a sixth of the carbs as the same amount of cooked pasta or rice. So it's a great option for people with diabetes. It's also good if you're watching your carb intake for some other reason.

Fats

Cauliflower has only a trace amount of fat and is cholesterol-free. Therefore, it can easily be included in a low-fat diet or a diet that aims to lower cholesterol.

Protein

Cauliflower has a minimal amount of protein. You will need to include other healthy protein sources in your diet to meet your daily protein requirements.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cauliflower is a great source of vitamin C. One cup provides more than half of the 75 mg daily recommended intake for adult women and 90 mg recommendation for adult men. It also provides a good dose of vitamin B6 and magnesium.

Those aren't the only nutrients in cauliflower, either. This vegetable contains calcium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, fluoride, and a wide array of B vitamins.

Calories

At 27 calories per cup, you'd have to eat a lot of cauliflower before it had a big impact on your total calorie intake. Pair raw cauliflower with low-calorie dips and cook it with herbs and spices versus butter or oil to keep the calorie count low.

Summary

Cauliflower is a fiber-rich vegetable that is low in fat and calories. It is a great source of vitamin C while supplying a good dose of vitamin B6 and magnesium, along with a variety of other trace nutrients.

Health Benefits

Thanks to its many micronutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, cauliflower offers many health benefits.

Assists With Healthy Weight Management

Cauliflower delivers a healthy dose of fiber. One major benefit of increasing your intake of dietary fiber is that it can help you maintain a healthy weight, thereby reducing your risk of a number of chronic health conditions.

Reduces Heart Disease Risk

One of the health conditions that fiber helps guard against is heart disease. Research published in 2017 shows that dietary fiber may boost cardiovascular health, at least in part, in the way it influences the gut microbiome.

Heals Oxidative Stress

Like other fruits and vegetables, cauliflower is rich in antioxidants. These compounds help repair cells and protect them from inflammation, an action that can help reduce the risk of chronic illness.

May Protect Against Some Cancers

Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower contain a group of substances known as glucosinolates. These are sulfur-containing chemicals that are responsible for the pungent aroma and bitter flavor of this category of vegetables. These chemicals break down to form compounds that may help protect against several forms of cancer. 

Lessens the Effects of Aging

Glucoraphanin is a glucosinolate found in cauliflower and a precursor to the phytochemical sulforaphane (SFN). Sulforaphane helps protect against damage caused by spending too much time in the sun's ultraviolet rays and shows promise when included in anti-aging products.

Allergies

Allergic reactions to cauliflower aren't common, but they have been reported occasionally in the medical literature. Some people who are sensitive to other Brassica vegetables (such as cabbage and broccoli) may also react to cauliflower.

In addition, people who have hay fever due to mugwort pollen may experience oral allergy syndrome when consuming raw cauliflower. Symptoms include itchiness or swelling around the mouth, and, rarely, anaphylaxis.

Know the symptoms of anaphylaxis—such as hives and shortness of breath—and seek immediate treatment if you experience them. If you think you're allergic to cauliflower, avoid eating it and talk to your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment. 

Adverse Effects

People with thyroid problems should avoid eating large amounts of cauliflower and cabbage. Both interfere with the body's absorption of iodine, which is needed by the thyroid gland. 

Cauliflower is also high in FODMAPs (fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols, which are types of carbohydrates). People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn's disease may find that their symptoms worsen when eating high-FODMAP foods, including cauliflower.

Varieties

Once strictly a white vegetable, you can now find green, orange, and purple varieties of this cruciferous cousin to broccoli and Brussels sprouts. While overall nutrition is similar in each of these varieties, the types of antioxidants present can vary. For example, yellow and orange cauliflower contains more beta-carotene than white cauliflower, and purple cauliflower also contains anthocyanin.

Fresh and frozen cauliflower have a similar nutritional profile. Canned cauliflower is also similar, although it may have more fiber than fresh or frozen.

You can also buy pickled or creamed cauliflower. Pickled cauliflower has more calories, carbs, and sodium than fresh but remains low in calories and fat, while creamed cauliflower has more fat than other varieties and preparations.

When It's Best

Cauliflower is available year-round, but its peak season in the U.S. is late summer through late fall.

Choose fresh cauliflower that has firm, compact heads that are tightly closed. The florets should not have any yellowing, as this is an indication that the cauliflower is overly mature. Any attached leaves should be bright green and crisp.

Reject any heads that show signs of softness, because that's the start of spoilage. For the best flavor, eat cauliflower as soon as possible—precut florets don't store well and are best when eaten within a day of purchase.

Storage and Food Safety

Cauliflower is perishable and should be kept cold. Store it in the crisper section of the refrigerator in its original packaging. Don't wash cauliflower until you're ready to cook it.

Brown speckling is a sign of oxidation, which happens as a result of prolonged exposure to light and air and occurs naturally the longer cauliflower is stored. You can cut away the occasional brown spot, but if this discoloration appears throughout the head (a sign of spoilage), it's best to toss it.

Once cooked, you can store cauliflower in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for a few months. Or blanch fresh cauliflower florets, then freeze; they will keep for up to a year.

How to Prepare

Raw cauliflower can be broken up into small florets to add crunch to salads or to munch on as a snack with dressing or dip. Cauliflower can also be cooked whole, pulsed, or cut up into florets for steaming, sautéing, blanching, stir-frying, or roasting. The leaves and core are edible too.

Cauliflower can easily substitute for starchier foods (such as potatoes), adding vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Substituting cauliflower rice for grains adds an extra vegetable to your meal and reduces calories and carbs, if that is one of your goals.

You can make your own cauliflower rice or purchase pre-cooked and grated cauliflower sold as cauliflower rice. Here is how this "rice" compares, nutritionally, to cooked white rice and brown rice, per 1-cup serving.

  Cauliflower rice White rice Brown rice
Calories 25 242 218
Fat 2g 0.4g 1.6g
Sodium 20mg 0mg 2mg
Carbs 3g 53.4g 45.8g
Protein 3g 4.4g 4.5g
Fiber 2g 0.6g 3.5g
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