Cauliflower Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Cauliflower annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

With the rise of low-carb, ketogenic, and Paleo diets, cauliflower has become increasingly popular. 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

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for one cup (107g) of raw, chopped cauliflower.

  • Calories: 27
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 32mg
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Sugars: 2g
  • Protein: 2g

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. One cup 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 or people who are otherwise watching their carb intake.

There is little research on the glycemic index of cauliflower, but it is assumed to be low because cauliflower contains slow-to-digest complex carbs instead of blood-sugar-spiking simple carbs.

Fats

Cauliflower has only a trace amount of fat and is cholesterol-free.

Protein

Cauliflower has a minimal amount of protein. You should include other protein sources in your diet to meet your daily needs.

Vitamins and Minerals

Cauliflower is a good source of folate, a B vitamin that's needed to make DNA and other genetic material, as well as for your cells to divide. It's also an excellent source of bone-optimizing vitamin K and immune-enhancing vitamin C.

Health Benefits

Thanks to these micronutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, cauliflower helps keep the body healthy and prevent disease.

Helps With Healthy Weight Management

Cauliflower delivers a healthy dose of fiber, which provides a slew of benefits. Increasing your intake of dietary fiber can help you maintain a healthy weight as well as lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Reduces Heart Disease Risk

Research published in 2016 suggests that a diet rich in cruciferous and leafy green vegetables may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Heals Oxidative Stress

Like other fruits and vegetables, cauliflower is rich in antioxidants. These compounds help repair cells and protect them from inflammation, which can lead to chronic illness.

May Help Protect Against Some Cancers

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

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. If you think you're allergic to cauliflower, avoid eating it and talk to your doctor to determine the source of the problem. 

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.

Adverse Effects

Those with thyroid problems should avoid eating large amounts of cauliflower and cabbage, as they 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-, mono-saccharides, 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 of broccoli and Brussels sprouts. While overall nutrition is similar in each of these varieties, the types of antioxidants present can vary. For example, yellow or 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 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.

Cauliflower rice is a popular alternative to rice grains. You can make your own, or purchase pre-cooked and grated cauliflower sold as cauliflower rice. Here is how this "rice" compares, nutritionally, to cooked white and brown rice, per 1-cup serving (nutrition facts provided by the USDA).

  Cauliflower rice White rice Brown rice
Calories 25 204 238
Fat 2g 0.4g 2g
Sodium 20mg 387mg 394mg
Carbs 3g 44g 50g
Fiber 2g 0.6g 3g
Sugars 1g 0g 0.5g
Protein 3g 4g 5g

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 the whole vegetable.

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, and roasting. The leaves and core are edible too.

Cauliflower can easily substitute for starchier foods, such as potatoes and rice, 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).

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Article Sources
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Additional Reading
  • Rice, white, cooked. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  • Rice, brown, cooked. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.

  • Riced cauliflower. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.