Question:

Cauliflower seems to be all the rage. Cauliflower pizza crust, cauliflower rice, cauliflower mashed potatoes – is it really healthier than the alternatives? (i.e. regular dough, white/brown rice, mashed potatoes) I’ve noticed that sometimes it seems like these cauliflower products are very high in cholesterol, seems counterintuitive. I need an expert’s advice!

Answer:

It IS a craze! Cauliflower is a highly nutritious and under consumed cruciferous vegetable. Incorporating it in forms other than whole raw and steamed may reduce its benefit a smidge but at least more people are eating it. Its mild flavor and bland appearance make the versatile cauliflower suitable for replacing white starches for restricted carbohydrate, Paleo or gluten-free eating. Yes, I know purple, orange and green varieties exist. Here’s a rundown of the various popular ways cauliflower is offered (at present) compared to the original alternatives:

Riced cauliflower vs. rice – As a side dish, minced cauliflower is lower in calories and carbohydrate than traditional white rice. It offers more fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin K while enriched medium grain white rice provides more iron, magnesium, zinc, and folate. *

Mashed cauliflower vs. mashed potato – With a higher water content than potato, cauliflower contains fewer carbohydrates and calories than the equal volume of spuds. For a moist food like mashed potato, the substitution works, particularly once salt, garlic, butter, sour cream or chives are added for flavor. Cauliflower provides more fiber, calcium, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K while potatoes provide more potassium, zinc, and magnesium:*

100 g boiled, drained cauliflower                                              100 g peeled, boiled potato

  • 23                                                        Calories                               83
  • 4 gm                                                    Carbohydrate                       20 gm
  • 2.3 gm                                                 Fiber                                    1.8 gm
  • 0.32 mg                                               Iron                                       0.31 mg
  • 16 mg                                                  Calcium                                5 mg
  • 142 mg                                                 Potassium                           379 mg
  • 0.17 mg                                                Zinc                                      0.30 mg
  • 9 mg                                                     Magnesium                          22 mg
  • 44 mg                                                   Vitamin C                             13 mg
  • 44 µg                                                    Folate                                   10 µg
  • 14 µg                                                    Vitamin K                              2.2 µg

Cauliflower pizza crust vs. traditional dough – To hold the consistency together without wheat gluten, oil, egg and xanthan gum are added to cauliflower with starches like tapioca and brown rice flour. The oil content is responsible for higher fat, while egg is why the saturated fat content is often higher than the original dough version. Of course, switching the crust can only partially offset the pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings which are usually not healthy!

Sources:

  1. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/catch-cauliflower-craze Accessed 3.11.2019

*Nutrient values from USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release, April 2018 database. Findings were used along with RDN’s professional judgment.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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