Cut your cancer risk by consuming cauliflower and its cruciferous cousins. That may be difficult to say three times fast, but it should be easy to remember to do after reading about the impressive array of cancer-fighting nutrients found in cauliflower.
While brightly colored fruits and vegetables tend to get all the press for their antioxidant powers, this pale white veggie is actually packed with strong phytonutrients that can protect against the cell damage caused by free radical stress that can lead to cancer. In particular, the three phytonutrients indole-3-carbinol (I3C), diindolylmethane (DIM), and sulforaphane contained in cauliflower offer proven cancer-protective effects.
In laboratory experiments, both I3C and DIM have been shown to inhibit the occurrence, growth, and spread of estrogen-related cancers (breast, uterus, and cervix). I3C in particular, has been shown to boost beneficial hormones in the body, while depressing harmful ones that fuel prostate and breast cancers. And research has determined that sulforaphane reduces the ability of carcinogens to cause dangerous cell changes by deactivating carcinogenic enzymes, thus inhibiting tumor growth.
In addition to all of its cancer-fighting properties, cauliflower has the critical ability to reduce inflammation in the body—which is the core cause of heart disease. Cauliflower curbs inflammation by curtailing the body's output of inflammatory substances called prostaglandins. And cauliflower also contains omega-3 fats, which are able to penetrate layers of cholesterol-laden plaque, reducing blood vessel inflammation and preventing blood-clotting deposits from clogging arteries.
Get Creative With Cauliflower
The inviting and satisfying crunch of raw cauliflower makes it an obvious choice to dunk into your favorite dip or add to a hearty salad. And, of course, cauliflower makes a perfect side dish whether it's simply steamed and sprinkled with a little olive oil, pepper, and garlic, or you get more creative in your preparation, as in the following recipe. (Get more heart-healthy recipes.)
I also like to toss cauliflower into the blender along with up to a dozen other fruits and vegetables, add some coconut water, and mix all together for a refreshing and nutrient-packed drink. Regardless of how you do it, try to eat at least one daily serving of cruciferous vegetables and opt for organically grown cauliflower whenever possible.
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florettes
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ large onion, chopped finely
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup canned tomatoes, chopped
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1/3 cup green olives, chopped
- 2 Tbsp. capers
- ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
In a large pan or pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and cook just until sizzling. Add the tomatoes, white wine and season with salt, pepper to taste. Add the cauliflower, and stir to mix. The liquid should just cover the cauliflower. If not, add a little water. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until cauliflower is almost tender. Remove the cauliflower from the pot and place it on a warm serving dish. Turn the heat to high, and cook the tomato sauce mixture until thickened. Add the olives, parsley, and capers and cook another minute or two. Pour this mixture over the cauliflower, and mix, coating the cauliflower. Serve warm.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): Calories 141, Fat 12 g, Sodium 239 mg, Carbs 7 g, Fiber 2 g, Protein 2 g