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Cauliflower is so much the rage these days that you may notice prices going up since demand in the marketplace combined with wonky weather has caused a shortage. Why the craze for cauliflower? Low carb and Paleo-type diets promote cauliflower as a substitute for starchy carbohydrates like rice, potatoes and even pizza crust. Meanwhile, the average vegetable lover who has always included cauliflower as part of a healthful diet may be left wondering, is it worth the splurge?
Ultimately, it’s your call, but here are some things you may want to know before you decide. Starting with cauliflower anatomy. We should all be familiar with what a “head” of cauliflower looks like. Not unlike other members of the cabbage family, cauliflower is a cool weather plant that grows fairly low to the ground, surrounded by thick leaves. The most common variety of cauliflower is white, but other varieties including orange, purple, and green are commercially available. The head is made up of florets (similar to broccoli) and these florets are composed of small “curds.” Many people don’t realize that the leaves are also edible. The leaves are especially delicious roasted or stir-fried, so don’t throw them away.
Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse, like her cruciferous brothers and sisters. Vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, pantothenic acid, and vitamin B6 are just a few of the awesome nutrients in cauliflower. It is also a good source of fiber, carotenoids, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, manganese, potassium, choline, biotin, and phosphorus as well as vitamin K, vitamin B1, B2, and B3, and protein. It contains sulfur compounds that provide an array of health-promoting benefits such as cardiovascular protection, immune support, detoxification support, and anti-inflammatory action.
Here’s how to make the most out of adding cauliflower to the diet. Take boiling out of the equation because when you boil cauliflower it loses a lot of nutrients in the process. A short steam (3 to 6 minutes), stir-fry and even roasting at a lower temperature (325 degrees F). In general, the shorter the cooking time, the more nutritious. Raw cauliflower can pose a problem for individuals with thyroid challenges due to the goitrogens in raw cauliflower. Light cooking seems to alleviate this problem. Add a little bit of healthy fat such as 100% extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil to your cauliflower to enhance absorption of some of the fat soluble nutrients such as the carotenoids and vitamin K.
If you notice any brown spots starting to develop on the curds, you can cut them away. As with most vegetables you want to consume the cauliflower within a few days of purchasing it. The more brown spots you see means that the cauliflower is beginning to want to decompose.
Here’s one quick and easy way to enjoy cauliflower:
Rinse the head well and break off the florets (saving the leaves for later). Add about an inch of water to a steamer basket in a large pot and add the florets. Steam for about 5 to 6 minutes until just tender. Then puree in 2 to three batches in a food processor, adding a little bit of the steaming water to help with the puree. When smooth, pulse in a few tablespoons of unsalted, grass-fed butter, a few dashes of garlic powder and sea salt and pepper to taste. Return puree back to the pot on the stove and either serve immediately or reheat over low when ready to serve.
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