Keto 101: Can Cauliflower Help You Shed Extra Pounds

by Marixie Ann Obsioma, MT, undergrad MD on September 8, 2021
Last updated on September 12, 2021

Looking for a miracle food to shed those extra pounds? – Here’s a hint: There’s no such thing! But, the good news is that there is a common way to shed those extra pounds; no matter what slimming food you eat, always steer clear of calories.

Keto 101: Can Cauliflower Help You Shed Extra Pounds

While there are no miracle foods to save the day and make it easier for you, there are certain foods that you can treat as your weight loss buddy. If you’re looking for an easier route to avoid the fattening calories, combat the urge with fibrous foods.

As per Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at Penn State University and author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan, foods that are high in fiber, healthy fats, protein, or water content keeps you full for longer. “The additional benefit is that a lot of these foods are also really good for you and packed with important nutrients, vitamins and minerals,” she adds (1).

When it comes to extremely healthy vegetables, cauliflowers are vegetables not to miss out on. These non-starchy vegetables are chock full of nutrients and unique plant compounds that could reduce the risk of several diseases, including heart disease and cancer. In addition, cauliflowers are weight loss-friendly and are incredibly easy to add to your diet (1) (2).

If you’re trying to slim down your tummy or trying to improve your health, cauliflowers are an ideal vegetable choice for those on a keto diet (3).

Cauliflower Diet for Weight Loss

Cauliflower, also known as phool gobhi, is one of the most nutritious vegetables served in the Indian palate since ancient times. From that point, a lot of traditional and modern fusion dishes involved cauliflower – from fritters to pizza, you name it! Also, you can find the cruciferous vegetable’s tiny white flowers in curried, dry vegetable dishes, rice dishes, finger foods, and snacks (4).

Although it is often overlooked in favor of other veggies, cauliflowers are undoubtedly an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and antioxidants that promote weight loss and overall optimum health. If you are trying to shed those extra pounds, going on a cauliflower diet may help you lose weight more effectively (3).

The ketogenic diet, which grew in popularity as a low-carb weight loss diet, makes use of this humble vegetable for its versatility. With the cauliflower’s health profile as low in carbohydrates yet high in fiber and other micronutrients, the ketogenic diet includes the cruciferous vegetable as part of its weight loss goal ingredients (4).

In line with this, a weight loss diet known as the Cauliflower Diet was popularized by Radha Thomas in her 2016 book entitled, ‘The Cauliflower Diet.’ In this book, the author explains how cauliflower is an almost-perfect substitute for several types of starch and can be adapted to every kind of cuisine that aids in weight loss in the least possible time (3) (4).

Basically, the cauliflower diet involves replacing carbohydrates – such as wheat, rice, and potatoes – with cauliflower (3). The idea behind this is that fattening carbohydrate-rich foods can be replaced with cauliflower. It emphasizes how the vegetable is truly a nutritious one, highlighting that it is low in simple carbohydrates yet rich in a number of micronutrients, which includes vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin K, as well as folate and minerals like manganese and potassium (4).

The Cauliflower Diet includes dishes made from cauliflower, including pizza bases, cauliflower rice, mashed potatoes, and even cauliflower cookies (3) (4). Overall, if you are on a ketogenic diet, or any other low-carb diet, then cauliflower is an ideal vegetable to go for (4).

Cauliflower Nutrition Facts

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that resembles its cousin, broccoli. Like broccoli, the tightly bunched florets of cauliflower are connected by a thick core, often with a few light leaves surrounding it (5).

Although cauliflower commonly comes in white color, you’ll also find cauliflower in shades of orange, purple, and green. Regardless of the color, the taste is still the same: mild, slightly sweet, and a little nutty (5).

As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database, a cup of chopped raw cauliflower, cut into half-inch pieces, and weighing around 107 grams contains (6):

  • Calories: 27 kcal (6)
  • Protein:  2 grams (6)
  • Fat: 0.3 grams (6)
  • Total Carbohydrates: 5 grams (6)
    • Fiber: 2.1 grams (6)
    • Sugar: 2 grams (6)
  • Calcium: 24 milligrams (6)
  • Magnesium: 16 milligrams (6)
  • Phosphorus: 47 milligrams (6)
  • Potassium: 320 milligrams (6)
  • Vitamin C: 51.6 milligrams (6)
  • Vitamin K: 16.6 micrograms (6)
  • Vitamin B6: 0.197 micrograms (6)
  • Folate: 61 micrograms (6)

A cup (or 128 grams) of raw cauliflower provides (2) (6):

  • 77 percent of daily vitamin C needs (6)
  • 20 percent of daily vitamin K needs (6)
  • 10 percent (or more) of daily vitamin B6 needs (6)
  • 14 percent of daily folate needs (2)
  • 7 percent of pantothenic acid needs (2)
  • 2 percent of daily calcium and iron needs (5)
  • 9 percent of daily potassium needs (2)
  • Over 3 percent of daily magnesium needs (5)
  • 8 percent of daily manganese needs (2)

In addition, it also contains smaller amounts of riboflavin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, niacin, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese, and potassium (6).

Health and Weight Loss Benefits of Cauliflower

In general, consuming fruits and vegetables has been found to reduce the chance of developing several adverse health conditions. Consuming more plant foods like cauliflower, decreases the risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and overall mortality while also promoting healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight (6).

The nutrition profile of cauliflower is quite impressive. It is very low in calories yet high in vitamins. As a matter of fact, cauliflower does contain some of almost every vitamin and mineral that you need (2).

Without further ado, here are the top benefits of eating cauliflower:

1. It is high in fiber.

Cauliflower contains high fiber content, which is beneficial for your overall health. For each cup of cauliflower, there are almost 3 grams of fiber, or 10 percent of your daily needs. This high amount of fiber translates to a reduced risk for several chronic diseases (2).

Fiber is important, as it feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. Thus, it helps to reduce inflammation and promotes digestive health (2).

Consuming enough fiber may also help prevent digestive conditions like constipation, diverticulitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Furthermore, fiber may also help prevent obesity, as it promotes fullness and reduces overall calorie intake (2).

Studies also show that a diet that is high in fiber-rich vegetables like cauliflower is associated with a lower risk of several illnesses, which includes heart disease, diabetes, and cancer (2).

2. It is a good source of antioxidants.

Antioxidants protect your cells from harmful free radicals and inflammation while also protecting you from several chronic diseases. Just like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is particularly high in glucosinolates and isothiocyanates – two groups of antioxidants which particularly slows down the growth of cancer cells (2).

In test-tube studies. Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates have been known to be especially protective against colon, lung, prostate, and breast cancer (2).

In addition to these, cauliflower also contains carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants, which have anti-cancer effects and could reduce the risk of several other illnesses, including heart disease (2).

Cauliflower also contains high amounts of vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant. It is specifically recognized for its anti-inflammatory effects in boosting immune health and reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer (2).

3. It potentially aids in weight loss.

According to Dr. Rolls, non-starchy vegetables such as cauliflower are some of the few foods that you can eat in unlimited quantities when it comes to losing weight (1).

Cauliflower has several properties that may help weight loss. For one, it is low in calories; with only 25 calories per cup, you can eat a lot of it without gaining extra pounds (2).

It can also serve as a low-calorie substitute for high-calorie foods like rice and flour. As a great source of fiber, cauliflower also slows digestion and promotes feelings of fullness, which may automatically reduce the number of calories that you consume throughout the day – an important factor in weight control (2).

Vitamin C, folate, and the cancer-fighting phytonutrient sulforaphane also aids in weight loss. As a matter of fact, a review from Purdue University considers vitamin C as the key factor in determining how much fat is burned during physical activity (1).

Moreover, high water content is another weight loss-friendly aspect of cauliflower. As a matter of fact, 92 percent of its weight comes from water. Consuming lots of water-dense, low-calorie foods is associated with weight loss (2).

4. It is high in Choline.

Choline is an essential nutrient that many people experience a lack of. A cup of cauliflower contains 45 mg of choline, which is about 11 percent of the adequate intake (AI) for women and 8 percent for men (2).

Choline possesses several important functions in the body. To start with, it plays a significant role in maintaining the integrity of cell membranes, synthesizing DNA and supporting metabolism (2).

This nutrient is involved in a healthy nervous system, specifically in brain development and the production of neurotransmitters. Moreover, it also aids in preventing cholesterol from accumulating in the liver. Thus, the lack of sufficient choline consumption may lead to a higher risk of liver and heart disease, as well as neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia (2).

Only a few foods contain choline. Cauliflower, along with broccoli, is one of the best plant-based sources of choline (2).

5. It is rich in sulforaphane.

Cauliflower contains sulforaphane – an extensively studied antioxidant. A lot of test-tube and animal studies have found sulforaphane to be a helpful contributor particularly for suppressing cancer development by inhibiting enzymes that are involved in cancer and tumor growth (2).

According to some studies, sulforaphane may also potentially stop cancer growth by destroying already-damaged cells. It appears that sulforaphane is most protective against colon and prostate cancer, yet it also has been studied for its effects on many other cancers, such as leukemia, pancreatic, breast, and melanoma (2).

Research shows that sulforaphane may also help reduce high blood pressure and keep arteries healthy – both major factors in preventing heart disease. In addition, animal studies also suggest that sulforaphane may also play a role in preventing diabetes and reducing the risk of diabetes-induced complications, such as kidney disease (2).

More research is needed to determine the extent of the plant compound sulforaphane’s effects on humans. Nevertheless, it’s potential health benefits are promising (2).

6. It’s a good low-carb alternative to grains and legumes.

Given that cauliflower is incredibly versatile, it can be used to replace grains and legumes in your diet. This is a great way to increase your veggie intake and is especially helpful to those who follow low-carb diets (2).

Compared to grains and legumes, cauliflowers are significantly lower in carbs. To be more specific, a cup of rice contains nine times more carbs than that of a cauliflower (2).

You can replace grains in legumes with cauliflower in a lot of recipes. Below are some of the recipes that can encourage you to eat more veggies or follow a low-carb diet (2):

  • Cauliflower Rice: You can replace white or brown rice with cauliflower that has been grated and then cooked (2).
  • Cauliflower Pizza Crust: Pulse cauliflower in a food processor and then make it into a dough, so you can make a delicious pizza (2).
  • Cauliflower Hummus: You can replace chickpeas with cauliflower in hummus recipes (2).
  • Cauliflower Mash: With great resemblance to mashed potatoes, try this recipe for an easy-to-make, low-carb cauliflower mash (2).
  • Cauliflower Tortillas: Combine pulsed cauliflower with eggs to make low-carb tortillas. You can use these tortillas for wraps, burritos, taco shells (2).
  • Cauliflower Mac and Cheese: Combine cooked cauliflower with milk, cheese and spices to make mac and cheese (2).

7. It keeps you hydrated.

As per USDA data, a 100-gram of raw cauliflower contains 92 percent of water. This is extremely important to keep your body hydrated, especially if you are on a weight loss diet (4).

This proves that you are not only getting all its nutrients, but you are also taking in a lot of water. According to Healthline, for each serving of cauliflower (100 grams), you’ll get 59 millimeters of water (7).

Overall, water is good for your overall health. By adding cauliflower as an ingredient in grain-based recipes, you are providing a lot of nutritional value and are helping your body digest the meal better for its high water content (7).

Potential Risks

Given its astounding versatility, cauliflower would definitely be considered a renaissance vegetable. It can be used in many things, such as a pizza crust, mash, and even gnocchi. Moreover, it can offer tons of nutrients to your diet (7).

Despite its nutritious punch, there are a few drawbacks that you should be aware of. It’s important to know what happens to our bodies when we consume cauliflowers (7).

For one, cauliflower is, after all, cruciferous. Cruciferous vegetables are well-received for all the nutrients they contain, including vitamins C, E, and K. Along with this, cauliflowers also contain FODMAPs – fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyls – which are short-chain carbohydrates that the small intestine don’t digest as easily as with other foods (7).

Instead, FODMAPs ferment in the large intestine. This causes bloating and gas, and, as mentioned in studies, irritable bowel syndrome (7).

Keeping this in mind, it’s important to cook the cauliflower well to make it easier to digest. Cooking breaks down some of the carbs so that your intestine can pass them more easily and absorb what it needs, instead of allowing carbs to sit and produce gas (7).

Points to Ponder

In light of all its benefits and risks, we can safely say that cauliflower offers more than when served as part of vegetarian preparations (4). These cruciferous vegetables deserve a significant place on your daily diet.

Keep in mind, however, that excessive consumption of cauliflowers leads to bloating and flatulence. To make the most out of its benefits, consume cauliflowers moderately.

Overall, the cauliflower diet is useful in preventing diseases, achieving good health, and weight loss (3). The  cruciferous vegetable of this diet offers powerful health benefits that many people need more of (2).

References

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