When I shop for produce, I have a hard time deciding whether to buy white, purple or orange cauliflower. Do the bright-colored varieties have special nutritional value?
Like broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy and cabbage, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable from the ultra-healthy Brassicaceae family. For the most part, all varieties of cauliflower are super nutritious.
Regardless of its color, cauliflower is low calorie—one cup of the cooked vegetable has only about 27 calories—and it delivers impressive levels of key nutrients. For example, a one-cup serving has about 55 mg of immune-boosting vitamin C…17 micrograms (mcg) of bone-healthy vitamin K…55 mcg of heart-protective folate…and 3 g of diabetes-fighting fiber. Cauliflower is also widely recognized as an anticancer food because it is a rich source of certain phytochemicals, especially a sulfur compound called isothiocyanate that has been shown in animal research to help fight the production of esophageal tumors and to inhibit the survival of human prostate cancer cells in laboratory studies.
When it comes to those lovely colored versions of cauliflower, they do offer a few special nutrients. Compared with white cauliflower, the orange variety contains extra beta-carotene (about 480 mcg per cup vs. about 9 mcg)…while purple cauliflower contains high levels of anthocyanins (about 7 grams per cup), the same flavonoids that give certain fruits, such as tart cherries, blueberries and blackberries, their rich red, purple and blue hue. Purple carrots and purple asparagus are also good sources of these health-promoting compounds. Best known for their powerful anti-inflammatory effects, anthocyanins have been found to help reduce risk for a range of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and cognitive decline.
The fact is, you can’t go wrong with any color cauliflower. To get the widest variety of nutrients, you may want to mix things up and opt for a different color of the veggie from time to time. The taste is about the same regardless of the color, and there are a number of delicious recipes that use cauliflower of all colors!