But what does adding the bushy cream green to these produce really do health-wise, if anything? We spoke to two registered dieticians who reviewed the health benefits of foods made with cooked cauliflower as a staple. And spoilers: While both are strong advocates of eating more greens whenever possible, how they’re consumed (or prepared) can play a significant role in their nutritional value. Ahead, a closer look at how cauliflower’s nutritional value can be affected by cooking and processing, and how to keep all of its health-promoting nutrients intact.
What’s the best way to consume cauliflower to get the most benefits?
According to Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, Miami-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Sports Dietitian, there’s no denying that cauliflower is packed with health benefits. Cauliflower contains about two grams of fiber and two grams of protein, and is packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, says Ehsani. Additionally, the Registered Dietitian notes that while you might tend to associate vitamin C with foods like lemons and oranges, cauliflower is also a great source of this immune-boosting vitamin, at about 52 milligrams per cup.
That said, cooked cauliflower is a whole other story. Let’s face it: While you’ll still get the benefits of cauliflower no matter how you eat it, the way it’s prepared can drastically alter its nutrient profile. You absolutely get health benefits when you eat cauliflower in different forms, whether you eat it in rice, pizza, potato chips or tater tot form, says Ehsani. However, cooking the vegetable at higher temperatures can negatively affect some of its nutrients. When you cook cauliflower, such as baking cauliflower pizza crust, sautéing cauliflower rice, or air-frying cauliflower, the heat will decrease some but not all of the heat-sensitive vitamins, including vitamin C.
When you cook cauliflower, such as baking cauliflower pizza crust, sautéing cauliflower rice, or air-frying cauliflower, the heat will decrease some but not all of the heat-sensitive vitamins, including vitamin C.
But the impact heat can have on cauliflower’s nutritional value can vary depending on two main factors: how hot it is and how long you cook it. If it’s on very high heat for a long time, more of the vitamin-soluble nutrients will be lost, Ehsani says.
Meanwhile, Christina Manian, RDN, a Boulder-based registered dietitian and sustainable food systems practitioner, notes that a few specific cooking methods tend to have the greatest effect. Cooking cauliflower will alter its nutrition compared to raw, as you can imagine. One study found that steaming and boiling cauliflower resulted in a loss of antioxidant activity due to reduced active plant compound content, with boiling having the most severe impact, says Manian.
How different cooking methods can affect the nutritional value of cauliflower
In short: raw cauliflower = no alteration in nutritional value. That said, not all cooking methods will have the same impact on cauliflower’s nutrient levels. To that end, Manian shares some general guidelines on how that might be the case. Microwaving usually results in the least amount of nutrient losses, steaming is halfway there, and boiling tends to be the most, he says. And even then, not all nutrients will be affected equally. Some foods or nutrients are more stable than others, Manian adds.
Let’s focus on two great examples: water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins are, of course, water-soluble; when foods high in these micronutrients are cooked in water, some of those vitamins will leach out into the water, which Manian says isn’t a big deal if you intend to consume the cooking water. (Like in a soup or using it to make a broth.) But when you’re boiling and draining cauliflower for chopping into cauliflower rice or making a cauliflower crust and then discarding that cooking liquid, you’re literally sending some nutrients down the drain, she says. she . Manian explains that the same is true for fat-soluble vitamins when cooked in fat.
On the bright side, Ehsani points out that vitamin K, a carotenoid found in cauliflower, typically remains largely unaffected by heat exposure. The one nutrient we don’t have to worry about being damaged by heat is vitamin K, which is important for bone and blood health. Although vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin, it won’t be destroyed by cooking or heat, says Ehsani.
So, according to the RDs, is it worth consuming cauliflower products?
Ultimately, this boils down to no pun on how the cauliflower product was created, says Manian. Encourage people to ask questions like: Was the cauliflower cooked ahead of time? If so, is it likely that it involved a cooking method that may have resulted in a loss of nutrients? And most importantly, what else was used to make the product? Are there mystery additives or excessive amounts of added sugar or sodium on the label?
Rather than dissecting the cauliflower of everything, it’s more about the bigger picture. Nutritionally, eating cauliflower is any form is fabulous, what has the most impact in terms of health is whatever you are eating along with it.
TL; DR? Rather than dissecting the cauliflower of everything, it’s more about the bigger picture. Nutritionally, eating cauliflower is any form is fabulous, what has the most impact in terms of health is whatever you are eating along with it. When in doubt, opt for cauliflower that is as unprocessed as possible whenever possible.
Prepare the cauliflower. Tonight we prepare the fried rice:
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