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Technicolor Cauliflower, Is It Better Than White?

is colored cauliflower healthier
Dr. Lindsey Mcilvena, MD

In her day job, treating patients living with chronic disease, nutrition and lifestyle are not after-thoughts, they’re central to helping her patients get well. She’s also our go-to expert on plant-based diets.

Move over white cauliflower, there are now varieties bursting with color and filling the produce aisle. We’ve seen an increase in the availability of the orange and purple varieties over the past couple of years. But is colored cauliflower healthier than white — or is one specific type better than the others? We were too, so we took a look at the available literature.

Cauliflower is a member of the brassica family, which has been getting some press as of late owing to its high amounts of indole 3 carbinols, a compound which seems to help prevent cancer. In addition to this phytonutrient, all cauliflower varieties are naturally low in calories and fat, while high in fiber. According to the USDA, a one cup serving of cauliflower is very high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate, with smaller but significant amounts of calcium, vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, potassium, and manganese.

So what’s the difference between the white, purple, green and orange varieties you ask? Purple cauliflower has anthocyanins in it, powerful antioxidants that can help prevent cancer, among other diseases. The orange cauliflower is bursting with antioxidants of a different variety, mainly carotenes. The green variety is likely higher in the anti-inflammatory compound retinol than the white variety, though it’s tough finding good sources of info out there.

As far as we can determine, these varieties are not genetically modified — at least, not necessarily. Most (if not all) are heirloom varieties of the plant. Long ago someone decided that red tomatoes, orange carrots, green broccoli, and white cauliflower were the best colors, so they got mass produced, leaving behind all the other beautiful colors. Because we’re not accustomed to seeing these different varieties, and because genetically modified foods are such a hot button topic these days, many people get scared when they see heirloom varieties, thinking them to be a weird science experiment. Ask your grocer if you’re not sure.

That all said, does this make them more potent as SuperFoods than the boring old white cauliflower? We don’t think so. Not better, just different.

We’re encouraging you to eat a rainbow everyday — try to challenge yourself to do it. Don’t have any carrots, then try the orange cauliflower. Low on blueberries, scarf down some purple cauliflower. Try experimenting, have a blind taste test and find out which one you like better. You may find that while overall each variety tastes just like cauliflower should, one type may be sweeter, another may be more fibrous. And if you’re not feeling adventurous and want to stick with plain ol’ regular cauliflower, you have our permission.

Sources: NIH, USDA

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