Broccoli vs. Cauliflower: Which Should You Choose for Health?

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Broccoli vs. Cauliflower: Which Should You Choose for Health?

Sara Menges

Written by Sara Menges

Sara Menges

Sara Menges

Sara enjoys research, art, and seeking a sustainably fun life, balancing physical and mental health.

August 31, 2017 / Read Time 3 minutes

Broccoli vs. Cauliflower, plus the Infamous Broccoflower

They look similar, but do you really know what the similarities and differences between cauliflower and broccoli are? And what is a broccoflower anyway? Look no further to satisfy your curiosity with the inside scoop on their unique nutritional values and best cooking methods. Explore more now!

What's the Genetic Connection?

Broccoli and cauliflower are both from the Cole Family of vegetables and are variations of the wild mustard plant, or sometimes called the wild cabbage plant. Through selective breeding the wild mustard plant was domesticated to cultivate at least six varieties of vegetables, including cabbage and kale. Broccoli was cultivated from a kale predecessor by choosing to reproduce only larger tastier buds until a new plant emerged.

Cauliflowers are a more recent cultivation and the results of multiple varieties of broccoli. Looking closely at the two vegetables you can see that, besides their different colors, the bunched florets growing from the central stem has differences. Cauliflower has tightly bunched florets while broccoli's florets are more spread out.

Nutritiously Comparing Cauliflower and Broccoli

Cauliflower and Broccoli Similarities

Cauliflower and broccoli have similar amounts of carbohydrate content, are high in fiber, and low in calories making them optimal for weight loss and to help your digestion. Both have folate, fiber and potassium, contains amino acids, and helps with cancer prevention, losing weight, lowering cholesterol levels, and improving gut health. According to the Environmental Working Group, both cauliflower and broccoli also contain some of the lowest product pesticides levels making them okay to buy conventional. Still, make sure to wash them well.

Cauliflower and Broccoli Differences

While they are both very nutritious vegetables, broccoli has a higher vitamin content, specifically in vitamin K and C, than cauliflower and is specifically known to be great for eye health. Broccoli florets also provide more minerals and fiber as well as contains vitamin A that isn't in cauliflower. Another benefit of broccoli over cauliflower is it contains less undesirable saturated fatty acids and higher levels of the desirable polyunsaturated fatty acid.

So What Is a Broccoflower?

When selective breeding leads to a cross-pollination between broccoli and cauliflower, you can get a broccoflower, sometimes called green cauliflower. While there are several types of broccoflower, they commonly look like white cauliflower but are lime-green in color with spiked looking florets. It boasts similar nutritional qualities to cauliflower and broccoli and the taste is more tender and slightly sweeter.

Another vegetable that is commonly referred to as Broccoflower is Romanesco broccoli. The lime green heads and florets make it look very similar to cauliflower-type broccoflower; however, Romanesco broccoli is an Italian heirloom. It has a firm texture and earthy, slightly nutty flavor.

How to Add Broccoli and Cauliflower to Your Weekly Recipes

Both broccoli and cauliflower absorb flavors from other foods and have a fibrous texture making them mostly interchangeable in recipes. When eaten on its own, including fresh, boiled, or pureed, broccoli will have a greener flavor whereas cauliflower is more delicate in taste.

While eating them raw is the best way to consume broccoli, cauliflower, or broccoflower your next best option could be to steam them.

Without contact with boiling water, steaming is a gentler way to cook. One study found that steaming broccoli kept the highest level of nutrients when compared to boiling, microwaving, and stir-frying.

Boiling can be beneficial only if the water the vegetables were boiled in isn't also thrown out but kept to make a soup or stew.

Broccoli can also keep its antioxidant capacity after baking. So what are you waiting for? Start cooking today with a simple steamed cauliflower or broccoli tossed with garlic, olive oil, and lemon dish. Use raw broccoli and quinoa to throw together this make-ahead salad that creates a flavorful side dish.

You can also pull out your slow cooker to combine cauliflower, broccoli, and cheese in this creamy slow-cooker soup.

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