Some of the differences between cauliflower and broccoli are black and white, or I guess I should say, green and white. A few of them may surprise you though, and they also have a remarkable number of similarities.
In many households, they’re served together or interchangeably in various meals, making it almost odd to hear of one without at least thinking about the other.
So what’s the difference between cauliflower and broccoli? Besides the color, with broccoli being dark green and cauliflower being off-white, broccoli is slightly higher in nutrients. The main difference is the taste, with cauliflower tasting mildly sweet and broccoli tasting more “green.” They are both cruciferous vegetables, so they are in the same family.
They each have their merits and we’ll look at many different ways they’re the same, but not, in this article.
Cauliflower and Broccoli: Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are a family of edible plants that take their name from the word crucifix, apparently because of their resemblance to a cross. You may not think that broccoli or cauliflower are particularly cross-shaped but, along with cabbage, kale, arugula, Brussels sprouts, radishes, and a few others, they’re all considered cruciferous.
Most of these vegetables are nutritionally similar, being rich in Vitamins C, K and sometimes E, as well as folate and fiber. Add to the equation the fact that they’re all very low in calories, they make a powerful weight loss health food.
For reasons that science has not quite discovered, the consumption of cruciferous vegetables correlates quite strongly with a reduction in most types of cancer. This is one of the many reasons they’ve risen in popularity in recent years.
The Family Brassica
“Brassica” is a term that is starting to overpower the label of cruciferous, at least partly because not all vegetables in this family have the four-sided florets that cruciferous vegetables were originally named for.
The category as a whole can be broken down into two scientific families:
- Brassica oleracea: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and kohlrabi, among others
- Brassica rapa: turnips, Chinese cabbage, rapini, bok choy, and field mustard, among others
What is Broccoli and Its Benefits
Broccoli looks like a mini tree, with a thick green stalk and condensed, green flowering head. Nutritionally speaking, broccoli and cauliflower are very similar, though, as you’ll see in a moment, broccoli outperforms cauliflower in many areas.
Where it particularly excels is thanks to it’s rich, green color. You may know that as plants change color, they also change in antioxidants. This is why we’re always encouraged to eat a rainbow of colors.
Green fruits and vegetables like broccoli tend to be very good at supporting your immune system and detoxifying organs, as well as keeping you full of energy.
How to Prepare Broccoli
Boiling broccoli is probably the most common way to prepare it, however, you may want to try a few new approaches now and then to keep life interesting.
To help you think outside the boiled box, here are some preparation ideas for broccoli:
- Roasted, with some olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar
- Made into soup, with coconut milk and liquid smoke (or smoked ham)
- Steamed, cooled and made into broccoli salad
- Finely processed and made into a fritter
- Added to omelets, quiche, pot pies, casseroles and/or stirfries
What is Cauliflower and Its Benefits
Cauliflower is a dense, white ball of florets with a mild, sometimes sweet flavor that is very different from the very “green” taste of broccoli.
White vegetables are typically known for their bone benefits and cancer-fighting chemicals, and cauliflower is no exception to that rule. Cauliflower is also a low-carb food option, which makes it particularly appealing to those who are watching their weight.
Cauliflower Rice & Other Versatile Uses
Cauliflower has become a staple in the lives of plant-based eaters and dieters because of its incredible versatility.
As with broccoli, the most common way to prepare it is probably still boiling it, but there are so many other options and way to use this delightful vegetable, it’s time to get creative:
- Sliced into thick “steaks”, marinated and grilled
- Riced, and used as an alternative to rice, couscous or other similar dishes
- Steamed whole, drenched in a sauté of olive oil, turmeric, onions and garlic, and lightly broiled
- Pureed with some roasted garlic, nutritional yeast, and almond milk to make a vegan and diet-friendly alfredo sauce
- Mashed with potatoes and roasted garlic for a lighter take on a classic favorite
Cauliflower vs Broccoli Nutrition and Carbs
Cauliflower and broccoli are both delicious and full of nutritional value, but they do have slight differences that may change your mind about which to include on your menu on a more regular basis.
|Per 1 Cup, Raw Chopped
This chart is far from complete, but according to these numbers, broccoli has an edge, nutritionally speaking. It has fewer grams of sugar and more protein per serving and is also higher in almost all the vitamins and minerals that are usually focused on.
Broccoli also outperforms cauliflower in sulforaphane and choline, two nutrients that are very helpful in regulating our entire metabolic system and protecting us from various forms of cancer.
Cauliflower gains a little bit of ground because it has more omega 3 fatty acids and less omega 6s than broccoli, which makes the very minute amount of fat in this vegetable even more appealing.
To be honest, however, the amount you’ll consume in an average serving is so slight in either of these vegetables to be more or less negligible.
With all this information, why would you choose cauliflower over broccoli? Variety. Versatility. Taste. You name it, there’s no reason to limit yourself to one or the other, but enjoy them both as often as you please.
Healthiest Way to Eat Cruciferous Vegetables
How you eat your broccoli and cauliflower can significantly alter the way your body takes in the nutrition form these plants.
Eating them raw or cooked changes the nutritional uptake, so let’s discuss them separately:
- Raw cruciferous vegetables: if you’re going to snack on your veggies raw, freshness is crucial. For our body to absorb many of the phytonutrients, there needs to be a specific enzyme present that helps our bodies digest the food. This enzyme becomes almost completely inefficient after 48 hours of being picked, so fresh is certainly best.
- Cooked cruciferous vegetables: If you’re cooking your vegetables, you won’t be able to absorb many of the nutrients that you can get from the raw versions, but instead, the nutrients will travel to the end of your digestive tract without being absorbed, and there they will feed the billions of healthy bacteria living in your gut. The best way to cook your vegetables to retain the most amount of nutrition is steaming them, not in the microwave.
To get the most out of your broccoli and cauliflower, it’s a good idea to eat the entire plants in a variety of different ways, so you that you’re providing your body with as many different ways to absorb the nutrition as possible and, just as importantly, you’re taking your tastebuds on a new adventure each time
Colored cauliflower – what’s the deal?
In certain farmer’s markets or specialty grocers, it’s possible to find cauliflower nearly every color of the rainbow, from green to orange and even purple.
This is, surprisingly, completely natural! Very similar to how carrots can also come in a wide variety of colors, the taste doesn’t change between color.
However, the antioxidants that can be found in each different color will vary, so if you can switch up your cauliflower regularly, you’ll be getting a wider assortment of nutrients into your diet than you would be sticking with plain, white cauliflower all the time.
What is broccolini? Broccoli rabe?
Broccolini, or sometimes called baby broccoli, is a relative of conventional broccoli with most of the same nutritional benefits and flavor, but a bit of a different look.
Instead of a bushy tree-like vegetable, broccolini consists mostly of stalks, with small florets on the top that are almost similar to asparagus.
Broccoli rabe, or rapini, is very different, more closely related to turnips than to broccoli. Visually is similar to a leafy broccolini, though it’s quite bitter in comparison.
It’s very popular in Italian cuisine where bitter greens are more commonly used, such as mustard greens. If you want to give it a try, saute it with some garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to cut the bitterness.
Is Romanesco broccoli or cauliflower?
Romanesco is a fun one, as it’s just as frequently called “Romanesco broccoli” as it is “Roman cauliflower.” In reality, it’s part of the same family, but it is its own vegetable.
It’s very unique looking, with its odd, pointed, spiral tips, but the flavor and texture are closer to cauliflower than broccoli.
It can be substituted for cauliflower in any recipe, though Romanesco cooks a little bit faster, so be careful with your timing.