Cauliflower is a commonly consumed winter vegetable that is grown extensively in India. Usually, we cook the white or yellow-colored flower portion, and throw away the green leaves in the garbage bin or utilize them to feed domestic animals. These wasted leaves account for the almost the same volume as the used portion of the cauliflower. Cauliflower leaves are less commonly used and inexpensive leafy vegetables whose nutritive potential has not yet been adequately utilized. It is rich in various nutrients but has the highest waste index.
Do you know cauliflower leaves are nutritionally superior than cauliflower?
Based on the data provided by Food Composition Table, National Institution of Nutrition, Hyderabad, India, the nutritive value of fresh cauliflower and its leaves compare as follows-
Comparison of nutritive values of cauliflower and cauliflower leaves on a fresh basis (values per 100 g of edible portion)
|Name of the Nutrient(s)||Cauliflower||Cauliflower leaves|
|Total ash (g)||1.0||3.2 g|
The table clearly indicates that –
1. Cauliflower leaves contain more than twice the amount of protein than in cauliflower.
2. It provides more than 3 times the fat compared to cauliflower.
3. It supplies almost double the number of carbohydrates that cauliflower.
4. Cauliflower leaf is a richer source of dietary fiber.
5. The greens provide thrice the number of minerals than that in cauliflower.
6. The leaves supply just double the calories than the cauliflower itself.
7. Cauliflower leaf is an exceptionally good source of calcium, providing 626mg of calcium /100g of fresh leaves which is around 19 folds than that provided by the cauliflower (i.e. 33mg /100g).
8. The greens supply almost double the amount of phosphorus compared to cauliflower.
9. Cauliflower leaf is also a very rich source of iron, providing 40mg of iron /100g of fresh leaves which is around 32 folds than that provided by cauliflower (i.e. 1.23mg /100g).
So, next winter thinks twice before you ignore and throw these leaves out. Before cauliflower leaf becomes an expensive “superfood”, start making use of it. After all, it is free till now.
Not convinced till now? Well, not only nutritional benefits, the following health benefits may help you to change your mind.
What are the health benefits of cauliflower leaves?
Several clinical studies are carried out by many researchers on the health benefits of cauliflower leaves which are summarized below-
1. Cauliflower leaves are a good source of proteins, and minerals, like calcium and iron, which are essential for the normal growth and development of children. Daily intake of cauliflower leaves is very beneficial for undernourished children. This helps to increase their height, weight, and hemoglobin level. (1)
2. Most of us, irrespective of our age and sex, “hidden hunger” or micronutrient deficiencies are rampant. Even among the children and adults from well-to-do families are deficiencies in iron, calcium, and vitamin-A are common because of our bad food habits.
In today’s society, we are mostly dependent on processed foods and fast foods which are tasteful enough, satisfy our hunger, and supplies macronutrients like fat, carbohydrates, and protein but they are inadequate in their fiber, vitamins, and minerals content. Since fresh cauliflower greens are good sources of minerals and vitamins, regular intake of cauliflower leaves is indispensable for boosting our nutritional status and preventing micronutrient deficiency. (2, 3)
3. Cauliflower leaf is an excellent source of iron, supplying 40 mg of iron per 100g, so it has the potential to prevent and treat anemia among children, adolescent girls, and women. Many scientific studies prove the potential of cauliflower greens in the treatment of anemia. (4, 5, 6, 7)
4. Vitamin-A deficiency (VAD) is a severe public health problem in our country. More than 60% of preschool children suffered from subclinical VAD (<20μg/dL) in our country. (8) India has the highest prevalence of clinical and subclinical VAD among South Asian countries.
85% of the total South-Asian xerophthalmic children reside in our country. (9) Globally, night blindness is estimated to affect 5.2 million preschool-age children and 9.8 million pregnant women. (10) Regular intake of cauliflower leaves can efficiently improve the serum retinol level and thus is very useful to maintain eye health and prevent night blindness.(11)
5. Since the cauliflower leaf is a very good source of different types of antioxidants, it can protect us against free radical damage and oxidative stress and thus help reduce the risk of chronic diseases by protecting against free radical damage. (12, 13)
6. The protein present in the cauliflower leaves can reduce the blood glucose level. So, the consumption of these leaves is beneficial for diabetic patients.(14)
7. Cauliflower leaf powder (CLP) has anti-inflammatory properties.
8. Cauliflower leaf is an excellent source of calcium. So, it is good for middle-aged and post-menopausal women. Due to high calcium content, these greens have the potential to prevent the onset of osteoporosis and other bone-related diseases.
But cauliflower/cauliflower leaves are seasonal… what to do?
You are right. You should always plan your menu as per the seasonal and local availability of foods. Cauliflower is a seasonal vegetable. So, the good-quality fresh cauliflower greens are only abundantly available during the winter season. It is not available throughout the year.
Another problem is that like other green leafy vegetables, cauliflower leaves contain a large amount of moisture and thus they go bad too soon. So, to ensure regular intake of these nutritious greens, you can dry the leaves (sun-dry/ shade-dry or roasting it on low flame), crush the dried leaves and make a powder and then store the powder in an air-tight container in a cool and dry place. Don’t worry, it’s not a very difficult task.
Cauliflower leaf powder (CLP) is ideal for –
CLP can be incorporated into any day-to-day recipe to improve the overall health and nutritional status of family members. It is especially good for –
1. Diabetics as it contains moderate carbohydrates with high protein and fiber content.
2. Cardiac patients as it is low fat, high fiber food.
3. Malnourished children as it is a rich source of protein and energy.
4. Vegetarians as it is a good plant source of energy and macronutrients.
5. Anaemic individuals as it is an excellent source of iron.
6. Those suffering from bone pain, knee pain, osteoporosis, etc. as it is a good source of calcium.
7. Vitamin-A deficient children who have some problem in night vision (They can’t see properly at night). Night blindness or poor night vision is the first sign of vitamin-A deficiency. Cauliflower greens are rich in beta carotene.
How to use cauliflower leaf powder?
The fresh leaves can be fried, or they can be used in the mixed vegetable curry during winter. Otherwise, the cauliflower leaf powder can be added to many day-to-day recipes like dal, masala paratha or chilla or roti or puri, or body to increase the taste and nutritive value of the recipe.
So, time to introduce new recipes to your daily menu. Do not throw the cauliflower leaves as cattle feed. Before it becomes the next Indian “superfood” and starts appearing on the shelves of high-end health stores with an exorbitant price tag, start taking cauliflower leaves seriously. You can’t ignore the benefits of cauliflower leaves any more.
Cauliflower leaves are widely grown but rapidly perishable, neglected, highly nutritious green leafy vegetables which can be dried quickly and preserved for future use. Don’t forget that cauliflower leaves are nutritionally superior to cauliflower itself.
Fresh cauliflower leaves are low in calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat but high in micronutrient content. Why not avail the several health benefits of cauliflower greens and improve the nutritional status of you and your family? Next time before purchasing some expensive micronutrient supplements, give these greens a try.