Broccoli and cauliflower are two vegetables that have a lot in common. They are both cruciferous vegetables and family members from the Brassica oleracea plant species. Both vegetables also originated from Europe’s Mediterranean region. Finally, they were likely both among the vegetables that you refused to eat as a kid—unless they were covered with cheddar cheese sauce, of course!
There’s no doubt that both veggies are healthy and packed full of nutrition. However, with all that similarity, it begs the question: what Brassica veggie is better for your health?
In this article:
Let’s compare the nutrients and health benefits to determine the winner of broccoli vs. cauliflower.
Nutrition Facts: Broccoli vs. Cauliflower
You should be eating at least five cups a week of cruciferous vegetables, especially including broccoli and cauliflower. Why should you eat these specific veggies? Well, the similarities between broccoli and cauliflower continue into their nutrient content.
Broccoli and cauliflower both contain vitamins A, C, and K; however, broccoli offers greater nutrient content in all three vitamins. Vitamins A and C are both essential for immune support.
A cup of broccoli contains 2,280.7 IU (international units) of vitamin A, which provides 46.6% of your recommended daily intake. It also contains 123.4 mg (milligrams) of vitamin C, or an incredible 205.7% of your recommended daily intake! Cauliflower only contains 54.9 mg of vitamin C and 21.08 IU of vitamin A.
What about vitamin K? Broccoli also outperforms cauliflower in this category. Broccoli contains 155.2 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin K compared to 11.2 mcg in cauliflower. The green cruciferous veggie also contains greater amounts of vitamin E and the B vitamins folate (B9), pyridoxine (B6), pantothenic acid (B5), niacin (B3), and riboflavin (B2).
Protein is essential for every cell in your body. The macronutrient is considered important for building and strengthening muscles, bones, skin, cartilage, and blood. Protein is also necessary for strong immunity and healthy brain function.
It is important to remember that not all protein sources are the same. For instance, your daily protein bar may be packed with protein, but it is also filled with sugar and food additives. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli help contribute to your daily protein intake, but broccoli packs bigger muscle in the protein category as well. A cup of cooked broccoli (156 grams) contains 4.7 g of protein, while cauliflower contains 2.3 g of protein per cup (124 g).
Are you concerned about your calorie intake? The good news is that broccoli and cauliflower are both extremely low in calories; however, cauliflower has a slight edge in this category. A cooked cup of broccoli contains 44 calories, whereas cooked cauliflower contains only 29 calories per cup, which is good news for your waistline.
Broccoli and cauliflower also benefit any weight loss plan with about 0.55 g of total fat per cup. Overall, both veggies should help you lose weight.
Besides vitamins, the powerhouse cruciferous vegetables are also packed with the other important micronutrients—minerals. Both vegetables are high in calcium, iron, and magnesium.
Calcium is important for the maintenance and development of teeth and bones, and iron helps with your body’s energy production. Magnesium prevents calcium deposits and also acts as a muscle relaxant.
A cup of cooked broccoli is considered a better dietary source of all three minerals. Broccoli contains 74.7 mg of calcium, and cauliflower only has about 19.8 mg; broccoli has 1.4 mg of iron, whereas cauliflower provides 0.41 mg; and broccoli is a very good source of magnesium with 39.0 mg—about 10% of your daily value—while cauliflower only has 11.2 mg of magnesium.
Broccoli is also a better source of manganese, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Nutritional Values of Broccoli vs. Cauliflower
How does the nutrition value compare per cooked cup of broccoli vs. cauliflower?
|Weight per cooked cup||156 g||124 g|
|Vitamin A||2,280.7 IU||21.08 IU|
|Vitamin C||123.4 mg||54.93 mg|
|Vitamin E||0.8 mg||0.10 mg|
|Vitamin K||155.2 mcg||11.17 mcg|
|Folate (vitamin B9)||93.9 mcg||54.56 mcg|
|Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)||0.22 mg||0.21 mg|
|Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)||0.8 mg||0.6 mg|
|Niacin (vitamin B3)||0.9 mg||0.5 mg|
|Riboflavin (vitamin B2)||0.2 mg||0.1 mg|
|Calcium||74.7 mg||19.85 mg|
|Iron||1.4 mg||0.41 mg|
|Magnesium||39.0 mg||11.16 mg|
|Manganese||0.3 mg||0.17 mg|
|Potassium||505.4 mg||176.08 mg|
|Phosphorus||102.8 mg||39.68 mg|
|Zinc||0.6 mg||0.22 mg|
Health Benefits of Broccoli
It is clear that broccoli is a nutritional superfood, and scientific evidence supports its wide range of health benefits. For instance, broccoli has widely been regarded for cancer prevention based on epidemiological data and experimental testing.
Broccoli contains the sulfur-containing compound sinigrin, which helps release special phytonutrients, like isothiocyanates, that detoxify cancer-causing carcinogens.
The vegetable also contains other cancer prevention properties. In particular, indole-3-carbinol, found in broccoli, helps deactivate the tumor promoter 4-hydroxyestrone, especially in breast cells. The phytonutrient glucoraphanin in broccoli is also known to convert to sulforaphane in your body; sulforaphane is helpful for liver detoxification, which quickly removes any potential carcinogens.
Broccoli also contains plenty of heart-healthy benefits. Broccoli’s sulforaphane also contains anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent and reverse blood vessel damage from inflammatory chronic blood sugar issues. Broccoli is loaded with other heart-healthy nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, folate, fiber, and vitamins B3, B6, and E. The soluble fiber in broccoli even helps reduce cholesterol levels in your body.
Eradication of Harmful H. Pylori Bacteria
What are broccoli’s other health benefits? The sulforaphane in broccoli and broccoli sprouts may help eradicate the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), which is responsible for many stomach ulcers and stomach cancer risk. In a study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in 2003, researchers found that sulforaphane eliminated H. pylori in eight of 11 infected mice.
In another study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research in 2009, researchers observed 48 H. pylori-infected patients for a two-month period. They were assigned randomly to eat 70 g daily of the sulforaphane-heavy broccoli sprouts or a placebo (alfalfa sprouts, which do not contain sulforaphane). The broccoli sprouts decreased biomarkers of H. pylori colonization, including H. pylori stool antigen and levels of urease. The broccoli sprouts also reduced biomarkers of stomach damage, including serum pepsinogens I and II.
Broccoli is also thought to benefit people with vision problems, such as cataracts. Broccoli contains two powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are from the carotenoid family. The sulforaphane in broccoli also may contain antioxidant properties, which helps protect the eye from potentially damaging free radicals.
Other Health Benefits
Broccoli is also important for bone health, osteoporosis prevention, and weight control. The alkalinizing vegetable also helps reduce acidity within your body.
What Are the Best Ways to Eat Broccoli?
You can eat it raw, but if you plan to cook broccoli, it is best to steam it lightly. Broccoli doesn’t taste good when overcooked. (Keep reading to find out some other tasty ways to enjoy this cruciferous vegetable.)
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Now let’s take a look at cauliflower. Although broccoli contains more nutrients, there are still plenty of reasons to pile cauliflower on your plate. Here are some of its health benefits.
Similar to broccoli, cauliflower contains glucosinolates and thiocyanates, such as sulforaphane, which can help liver enzymes eliminate carcinogens and prevent cancers, including ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, lung cancer, endometrial cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, and bladder cancer.
In a review published in the journal Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology in 1999, researchers observed six cohort studies and 74 case-control studies regarding the anti-cancer effects of Brassica vegetables, including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. In 64% of the case-control studies, there was an association between Brassica vegetable consumption and a lower cancer risk.
The cruciferous vegetable is also excellent for heart health. Cauliflower is a good source of folate and vitamin B6; these B vitamins are necessary for homocysteine metabolism, which can prevent issues associated with cardiovascular disease, such as arterial wall damage and high blood levels. Cauliflower also contains the omega-3 essential fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, which can reduce biomarkers for cardiovascular disease.
Cauliflower also contains the heart-healthy nutrients vitamin B3, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. The sulforaphane in cauliflower may also help reverse blood vessel damage. Finally, cauliflower also contains allicin, which is associated with the reduction of heart disease and stroke.
Cauliflower is important for digestion. The vegetable contains 2.28 g of fiber, which helps with digestive support. The sulforaphane in cauliflower also helps protect the stomach lining and prevents H. pylori overgrowth.
The glucosinolates and thiocyanates also display anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce inflammation in health conditions likes ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
The vitamin K and omeg-3 fatty acids in cauliflower help prevent chronic inflammatory conditions. The vegetable’s glucosinolates (gluconasturtiian, glucoraphanin, and glucobrassicin) also help activate and regulate enzyme activity during the liver detoxification process.
What Is the Best Way to Eat Cauliflower?
Lightly steaming cauliflower is always a good idea. Mashing cooked cauliflower can also turn it into a healthy alternative to mashed potatoes. It is an easy recipe, and only requires a large head of cauliflower, five garlic cloves, a third cup of chives and basil, and grey Celtic sea salt.
To make some nutritious cauliflower mash, first steam the cauliflower and garlic for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Next, combine the steamed cauliflower and garlic, sea salt, and fresh herbs in a high-powered blender or food processor until a mashed potato consistency forms. And that’s it: in two steps, you have a delicious side dish to any healthy meal.
Is Broccoli Better Than Cauliflower?
As part of our new and exciting series ‘The Food Doctor’s Foods Smackdown’ we bring you the prestigious Cruciferous Veggies Cup Semi-Final.
In the green corner, the fast rising exciting new talent, Broccoli – Brassica oleracea var. italica
In the white corner, the ever dependable contender, Cauliflower – Brassica oleracea
The Weigh in round – 100 grams of pure vegetables
Weigh in done and let’s see the fitter between two–
- Broccoli – 0.4 g fat
- Cauliflower – 0.3 g fat
Cauliflower looks to be the more lean and mean than broccoli and has the edge.
Score: Broccoli – 0, Cauliflower – 1
And so it begins, the much awaited contest to start our veggie showdown brought to you by none other than the famous Food Doctor.
Round 1 – The Proteins Round
This is a round of strength and muscle building ability. At 2.8 grams, Broccoli has made a great start, what about Cauli, how’s it doing. Cauliflower comes in at 1.9 grams. That’s a win for Broccoli and an emphatic one at that.
Score: Broccoli – 1, Cauliflower – 0
Round 2 – The Carbs Round
This round shows who puts in a quick burst of energy. Both veggies are now locked even and it’s a tense affair. As they circle each other and try to gauge weakness and opportunity, the audience sites tense with anticipation. Broccoli again makes the first move and clocks in the carbs at 7 grams. Cauliflower does not like being second and throws in a quick carb score. It’s a miss as Cauli gets only 5 grams. The disappointment is obvious.
Score: Broccoli – 1, Cauliflower – 0
Round 3 – The Vitamin Round
Both look exhausted from all that effort, now an extra burst of vitamins is what will make a difference here. This is going to be a fast round with lots of rapid punches. Let’s see how it goes
- Vitamin A –Broccoli moves fast forward and hits the vitamin A punch of 623 IU (International Units). Cauliflower gets no time to make his move and remains on 0 here.
- Vitamin C – Broccoli continues to dominate Cauli with 89.2 mg of vitamin C, and now cauliflower has found its first kick in vitamins round, with 51.6 mg of vitamin C.
- Vitamin K – Broccoli takes a lead with 101.6 micrograms of vitamin K, and cauliflower has somehow managed to reach 15.5 micrograms.
The winner of the vitamin round is none other than broccoli.
The judges are in a daze and the stats guys are scratching their heads furiously. But finally the count is in for this round. And this is really a big boost for…
Broccoli, who pulls in 3 of 3, so the result is…
Score: Broccoli – 1, Cauliflower – 0
The final round – All Those Minerals
Both fighters are almost ready to drop, but this is going to be the ‘make or break’ round. If you do not last, you’d lose. So this one is faster, but shorter so cauliflower has a chance to close the gap and hope Broccoli drops from sheer exhaustion.
There goes the bell and both rush at each other, desperate for that one last finishing punch. It’s a do-or-die situation right now. Both are throwing in those punches and it’s amazing how far these guys will go to get that cup.
Ting Ting– There goes the finishing bell, Broccoli is still standing and so is Cauliflower. This one was close, but the judges give the edge to the younger Broccoli and Cauli can hardly hold back the tears.
Score: Broccoli – 1, Cauliflower – 0
So the final score is – Broccoli 4, Cauliflower 1
This was unbelievable; the newcomer has stopped the evergreen contender and now is through to the final of the Cruciferous veggies cup.
The statistics don’t lie: broccoli is more nutritious than cauliflower. Broccoli outperforms cauliflower in every major nutritional category, especially for protein, fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
Where does cauliflower have the advantage? Cauliflower contains fewer calories.
Overall, you can’t go wrong with either cruciferous vegetable. After all, they are both loaded with nutrients, even if one is a seeming superfood and the other is just a healthy food choice.
Is There Any Downside to Their Health Benefits?
Both vegetables pose a common side effect: gas or bowel irritation. Like most vegetables, however, the health benefits of broccoli and cauliflower far outweigh the adverse effects.
One important note: broccoli is a higher source of vitamin K, which may interfere with blood-thinning drugs.
It is also important to remember that broccoli and cauliflower contain the lowest amounts of pesticide levels, according to the Environmental Working Group. This indicates that it is safer to buy conventional broccoli and cauliflower, though it is still wise to purchase organic whenever possible.
5 Best Ways to Eat Broccoli in Your Daily Diet
We know broccoli is more nutritious, but how can you make it more delicious? What are some healthy broccoli recipes that aren’t bland? How about the perfect broccoli soup or broccoli side dish recipes? Here are a few suggestions to help you incorporate broccoli into your daily diet.
1. Chopped Broccoli Salad
Mince a cup of broccoli and a medium carrot with a knife or food processor and place the minced mixture in a large salad bowl.
Add a half of a diced avocado, some diced tomatoes, and 12 chopped kalamata olives. Add olive oil and lemon for a dressing. Mix and enjoy!
2. Cream of Broccoli Soup
In a large pot, heat two tablespoons of organic ghee or organic butter. Add a cup of chopped onion. When browned, add a half-cup of chopped celery and some pepper, and cook for about five minutes. Add two diced medium potatoes, four cups of water, and salt, then bring to a boil. Return heat to medium, cover, and cook until potatoes are tender.
Add broccoli, and cook for another five minutes. Place soup in a blender, add a half-cup of almond or coconut milk, and puree until smooth. Return soup to the pot, and add a quarter-cup of nutritional yeast and a quarter-teaspoon of nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, then serve.
3. Tamari Broccoli with Sunflower Seeds
Over medium-heat, melt coconut oil in a saucepan, then add broccoli for about seven minutes.
Next, drizzle with wheat-free tamari sauce and continue to cook for another minute.
Remove from heat and add sunflower seeds.
4. Vegan Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli
This is a two-part recipe for a delicious vegan macaroni and cheese with broccoli main course dish.
In a large pot, boil water on high heat, then stir in rice and quinoa macaroni pasta. Decrease heat to medium-low and cook for about 12 minutes, or until al dente. Next, add an inch of water in a medium pot, add the broccoli, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and cover; cook for about five minutes. Combine drained macaroni and broccoli in the large pot.
For “cheese” sauce, soak one-and-a-half cups of cashews in water for four hours. Transfer to a blender, and add two cups of water, three tablespoons of nutritional yeast, two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, one tablespoon of chopped onion, one chopped garlic clove, and three-quarters of grey Celtic sea salt, then process in a high-powered blender until smooth.
Add the “cheesy” sauce into the pot with the broccoli and pasta, and cook over medium heat for about five minutes. Serve hot.
5. Oven-Roasted Broccoli Recipe
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix one bunch of broccoli florets with extra virgin olive oil and Celtic grey sea salt.
Next, spread the broccoli out on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven until slightly browned for about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and serve hot.
- 5 New Cauliflower Recipes to Keep Things Interesting
- Kale vs. Cabbage, The Cruciferous Vegetables Smackdown
Sources for Today’s Article:
Mateljan, G., The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the healthiest way of eating (Seattle: George Mateljan Foundation, 2007), 128–135, 196–201.
Abdull Razis, A.F., et al., “Cruciferous vegetables: dietary phytochemicals for cancer prevention,” Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention 2013; 14(3):