Crushing on Cauliflower

Cauliflower can be a very underrated vegetable. Think about it, how often do you see it as a side option at restaurants. Broccoli rabe, asparagus, sautéed mushrooms and creamed spinach seem to pull rank in the vegetable department when it comes finer dining. Cauliflower can be broccoli’s inferior step sister; she’s ugly and can be downright boring sometimes.  As a dietitian, it feels almost illegal to dislike any type of vegetable, but I am going to be honest with you, there was once a day some 10 years ago I HATED cauliflower. The texture, the lack of flavor – it’s a vegetable that screams ‘Blah!’.

So why am I writing about it? Well, in my growing maturity over the past 10 years, I’ve learned to embrace two things; no longer needing powder blue eye shadow and cauliflower. The turning point was the night I decided to make whipped cauliflower for the family as a mashed potato alternative. After that dinner, cauliflower has never been the same.

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Cauliflower is a member of the cruciferious vegetable family. Other members of this classification include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy and kale. The name ‘cruciferous’ comes from its alternative name Cruciferae, new latin for ‘cross-bearing’. The shape of these plants four-petal flowers resemble a cross. Get it? One rule of thumb for these vegetables: don’t overcook them. When overcooked, they can give off a strong sulfur odor.

Over the past decade or so it seems like one waxing and waning health trend is to swear off all white foods. Why? Sure white breads, pasta and rice aren’t nutritionally dense, but I’ve found that many people think other white foods are bad for you. They’re not. White beans, white button mushrooms, parsnips, onions, turnips, cauliflower and regular white potatoes all have nutrients to bring to the table. Yes, even potatoes.

Now then, I spotlight cauliflower today. It is rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties through its high vitamin C and K content. One cup of cooked cauliflower contains 5 grams of fiber and 140mg of omega-3. Talk about protecting that ticker of yours!

Image by Kimberly Sabada

Image by Kimberly Sabada

I enjoy cauliflower roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees F until tender and lightly browned. When cooked properly, cauliflower develops a very smooth, creamy texture great for adding to soups or as a substitute for cheese on salads. You’re probably rolling your eyes at the idea of a vegetable taking place of cheese, but try it! Click here for my Curried Cauliflower with Garlic Roasted Beans and Brown Rice on The Healthy Revival (pictured above).

Come back next week for a delicious twist on a classic recipe featuring cauliflower!

May the Peas Be With You

Vegetable (un)discovery time. It’s a vegetable you were probably raised on – a staple of the homemade dinner…pre-iphone. In a time when we’re cross breeding any and all fruits and vegetables, returning the basics is never a bad idea. I’m 25 years old. I didn’t have a brussels sprout before the age of 18, a beet until I was 22 or a kale leaf until a few days ago. I know I live in a nutrition bubble where we’re all trying to find the next ‘it’ vegetable, but really lets all relax and return to this agricultural titan of a food.

These sweet, plumb chub balls are loaded with vitamins. It’s a legume that you need to bring back into the forefront of your diet. These little nuggets are loaded with  vitamin K, A, C and B6. They are also packed with fiber , 1 cup cooked has 9 grams of dietary fiber. If you need to brush up on why fiber is an important part of your diet, click here.  Lastly, 1 cup of green peas contains more protein than  1/4 cup almonds or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. BAM!

Now I know what you’re thinking. Kim, peas are starchy. Yes, they are. But I am not recommending you fold them into mashed potatoes and spread the carbohydrate mixture on top of pizza. No, throw them into salad, mash them up with mint for a fresh side dish, or toss into soup instead of noodles, potatoes or corn. Dig in and enjoy!


Let’s Talk About Salt Baby

We have all heard the hazards of a high sodium diet, but few us can actually put a number on what  ‘high sodium’ means. While some foods have naturally occurring sodium, we need to be more wary of the salt we add at the table and that which we buy in a package from the food store.  This post isn’t just for those with high blood pressure. It’s for all of us. Sure, sodium is an important, essential mineral for proper human functioning. The trouble lies in the fact that most of us over-consume sodium and we barely have to lift a salt shaker to do so.

The slippery slope of high blood pressure is a scary one. In a 2009 article from the Journal of Human Hypertension, authors He, J. and MacGregor, G. report elevated blood pressure accounts for 62% of strokes and 49% of coronary heart disease. Hypertension isn’t just reserved for those bear-guzzeling, burger-eating, cigarette-smoking 70-plusers. Even if you eat a relatively healthy diet, genetics, gender, stress, cholesterol levels, physical activity and weight status also have a lot to do your risk for developing heart disease (and let’s not forget smoking status). According to The American Heart Association, the start of plaque development  can start during childhood and adolescence . Don’t kid yourself, it’s never too early to start protecting that beautiful, blood-pumping muscle found inside your chest.

Decoding Labels: Just because a label can read ‘Low Sodium’, does not mean it’s actually low in sodium. Confused? Don’t be. Below are the FDA’s definitions for sodium label claims.

“Sodium-Free” or “Salt-Free” = Less than 5 mg of sodium per labeled serving

“Very Low Sodium”/”Very Low Salt” = 35 mg or less of sodium per serving

“Low Sodium” or “Low Salt” = 140 mg or less of sodium per serving

“Reduced Sodium” or “Reduced Salt” = At least 25 percent less sodium per serving than a similar product

“Lightly Salted” or “Light in Sodium” = At least 50 percent less sodium per serving than a similar product

“No Salt Added” or “Unsalted” = This means the food doesn’t have any extra salt, not that it is totally salt-free

The American Heart Association recommends eating less than 1500mg of sodium per day. 

Milligram Rule: My general rule of thumb to patients when it comes to deciphering a low sodium food from a high sodium food is this: if it contains over 300mg of sodium per serving, don’t buy it. And just because it has less than 300mg per serving, doesn’t mean you get to consume two servings in one sitting. #RDRULES. I really don’t have rules, they’re just good, strong guidelines.  Need help reading a food label?

You’re welcome.  Label reading is a whole other blog post…

Smart Shopping: Sticking to the perimeter of the food store is my last piece of advice for the sodium reducer. The inside aisles of the food store are where we get into the most trouble – it’s the land of canned goods and junk food.  Think about it, the perimeter is always filled with naturally, low-sodium foods: fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy. Sure, you can still find your way into trouble, but you’ll already be ahead of the others.

PS – stop using salt at the table, 1 tsp of table salt = 2300mg of sodium. Chew on that, just not with added salt.


He, F.J. and G.A. MacGregor, A comprehensive review on salt and health and current experience of worldwide salt reduction programmes. J Hum Hypertens, 2009. 23(6): p. 363-84.