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Eating for two during pregnancy is a minefield which has any mother-to-be swamped with advice from many well-meaning friends, acquaintances, relatives and colleagues. As the list of rules grows, so does the confusion of whether or not to eat a particular item. Frequently, hot favourites which were a staple before pregnancy are relegated to a blacklist as a healthy diet takes prominence over everything else.
The humble cauliflower is one such item which confuses many mothers-to-be. Do the benefits of its consumption outweigh its risks during pregnancy?
Is it safe to eat cauliflower during pregnancy?
This is a question in the minds of many pregnant women. During pregnancy, the decision of whether or not to eat a certain food must be made considering its nutritional value, cost, availability as well as the risks of its consumption.
Being a cruciferous vegetable (belonging to the cabbage family) and high in sulphur compounds, the cauliflower can cause the development of gas in many people. Many pregnant women are prone to digestive ailments during pregnancy. Some of them are also prone to mistaking gas cramps or colic pains for signs of problems in the pregnancy. This is one of the reasons that the cauliflower is on many people’s list of ‘those that should not be eaten’ while pregnant.
What are the benefits of cauliflower?
Since the cauliflower is rich in many crucial nutrients, there are many benefits of consuming it during pregnancy. Here are some cauliflower nutrition facts:
- Cauliflower is rich in folate, a vitamin important for cell growth and replication, which in turn is integral to the growth of the baby in the womb.
- Pregnant women need more than 70 mg of Vitamin C every day. Cauliflower is a good source, with 1 bowl of cauliflower florets providing the daily recommended quota of easily absorbable Vitamin C.
- Folates and Vitamin C together are potent antioxidants that scavenge off free radicals in the bloodstream.
- Cauliflower helps combat tiredness and body pain by helping with the expulsion of antioxidants and free radicals.
- It is a very good source of pantothenic acid which has a central place in energy metabolism for carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
- It is a good source of omega 3 fats, which are central to the efficient functioning of immune response, inflammatory functions, cardiovascular activity and nervous system function.
- Cauliflower also has a large amount of easily available iron to help avoid preterm labour and low birth weight in your baby.
- Cauliflower also helps women with anaemia because of its easily absorbable iron.
- Cauliflower is a low-calorie vegetable which can be eaten even when the mother-to-be has to be careful about weight gain during pregnancy.
- Cauliflower helps reduce blood pressure, which might get elevated in many pregnant women during the last trimester of pregnancy.
- It also helps keep cholesterol at healthy levels.
- Cauliflower has niacin which helps to avoid central nervous system birth defects in the foetus.
- It has abundant Vitamin K which helps you to avoid getting a rare disorder called ‘vitamin K deficiency bleeding’.
- It is rich in phosphorus which helps build strong bones in you and your developing baby.
- It is rich in Magnesium to help prevent the uterus from contracting prematurely.
- It contains Zinc that helps support your immune system and heals wounds.
- It has abundant Manganese that helps form bone and cartilage.
- Cauliflower is also rich in selenium which helps with the regulation of immune and thyroid function.
Nutritional value of cauliflower
What are the nutrients in cauliflower? The cauliflower is a low calorie vegetable with around 25 calories for every 100 gm. It has high amounts of Vitamin C, B-6, K and plenty of easily available iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, manganese and selenium.
Here is a nutritional table for cauliflower and its comparison to other foods.
124.00 gramsCalories: 29
GI: very low
|vitamin C||54.93 mg||73||46.2||excellent|
|vitamin K||17.11 mcg||19||12.0||excellent|
|pantothenic acid||0.63 mg||13||8.0||excellent|
|vitamin B6||0.21 mg||12||7.8||excellent|
|choline||48.48 mg||11||7.2||very good|
|fiber||2.68 g||11||6.8||very good|
|omega-3 fats||0.21 g||9||5.5||very good|
|manganese||0.16 mg||8||5.0||very good|
|phosphorus||39.68 mg||6||3.6||very good|
|biotin||1.61 mcg||5||3.4||very good|
|vitamin B2||0.06 mg||5||2.9||good|
|vitamin B1||0.05 mg||4||2.6||good|
|vitamin B3||0.51 mg||3||2.0||good|
How to include cauliflower in your diet
This tasty vegetable is versatile and can be added to a wide variety of soups, purees and dishes to add taste, nutrition and flavour. Do not overcook cauliflower, as too much cooking pretty much destroys the nutritional benefits that you want.
- Lightly steamed crunchy cauliflower florets, tossed with salad dressing are an ideal supplement to toasted bread with garlic butter for lunchtime.
- Florets rolled in a thin batter and baked in an oven with a hot cup of chamomile tea can healthily combat the mid-afternoon munchies.
- A cauliflower stir-fry with fresh garden herbs like basil and rosemary can be paired with a rice and a lentil dish for a balanced meal.
- A steamed cauliflower puree makes a very tasty and nutrition-packed addition to a steak and gravy dish.
- Cauliflower stuffed parathas paired with a curd dip make a filling and nutritious combination for lunch or dinner.
Risks of eating cauliflower when pregnant
Despite its versatility and nutritional value, there are a few risks associated with pregnant women consuming cauliflowers. These include:
- Women prone to gout, kidney stones, and uric acid build-up should avoid cauliflower during their pregnancy since it is high in a naturally occurring substance called purine. An excess of purines can trigger a gout attack and may lead to the formation of kidney stones in sensitive individuals. Pregnant women already have a lot of load on their kidneys from the baby.
- In many countries, cauliflowers are grown by using a large amount of pesticides which have neurotoxins and can pass through the placenta, causing genetic alteration. So if your source of cauliflower is probably loaded with a high pesticide residue, you should try to source it from a reliable organic supplier. This will help you get all the benefits of cauliflower without the risks.
- Eating unwashed and uncooked cauliflower poses the risk of stomach irritation and food-borne diseases such as toxoplasmosis and listeriosis.
- Cauliflowers harbour a large number of insects and insect residue which can be ingested by mistake if prepared without cleaning and washing.
- Women near the end of their gestation can mistake gas cramps for signs of labour Women with a nervous disposition and tendency to gas run the risk of running to the hospital for what they think is labour but could just be gas.
Harmful effects of eating too much cauliflower
- Unwashed cauliflowers may contain harmful bacteria and parasites as well as pesticide residue that can cause stomach irritation and food-borne diseases such as toxoplasmosis and listeriosis. The cauliflower should be well washed and cleaned. Many people prefer to soak the florets in warm water with turmeric for a while before cooking.
- Cauliflower very rarely causes allergies in people. However, it can sometimes cause an allergic response with symptoms like severe itching, facial and hand swelling and breathing difficulties. If you do have an allergy, do not hesitate to ask your doctor for an antihistaminic and avoid cauliflower in the future.
- Cauliflower has been known to cause acid reflux and constipation in some people. Pregnant women who are prone to both these complaints should figure out if cauliflower is a trigger for them and if so avoid it in the future.
What precautions can you take while eating cauliflower?
Can you eat too much cauliflower? Of course you can – it is like any other part of your diet which should not be overdone. It must be planned with moderation.
- Cauliflower is a potent sulphur containing crucifer. Overconsumption can cause gas, bad smelling gas, and colic. So, eat in moderation if susceptible to digestive problems.
- Eat cauliflower-based dishes in the earlier part of the day to help digestion and absorption. Cook lightly with minimal spices and oil – this helps to both preserve nutrients and keep the dish easily digestible.
- Wash the cauliflower well and when possible buy from reputed organic outlets or farmers markets to get all the goodness of cauliflower without the toxin overload.
The humble cauliflower is a superfood which, when chosen well and eaten right, can be the ideal vegetable for you during your pregnancy. Include it in your diet by adhering to the above precautions so it can help you stay well-nourished and healthy through your pregnancy.