Mighty Little Trees: Broccoli & Cauliflower

Categories: Healthy Eating, Recipes, Uncategorized, Well Nourished

by Annalee Althouse, Keene State College Dietetic Intern 2019-2020

Broccoli and cauliflower are a part of the cruciferous family of vegetables. The cruciferous family also includes vegetables such as cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts, and bok choy. These vegetables contain a sulfuric compound called glucosinolates and when cooking, produces the well-known strong aromas. These two mini tree-like vegetables are known to be packed full of nutrients that promote many health benefits. They can be enjoyed steamed, raw, boiled, baked, in salads and soups, stir-fried and even transformed into pizza crust or rice.

 Why are they different colors? The head of broccoli is exposed to the sun, so chlorophyll, responsible for photosynthesis, turns sunlight into nutrients. Cauliflower lacks chlorophyll because its leaves cover the growing vegetable preventing any exposure to the sun. Broccoli and cauliflower begin growing the same way but when the vegetable’s flowers grow, the head is either covered by leaves or remains uncovered. Cauliflower florets can be found in a variety of colors including orange, purple and green. The orange florets contain much more vitamin A than white cauliflower while the purple florets contain antioxidants called anthocyanins which are also found in red cabbage. Green florets are a hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower and have a sweeter taste than the white florets.

The nutrient composition of broccoli and cauliflower are slightly different but are consistent in a few areas. In general, cruciferous vegetables are associated with decreasing the risk for cancer, specifically colon cancer. This is attributed to sulforaphane and indoles, or plant-based compounds found in this group of vegetables. They also are composed of the antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin K. However, unlike cauliflower, broccoli contains calcium which supports bone growth and metabolic mechanisms. Broccoli also contains vitamin A, potassium and folate. Folate is known to be an important part of the formation of red blood cells and their function, as well as a baby’s brain health during pregnancy. Broccoli and cauliflower promote digestive health. They contain fiber which act as agents that help bulk stool (insoluble fiber) and move things along (soluble fiber).

Are there any health-related concerns about these vegetables? Since broccoli and cauliflower contain large amounts of vitamin K, it is advised to eat consistent amounts of the vegetable or any vegetable that contains vitamin K when on Coumadin (Warfarin), a blood thinner medicine. Your healthcare provider can work with you to adjust the amount of medicine you need based on the amount of vitamin K-rich foods you consume. Vitamin K plays an important role in blood coagulation which counters the effect of Coumadin, which is prescribed to prevent blood coagulation. For further information regarding, talk to your primary physician and Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist.

Overall, these versatile vegetables are super foods that pack a powerful nutritional punch. Enjoy your mighty little trees!

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower With Cheese

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Cheese made on a sheet pan lined with foil for easy clean-up. A simple low-carb veggie side dish.

Prep Time: 15
Cook Time: 30
Total Time: 40
Yield: 5 Cups


  • 5 cups broccoli florets
  • 5 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • A generous pinch each nutmeg and cayenne
  • ½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese, about 2 ounces
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment, aluminum foil or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Toss broccoli, cauliflower, oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cayenne in a large bowl until coated. Spread on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Roast until the vegetables are browned and softened, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cheddar and Parmesan cheese and return to the oven. Roast until the cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve hot.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017, October 24). Folate (folic acid). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-folate/art-20364625

Megan Ware, R. D. N. (2017, December 8). Broccoli: Health benefits, nutritional information. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266765.php#health-benefits

Szalay, J. (2018, June 1). Cauliflower: Health Benefits & Nutrition Facts. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/54552-cauliflower-nutrition.html

“Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Cheese.” Healthy Seasonal Recipes, 12 Jan. 2020, www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com/roasted-broccoli-and-cauliflower-with-cheese/.