If you've been paying close attention to food trends these days, you've likely noticed that cauliflower is everywhere — from pizza crust to mashed potato substitutes. Cauliflower belongs to the group of vegetables called cruciferous or brassica vegetables which includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, rutabaga and turnips, among others, according to Oregon State University.
With cauliflower's nutty and slightly sweet taste, it's become a trendy vegetables over the last few years, served in restaurants and dinner tables in a variety of ways, especially as a riced version. Like almost any food, cauliflower consumed in excess can have side effects, some potentially serious and some merely annoying and odorous.
It's always better to eat a rounded diet than to concentrate on a single food. Cauliflower, a generally healthy vegetable high in vitamin C and vitamin K, low in calories and high in fiber, has hidden risks for some people. One cup of cauliflower per week will provide the health benefits without the risks.
Iodine Absorption and Cauliflower
If you eat too much of them, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower can interfere with iodine absorption. They contain cyanogenic glucosides, sugar-like molecules that block iodine absorption when you digest them, according to Tulane University.
That's important because iodine plays an essential role in thyroid functioning and low iodine levels can lead to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism — characterized by decreased metabolism, cold sensitivity, dry hair and skin, difficulty thinking and weight gain — may occur if you eat a diet consisting almost entirely of cruciferous vegetables.
Additionally, sometimes, when you have low iodine levels, the thyroid enlarges so it can trap more iodine, a condition known as a goiter.
Gastrointestinal Distress and Gas
Cauliflower has another potential side effect if you eat too much of it — gas. While not as serious for your health as thyroid problems, intestinal gas can cause social embarrassment. The bloating and abdominal discomfort that accompany gas can also make you miserable.
Cruciferous vegetables contain complex carbohydrates that don't break down easily for digestion. Intestinal bacteria digest them in the intestine, producing carbon and hydrogen dioxide gas. An enzyme, called alpha galactosidase is required to break down sugars that may cause this gastric discomfort, says Enzyme Education Institute. Some people don't produce enough of this enzyme, but it's available in the form of over-the-counter anti-gas pills.
Drug Interaction With Vitamin K
If you take the blood thinning medication coumadin, too much cauliflower may interfere with the effectiveness of the medication. Cauliflower contains a moderate amount of vitamin K, with about 15.5 micrograms per cup of fresh and about 17.1 micrograms if boiled, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database.
Vitamin K helps your blood clot, but coumadin decreases your blood's ability to clot. Eating large amounts of any food with high vitamin K levels makes coumadin less effective.
If you already eat a lot of cauliflower, tell your doctor this before starting on coumadin. Suddenly decreasing your intake of vitamin K could also change the way coumadin works in your body. Keeping your vitamin K intake stable is essential when you take coumadin, Cleveland Clinic says.
- Linus Pauling Institute; Cruciferous Vegetables; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.; July 2005
- Tulane University: Endocrine Disruption Tutorial
- VegOnline; Nutrition Facts: Cauliflower;
- PubMed Health: Hypothyroidism
- NIH Office of Dietary supplements: Vitamin K
- Cleveland Clinic: Why Vitamin K Can Be Dangerous if You Take Warfarin
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Cauliflower
- Livestrong.com: About the Enzyme Alpha Galactosidase
- Enzyme Education Institute: Enzyme Technical Data Sheet
- Livestrong.com: 10 Ways to Add the Health Benefits of Cauliflower to Your Diet
- Livestrang.com: 9 Healthy and Delicious Cauliflower Recipes, Including Cauliflower Rice and Pizza Crust!
- Livestrong.com: Can Cauliflower Cause Stomachaches?
- Livestrong.com: How To Make Cauliflower Rice In The Microwave
- Livestrong.com: List of Cruciferous Vegetables