Rice is a dietary staple around the world and is composed of virtually all carbohydrates, with trace amounts of protein. Brown rice contains a fair amount of fiber, and white rice contains very little.
While rice (especially brown) is okay to include in your diet in moderation, it is much less nutrient-dense than many other foods and has a significant elevating effect on blood sugar. Brown rice also offers some vitamin and mineral content (although the phytic acid levels make some of these nutrients difficult for the body to absorb), and red-grained varieties of rice have a higher antioxidant content than most (1).
It sounds strange, but cauliflower makes an excellent rice substitution!
While soaking, sprouting, or fermenting your rice before cooking it will reduce the phytic acid (therefore making it a much more nutritious food), very few people take the time (or have the time) to do so. If you fit into that category, consider using cauliflower instead!
Isn’t Brown Rice Healthier?
Yes, brown rice is generally considered a healthier choice than white. However, for certain people, any rice might be a concern, especially those who have blood sugar issues. Studies show that eating rice on a regular basis can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes (2). Additionally, heavy metals, such as mercury, lead, chromium, arsenic, and mercury, have also been found in rice (3).
Cauliflower as Rice?
It sounds strange, but cauliflower makes an excellent rice substitution. Given its naturally neutral taste and grainy texture, it can quickly and easily be made into a rice-like consistency and served with just about any dish you might otherwise eat with white or brown rice. First, we’ll look at some of the impressive health benefits of cauliflower and then we’ll get to a recipe.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Rich in Antioxidants
Cauliflower is packed full of vitamin C, beta-carotene, quercetin, rutin, kaempferol, and other powerful antioxidants that help fight excessive free radical damage in the body (4).
Due in part to its antioxidant content, but also to the fact that cauliflower contains sulforaphane, cauliflower is thought to be an excellent addition to a cancer-prevention diet. One study found that a phytochemical that you metabolize from cauliflower combined with curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) was particularly effective in fighting prostate cancer (5). So, add a bit of turmeric to your cauliflower rice for some added health benefits.
Chronic inflammation has been linked to many diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Cauliflower is a great food to fight this type of unwanted inflammation (as opposed to more acute inflammation that is normal and necessary). Cauliflower is rich in inflammation-fighting compounds, such as (6).
All cruciferous vegetables support the body’s detoxification pathways (other members of the cruciferous family include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale, among others), and cauliflower is no exception. Certain antioxidants in both broccoli and cauliflower support our phase one detoxification, while other sulfur-containing compounds support phase two (7).
Simple Cauliflower Rice Recipe
The good news is that making cauliflower “rice” is quite simple. You can add your own twists and flavors depending on what you’ll be serving it with, as cauliflower is great at soaking up all different sorts of tastes. This recipe serves about four people. A food processor makes this easier, but a hand grater works, too.
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 2 tablespoons coconut or extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- **any other spices you want, like turmeric (as mentioned above)
- Cut your cauliflower into chunks and place in your food processor, processing until it has a rice-like consistency (depending on the size of your processor you might need to process the cauliflower in batches).
- Once the cauliflower is chopped, heat your oil of choice in a big skillet on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add your cauliflower, salt, pepper, and any other spices you are using.
- Stir and cover, cooking until cauliflower is tender, usually about 5 minutes. Serve!
There are many ways to adapt this recipe to your liking, such as adding in some chopped onion and garlic at the beginning to give it a richer taste. The point is this: replacing rice with cauliflower (at least some of the time) is a great way to boost the nutrient density of your diet, and make sure you’re not filling up on empty calories. Try it tonight!