Abundant on party veggie trays and fine hors d'oeuvre platters alike, excellent aside fondue, cooked to perfection in a variety of creamy potato soups, and beyond glorious when paired with broccoli and topped with a velvety smooth cheese sauce, cauliflower is a very versatile veggie that’s hard not to love. Rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber and a good source of vitamin B6 and folate, this cruciferous vegetable is also good for you! Read on for more about one of the true staples of the vegetable world...

Cauliflower 101

Cauliflower is a member of the noble Cruciferae family, which includes broccoli, cabbage, arugula, collards, watercress, horseradish, kohlrabi, radish, rutabaga and turnips. As its name suggest, cauliflower is indeed a flower. The creamy white, crunchy stems and head of the cauliflower plant, which we eat, are actually the undeveloped stems and buds of a flower.

Three variety of cauliflower exist: the common white cauliflower, the broccoflower (a lime-green hybrid of broccoli and cauliflower), and the purple-headed cauliflower. The lack of color on the white cauliflower plant is due to a thick, protective layering of leaves that surround the head, shading the plant from the sun, blocking the production of chlorophyll (the green pigment found in plants). Cauliflower heads that do peak out and get some sun become discolored and taste unpleasant.

The first place to make your move towards healthy cuisine is by purchasing more foods that are naturally grown. Do more of your shopping in the produce isle of your grocery store instead of buying the latest version of tuna noodle casserole in a box. If you are really feeling adventurous, try growing your own garden so you can have an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables all summer long. You can even freeze your homegrown produce to use during the winter months. Visit your local farmer’s market to purchase fruits and vegetables. Not only will you be doing your body a beneficial service, but you will also be supporting local farmers.

Knowing where to start is half the battle to improving your diet. A few essential elements start you on your course of eating a nutrient-rich diet. By following a few tips, you can be well on your way to living a healthier lifestyle.

Essential Fatty Acids

More than likely, you have heard doctors and nutritionists discuss the difference between “good” fats and “bad” fats. Despite all the hype about fat-free foods, there is such a thing as a “good” fat. Our bodies need a certain amount of fat to function on a regular basis. And although the human body is an amazing piece of machinery, we can’t produce our own essential fatty acids. Therefore, your task, when eating a healthy cuisine, is to find foods that are full of good fats.

Essential fatty acids come in a variety of outlets, from fish to nuts and oils. What these fats do is help your body produce more high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and lower your levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL). HDL and LDL comprise the body’s cholesterol levels, so you want to eat foods that help your body rid itself of heart clogging impurities.

The magical wands needed to lower LDL levels are fatty acids, like Omega 3s. Not only do Omega 3s help lower your bad cholesterol, but they can also help improve your immune system, nervous system, and reproductive system.

Fill your diet with more fish, such as salmon, albacore tuna, or mackerel, which all supply a recommended amount of Omega 3s. Nuts are another great resource to get essential fatty acids, so snack on almonds, cashews, peanuts, or macadamia nuts instead of eating processed cookies and potato chips full of hydrogenated oils. Eliminating margarine and butter from your diet and using more cold-pressed canola oils, extra-virgin olive oils or flaxseed oils is another great way to achieve a healthy cuisine.

Whole Grains

For centuries, grains have been a staple in a well-balanced diet. Whole grains comprise a section of today’s food pyramid, meaning they are an essential part of eating a healthy cuisine. Whole grains provide the body with essential vitamins and minerals it needs to give us energy, such as vitamin B and iron. Whole grains have also been linked in recent studies to reducing your risk for coronary disease. Because whole grains are loaded with lots of fiber, they can help you stay regulated by fighting off constipation.

Whole grains are easy to find, so you have an assortment of options available to please the pallet. Rice, bread and pasta are the most common sources of grains in our diets. Instead of making your favorite stir-fry with instant white rice, opt for using brown rice. Another excellent way to include more whole grains in your diet is to use whole-wheat flour instead of white flour when you bake at home.

So many recipes call for using flour, and whole-wheat flour is an excellent, and healthier, substitute. Finally, another source of whole grain is barley, which can easily be added to homemade soups and stews for fiber-packed flavor.

Making Healthy Choices

Essentially, a healthy cuisine is about making healthier choices in your diet. Incorporate more lean protein into your diet, such as chicken or pork. We already know fish is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, but it is also a great source of lean protein. Fish should be a staple in your healthy cuisine. Limit your intake of lean red meats to once or twice a week, especially if your family has a history of high cholesterol and heart disease.

Your mother was right when she told you to eat your fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are not only a great source of complex carbohydrates, but they are full of vitamins and minerals. Fruits, aside from providing essential vitamins, like vitamin C, can also give us a lot of energy from their natural sugars. Next time you need something to serve with your main dish, sauté chopped up zucchini, squash, and red peppers in a skillet with a dash of olive oil for a flavorful and vitamin-rich side.

A healthy cuisine is also about avoiding the “mystery meats” that are so common in our diets. Highly processed meat products, like deli meats and hot dogs, are usually full of trans-fats and excessive amounts of sodium.

Because sodium is found naturally in many of the foods we eat, by adding more sodium to our diet through processed foods and canned goods, you are increasing your risk for high blood pressure.

Eating a healthy cuisine can be fulfilling, despite the fact you might have to give up store-bought cupcakes and sugary cereals. Healthy cuisines are about finding unique and creative was to get the daily nutrients you need from fresh meats and produce. Even learning to kick up the flavor of your meals with fresh herbs and spices can help you relinquish the need to salt your dinner. Once you get into the habit of making heart-healthy meals, you’ll wonder how you ever ate that tuna noodle casserole from a box in the first place.

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