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Broccoli vs Cauliflower - In-Depth Nutrition and Health Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on November 30, 2020
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Broccoli
vs
Cauliflower

Summary

Broccoli and cauliflower are closely related to each other, being different cultivars of the same species.

Broccoli is higher in calories, protein, fats, and carbohydrates. However, cauliflower contains more sugars, whereas broccoli is richer in dietary fiber. Broccoli also wins in both the vitamin and mineral categories, being richer in vitamins E, K, A, and vitamin C, calcium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus. Cauliflower, on the other hand, is lower in sodium and contains higher amounts of choline.

Even though broccoli is overall richer in nutrients, both cauliflower and broccoli are full of essential nutrients and have many health benefits. The final choice depends on personal preferences and needs.

Introduction

Broccoli and cauliflower are often used in the kitchen together, as they complement each other. Both of these vegetables are cruciferous and have a lot in common. In this article, we will talk about those similarities, as well as their differences, mainly focusing on health and nutrition.

Classification

Cauliflower and broccoli share the same species, family, and genus. These vegetables belong to the Brassica oleracea species in the Brassica genus and the Brassicaceae family. What differentiates broccoli and cauliflower is their cultivar. Broccoli belongs to the Italica cultivar, whereas cauliflower is a part of the Botrytis variety.

Broccoli and cauliflower are closely related to cabbage, kale, and Brussel sprouts.

Appearance

The apparent difference between broccoli and cauliflower lies in their color, broccoli being associated with green and cauliflower with white. Another difference is the edible part of the vegetables: in cauliflower, it is only the head, whereas the edible part of broccoli is the flower bud.

Taste and Use

Broccoli and cauliflower are often used in the same way in the kitchen. They are usually steamed, boiled, roasted, or used raw.

The taste of these vegetables is quite distinctly different, with cauliflower having a sweeter taste, while broccoli is usually mildly bitter. However, research has shown that the perception of the bitter taste of broccoli varies from person to person, depending on genetic makeup and other factors (1).

Growing Conditions

Broccoli is a biennial plant and is considered to be a cool-season crop, meaning it prefers temperatures between 18 to 24°C (64 to 75°F).

On the other hand, cauliflower is an annual plant that grows best in temperatures between 21 and 29°C (70 to 84°F).

Varieties

Both broccoli and cauliflower have dozens of varieties and can appear in many colors, including white, green, purple, orange, and yellow.

The four main groups of cauliflower varieties are Italian, Northern European annual, Northern European biennial, and Asian. The most commonly used cauliflower is the white cultivar of the Italian variety.

Broccoli has three commonly grown types: Calabrese broccoli, sprouting broccoli, and purple or violet cauliflower. The most commonly used broccoli is the Calabrese broccoli.

The purple cauliflower exhibits both broccoli and cauliflower properties, and it is unclear whether it is a hybrid variety (2).

Nutrition

Cauliflower and broccoli, like all other cruciferous vegetables, are filled with essential nutrients. Here, we will see which vegetable is richer in these nutrients.

Depending on growing conditions and varieties of the vegetable, the nutrition may differ. In this article, we are using nutritional facts about the most common types of broccoli and cauliflower: Calabrese broccoli and white cauliflower.

Macronutrients and Calories

Cauliflower consists of 92% water. Broccoli is a little denser, with a water percentage of 89.

One average serving of broccoli is larger than that of cauliflower. A serving of broccoli weighs 148g, whereas a serving of cauliflower is 107g or equal to one cup of chopped one half of cauliflower.

Calories

As broccoli is denser and richer in most nutrients, it has a higher caloric value. A 100g of broccoli contains 34 calories, with the same amount of cauliflower containing 25 calories.

Both vegetables are low-calorie foods.

Protein and Fats

Broccoli is higher in both protein and fats.

The main fat type in broccoli is the recommended polyunsaturated fatty acid, whereas, in cauliflower, the saturated fatty acids dominate.

Both vegetables contain some amounts of all essential amino acids. The predominant essential amino acid found in broccoli is tryptophan, while in cauliflower, it is lysine. Lysine is the only essential amino acid that cauliflower is richer in compared to broccoli.

Carbohydrates

Broccoli is higher in carbohydrates as well due to a larger amount of dietary fiber.

Cauliflower contains more sugars. The sugars found in cauliflower are glucose and fructose, while broccoli also contains maltose, lactose, and sucrose.

Vitamins

Both vegetables are excellent sources of many vitamins, particularly vitamin C and vitamin B9. However, broccoli wins in this category, being richer in almost all vitamins.

Broccoli is significantly higher in vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B2, and vitamin C. Broccoli also contains vitamin A, which is absent in cauliflower.

Cauliflower is slightly higher in vitamin B5 and vitamin B6.

Broccoli and cauliflower both do not contain vitamin D and vitamin B12.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
:
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +875%
Contains more Vitamin C +85.1%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +42%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +95%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +26%
Contains more Folate +10.5%
Contains more Vitamin K +555.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +16.4%
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.184
Equal in Folate - 57
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 38% 16% 0% 298% 18% 27% 12% 35% 41% 48% 0% 254%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 2% 0% 161% 13% 14% 10% 41% 43% 43% 0% 39%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +875%
Contains more Vitamin C +85.1%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +42%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +95%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +26%
Contains more Folate +10.5%
Contains more Vitamin K +555.5%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +16.4%
Equal in Vitamin B6 - 0.184
Equal in Folate - 57

Minerals

Broccoli is also the clear winner in the mineral category. It is richer in calcium, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, and potassium.

Cauliflower is lower in sodium and richer in choline.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Contains more Calcium +113.6%
Contains more Iron +73.8%
Contains more Magnesium +40%
Contains more Phosphorus +50%
Contains more Zinc +51.9%
Contains more Copper +25.6%
Equal in Potassium - 299
Equal in Sodium - 30
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 15% 28% 15% 29% 28% 5% 12% 17%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 7% 16% 11% 19% 27% 4% 8% 14%
Contains more Calcium +113.6%
Contains more Iron +73.8%
Contains more Magnesium +40%
Contains more Phosphorus +50%
Contains more Zinc +51.9%
Contains more Copper +25.6%
Equal in Potassium - 299
Equal in Sodium - 30

Glycemic Index

Broccoli and cauliflower, like most vegetables, have low glycemic indices. Exact glycemic index values have not been calculated yet for these vegetables due to their low carbohydrate contents.

If interested, you can read more about the glycemic impact of cauliflower.

Acidity

Cooking at high temperatures changes the acidity of vegetables to be more acidic. Overall, broccoli and cauliflower have similar acidities.

The pH of raw cauliflower is 5.6, whereas cooked cauliflower has a pH of around 6.45 to 6.8.

Canned broccoli has a pH ranging from 5.2 to 6. For cooked broccoli, the pH becomes equal to 6.3-6.52 (3).

Another way to look at the acidity of foods is the potential renal acid load (PRAL). PRAL shows the capacity of a certain food to produce acid or base compounds inside the body.

Based on the PRAL, the acidity of broccoli has been calculated to be -4, making it alkaline. Cauliflower also has an alkaline PRAL, equal to -4.4.

Weight Loss

Broccoli and cauliflower, like all cruciferous vegetables, are great choices to incorporate into weight-loss diets. Both are low in calories, high in fiber, and a great source of nutrients. Cauliflower is lower in calories but is also slightly higher in sugars.

Cauliflower fits better in low-calorie, low-fat, low-carb diets; however, broccoli is richer in many essential vitamins and minerals. Both fit the low glycemic index diet.

Studies have confirmed that increased vegetable consumption has benefits for preventing long-term weight gain and providing further food-specific guidance for the prevention of obesity, a primary risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and many other health conditions (4).

Health Impact

Health Benefits

Like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower and broccoli have been proven to possess many benefits for human health.

Cardiovascular Health

Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, have been studied to promote cardiovascular health and overall longevity (5).

Diabetes

Overall, diabetic patients benefit from diets high in vegetables. However, consumption of cruciferous vegetables has not been substantially associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes (6).

Moreover, one study has found an association between cruciferous vegetable intake and a moderately higher risk of type 2 diabetes in US adults due to a compound called glucosinolate (7).

In contrast, another research has concluded that a higher intake of cruciferous vegetables or their fiber is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (8).

All in all, studies on this subject are inconclusive.

Cancer

Many studies have found inverse associations between cruciferous vegetable intake and risk of bladder, breast, colorectal, endometrial, gastric, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and renal cancers (9).

Downsides and Risks

Cruciferous vegetables are completely safe for human consumption as long as they are consumed in moderate amounts and grown in the correct conditions (10). The exception to this is broccoli or cauliflower allergy.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation for adults is consuming one and a half to two and a half cup-equivalents of dark-green vegetables per week as part of healthy meals (9).

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5982837/
  2. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41438-020-00375-0
  3. pH values of foods and food products
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4578962/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21593509/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29457582/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6669329/
  8. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jdi.12376
  9. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/cruciferous-vegetables
  10. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2012/503241/
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 30, 2020

Infographic

Broccoli vs Cauliflower infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Broccoli Cauliflower
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Rich in minerals ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Lower in price Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Broccoli Cauliflower Opinion
Net carbs 4.04g 2.97g Broccoli
Protein 2.82g 1.92g Broccoli
Fats 0.37g 0.28g Broccoli
Carbs 6.64g 4.97g Broccoli
Calories 34kcal 25kcal Broccoli
Starch 0g g Broccoli
Fructose 0.68g 0.97g Cauliflower
Sugar 1.7g 1.91g Broccoli
Fiber 2.6g 2g Broccoli
Calcium 47mg 22mg Broccoli
Iron 0.73mg 0.42mg Broccoli
Magnesium 21mg 15mg Broccoli
Phosphorus 66mg 44mg Broccoli
Potassium 316mg 299mg Broccoli
Sodium 33mg 30mg Cauliflower
Zinc 0.41mg 0.27mg Broccoli
Copper 0.049mg 0.039mg Broccoli
Vitamin A 623IU 0IU Broccoli
Vitamin E 0.78mg 0.08mg Broccoli
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 89.2mg 48.2mg Broccoli
Vitamin B1 0.071mg 0.05mg Broccoli
Vitamin B2 0.117mg 0.06mg Broccoli
Vitamin B3 0.639mg 0.507mg Broccoli
Vitamin B5 0.573mg 0.667mg Cauliflower
Vitamin B6 0.175mg 0.184mg Cauliflower
Folate 63µg 57µg Broccoli
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 101.6µg 15.5µg Broccoli
Tryptophan 0.033mg 0.02mg Broccoli
Threonine 0.088mg 0.076mg Broccoli
Isoleucine 0.079mg 0.071mg Broccoli
Leucine 0.129mg 0.106mg Broccoli
Lysine 0.135mg 0.217mg Cauliflower
Methionine 0.038mg 0.02mg Broccoli
Phenylalanine 0.117mg 0.065mg Broccoli
Valine 0.125mg 0.125mg
Histidine 0.059mg 0.056mg Broccoli
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat 0g 0g
Saturated Fat 0.039g 0.13g Broccoli
Monounsaturated Fat 0.011g 0.034g Cauliflower
Polyunsaturated fat 0.038g 0.031g Broccoli

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Broccoli Cauliflower
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
65
Broccoli
30
Cauliflower
Mineral Summary Score
18
Broccoli
13
Cauliflower

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
17%
Broccoli
12%
Cauliflower
Carbohydrates
7%
Broccoli
5%
Cauliflower
Fats
2%
Broccoli
1%
Cauliflower

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Cauliflower
Cauliflower contains less Sodium (difference - 3mg)
Which food is lower in Sugar?
Broccoli
Broccoli is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.21g)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Broccoli
Broccoli is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.091g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Broccoli
Broccoli is lower in glycemic index (difference - 32)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Broccoli
Broccoli is relatively richer in minerals
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Broccoli
Broccoli is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is cheaper?
?
The foods are relatively equal in price ($0.4)

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Broccoli - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170379/nutrients
  2. Cauliflower - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169986/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.