Broccoli vs Cauliflower - In-Depth Nutrition and Health Comparison
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.
Table of contents
- Macronutrients and Calories
- Glycemic Index
- Weight Loss
- Health Impact
- Health Effects of Sulforaphane
- Cardiovascular Health
- Digestive Health
- Broccoli Carotenoids & Ocular Health
- Broccoli Vitamin K & Warfarin
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.
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.
The apparent difference between broccoli and cauliflower lies in their color, with 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).
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).
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).
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 half of cauliflower.
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.
Both broccoli and cauliflower are very low in fats, containing less than 0.5g per 100g serving.
The vegetables are not particularly rich in protein as well.
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.
Broccoli is higher in carbohydrates, both net carbs and dietary fiber. Broccoli contains 4g of net carbs and 2.6g of dietary fiber, whereas cauliflower contains 3g of net carbs and 2g of dietary fiber.
The sugars found in cauliflower are glucose and fructose, while broccoli also contains maltose, lactose, and sucrose.
Carbohydrate type comparison
Both vegetables are excellent sources of B complex vitamins and vitamin C, with broccoli being richer in most. Broccoli also contains vitamin A, which is absent in cauliflower.
Broccoli is 1.85 times richer in vitamin C, a physiological antioxidant required for collagen synthesis and adequate immune function (3).
Broccoli is also 6.5 times richer in vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin required for blood clotting and bone health (4).
A 100g of broccoli contains 99% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C and 85% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K.
Broccoli and cauliflower both do not contain vitamin D and vitamin B12.
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.
According to one study, cauliflower and broccoli are very low in oxalates, containing 0mg - 1.4mg of oxalates (5).
However, according to another study, cauliflower contains 5mg of oxalates, and broccoli contains 20mg (6).
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.
Cooking at high temperatures changes the acidity of vegetables to be more acidic. Overall, broccoli and cauliflower have similar acidities.
The pH of cauliflower is around 5.6, whereas broccoli has a pH ranging from 6.3 to 6.85 (7).
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.
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. In contrast, broccoli fits better in high-fiber and high-protein diets. 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 preventing obesity (8).
Like other cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower and broccoli have been proven to possess many benefits for human health.
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in phytochemicals, dietary fiber, and vitamins with anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, and antioxidant properties and are low in sodium, unhealthy fats, and sugars.
Their health impacts are mainly similar as they share the same family and genus.
Health Effects of Sulforaphane
Sulforaphane is a sulfur-containing compound abundant in cruciferous vegetables (raw or steamed) and widely studied for its health benefits. Broccoli has the highest sulforaphane content.
Sulforaphane levels in 3-day-old broccoli and cauliflower sprouts were found to be 10-100 higher than in mature forms.
- Sulforaphane has been widely studied for its anti-cancer properties, decreasing the risk of prostate, liver, breast, bladder, colon, endometrial, stomach, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, and kidney.
- Sulforaphane may beneficially affect neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. Sulforaphane may benefit ASD, depression, and anxiety and improve cognitive function
- Sulforaphane may improve insulin resistance and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, diabetes-induced hypertension and musculoskeletal conditions, and heart dysfunction.
- Sulforaphane may decrease total and LDL or bad cholesterol levels, improve endothelial function and decrease the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease overall (9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14).
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, have been studied to promote cardiovascular health and reduce the risk or complications of various cardiovascular diseases (15, 16).
According to a study, steamed broccoli may be more beneficial for the heart than cooked broccoli; steamed broccoli may more effectively reduce infarction risk, decrease cell death and improve cardiac function (17).
Overall, diabetic patients benefit from diets high in vegetables. Various studies have concluded the beneficial effects of cruciferous vegetables on type 2 diabetes and its complications (12, 18, 19, 20).
However, according to a study, cruciferous vegetables have not been substantially associated with the risk of type 2 diabetes (21). Moreover, several studies found an association between cruciferous vegetable intake and a moderately higher risk of type 2 diabetes in US adults (22, 23).
Although studies on this subject are inconclusive, American Diabetes Association suggests cauliflower and broccoli consumption as low-carb foods for diabetes management (24).
Cruciferous vegetables are fiber-rich foods that promote bowel regularity and may beneficially affect chronic constipation (25, 26).
Higher consumption of fiber-rich foods may also decrease the risk of GERD, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, and colon cancer (26).
However, people with IBS and inflammatory bowel disease will benefit from avoiding broccoli and cauliflower, as they contain raffinose, a carb fermented by gut bacteria, causing gas and bloating.
Broccoli Carotenoids & Ocular Health
A 100g broccoli contains 1400mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin, the two carotenoids found in the eyes and vital for healthy vision. They have anti-oxidant properties and prevent the formation of free radicals.
Consumption of foods such as broccoli, kale, and savoy cabbage may help delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts (27).
Broccoli Vitamin K & Warfarin
As previously stated, vitamin K aids blood clotting. Warfarin (Coumadin), on the other hand, does the opposite and slows blood clotting.
Those on Warfarin (Coumadin) or other blood thinners are advised to maintain a consistent daily vitamin K intake to reduce the risk of bleeding (if consumed less) or blood clot formation (if consumed more) (4).
- Comparison of the protective effects of steamed and cooked broccolis on ischaemia–reperfusion-induced cardiac injury | British Journal of Nutrition
Fat Type Comparison
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in Glycemic Index|
|Rich in minerals|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Lower in price||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
|Vitamin A RAE||31µg||0µg|
|Omega-6 - Linoleic acid||0.013g|
|Omega-3 - ALA||0.015g|
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low Glycemic Index diet|
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Vitamins & Minerals Daily Need Coverage Score
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.
- Broccoli - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170379/nutrients
- 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.