We've all heard that brown rice is more nutritious than white, whole-wheat bread beats plain white and white sugar not only lacks health benefits but also might be toxic. We've heard the darker the green vegetable the better and other encouragements to eat a rainbow of colorful foods. So what's the story with cauliflower? It is not colorful. It is white. Is it really good for us?

Unlike processed white foods, cauliflower has many health benefits:

- The antioxidants avert oxidation and damage to our cells, helping to prevent cancer and other diseases.

- The anti-inflammatory properties of the vegetable help to prevent arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory diseases.

- The fiber helps to support digestion and detoxification.

- Cauliflower is full of B vitamins, potassium and phosphorous, which support the nervous system, muscles and bones, respectively.

We have been experimenting with the vegetable, because with all of those health benefits, I would like to secure a place for cauliflower in our family's dinner rotation.

My favorite is cauliflower soup with chives, but my children's preference is what I call "cauliflower popcorn." They claim it isn't nearly as tasty as real popcorn, but they agree it has a similar flavor and texture. They tend to eat more when I add a little cinnamon to the recipe, and little do they know that cinnamon is beneficial to their blood sugar levels.


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Here are some fun facts about the vegetable:

- The head, which is called a curd, is a bunch of undeveloped flower buds.

- The trunks are edible, too.

- The coarse outer leaves protect cauliflower from sunlight, preventing the chlorophyll from turning it green. Broccoli's outer leaves don't cover its flower buds as extensively, so it has more opportunity to turn green from the sunlight.

- It is in the same family as broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprout and collards; these are called the cruciferous vegetables.

- It is easy to overcook and turn into mush, so be careful!

- When cooking, avoid aluminum and iron pots: Cauliflower incites a chemical reaction with these surfaces, turning the vegetable yellow. Science experiment, anyone?

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Cauliflower 'Popcorn'

Ingredients

1 medium head cauliflower, broken into bite-size pieces, washed and thoroughly dried (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil or melted coconut oil

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

Steps

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the cauliflower pieces in a large bowl and toss with the oil, making sure each piece is coated. Sprinkle with the salt.

Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden brown. Taste, and add salt as needed.

NUTRITION Per 1/2-cup serving: 40 calories, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar

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Seidenberg is co-founder of Nourish Schools, a D.C.-based nutrition education company. Look for her posts on the On Parenting blog: washingtonpost.com/onparenting.