Monday, October 19, 2009

Simply Cauliflower

Cauliflower is great as rice, but those annoying tiny bits get EVERYWHERE.  It seems like just cutting a head of cauliflower in half spells more cleanup than it is worth for a busy night.  So here is another preparation that requires very little prep and just some time in the oven for the cauliflower to caramelize into golden deliciousness.

Don't be a Gaseous Mass

But first, a word about gas.  You heard me: burps, farts, and general flatulence.  Unpleasant?  Yes, it is.  Cauliflower is a vegetable of the cruciferous variety (including brussel sprouts, cabbage, and broccoli) that is highly associated with intestinal gas.  Why?  Each of us has gut bacteria that sit in our intestines and colon and feast upon the foods we eat.  Undigested portions of our food create a great meal for these bacteria, who release hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane gas as their own digestive by-products.  The parts of food that are indigestible to us include some sugars [lactose (dairy sugar), fructose (fruit-sugar), sorbitol (a sugar substitute), and raffinose (the indigestible sugar in cauliflower)] and starches, which are a component of fiber (indigestible starches are usually polysaccharides, which means long chains of sugars like fructose or another common one is cellulose, a component of all plant cells).  Cellulose itself isn't enough to cause excessive gas since the bacteria feast upon it very slowly, but combined with indigestible sugars and starches, it can create unpleasantness.  Besides cruciferous vegetables, foods with these gassy reactions include beans (which we avoid for their lectins); grains and other starches (which we also avoid for a slew of reasons); onions, artichokes, and pears for their fructose;  carbonated beverages (duh); many fruits for their soluble fiber that creates a gel only broken down in the intestines; and dairy [which we also avoid since it is highly concentrated grain (what most cows eat)].

Other bacteria in the intestines actually utilize the gas these bacteria produce, so the system is in balance.  However, when you eat foods that overwhelm this system, bloating and flatulence is the outcome.  How much gas is too much?  People differ in the amount of gas-producing bacteria and how gassy those bacteria are.  We all have our own unique digestive flora, like alien worlds within us.  Some people have less efficient digestive tracts, so more food makes it down into the intestines and colon (for example, those that eat grains and have already put their digestive systems in crisis mode).  Celiacs (those with gluten intolerance) and those who are lactose intolerant (can't eat dairy) fall into this category.  Finally, those little gassy bacteria can overrun the place and get out of hand.  Usually they reside only in the colon, but overpopulation can lead to expansion into the small intestine.  There is more food in the small intestine being broken down and absorbed, so more bacterial feasting can occur.  

What can we do about it?

Well, some sites say to avoid cruciferous vegetables entirely--which knocks out broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cabbage.  To forgo a whole category of vegetable is crazy, especially since they are so tasty and nutritious!  Naysayers, I fart in your general direction.

Others sites suggest less extreme remedies.  Here are some that don't include regular supplementation or drugs:

  1. Exercise more.  Exercise gets your body moving so that gas can pass through your system easier and not get holed up inside, creating bloating.  What exercise do I recommend?  CROSSFIT!!!! (Note: try the main site if you aren't in Santa Cruz).  Find a gym and workout regularly.  The proof is in the results. 
  2. Eat a carminative, an herb or preparation to fight intestinal problems by either reducing gas formation or aiding its expulsion.  Carminatives include: anise seeds, basil, nutmeg, peppermint, ginger, caraway seeds, cardamon seeds, cinnamon, coriander, dill, cumin, fennel, marjoram, onion, oregano, rosemary, saffron, spearmint, and thyme.  Examples include: 
    1. Drinking peppermint tea.  Peppermint is a carminative that relaxes intestinal muscles to help ease the passing of gas.  
    2. Eating ginger soaked in lemon juice after a meal.  Ginger and lemon juice are also carminatives.  You can suck on a piece of ginger soaked in lemon juice or grate it into hot water and add lemon juice. 
    3. Chewing fennel or anise seeds after a meal.  Same deal with these: carminatives.  You can also crush them and make them into tea. 
    4. Drinking water spiked with lemon juice, another carminative, with meals.  
  3. Drink water.  Some recommend lukewarm water with lime juice and honey in the morning on an empty stomach as a remedy. 
  4. Eat foods containing probiotics such as fermented foods.  Probiotics might aid in the elimination of gas.  Probiotics are usually bacteria or yeasts similar to healthy gut bacteria that you need to digest food.  They can aid digestion by contributing reinforcements to your own bacteria.  Check back for more on them in another post, since they are a big can of worms.      
  5. Avoid high fat quantity with gas producing foods since fat slows digestion and can lead to gas build-up in the stomach.  Remember, balanced meals are best, so always eat some fat, just don't go overboard when eating foods that make you gassy.  
  6. Use an over the counter remedy such as Bean-o.  Bean-o contains a plant-derrived enzyme that breaks down raffinose (the indigestible sugar in cauliflower) before it enters the colon.  
  7. Try to buildup your tolerance to gas-producing foods if you have a little every day.  
Main Sources:
Medicine Net

Okay, now that everyone is feeling a little intestinal discomfort, on to our recipe which might give you a chance to try out this new knowledge!

Simple Roasted Cauliflower
What is better than caramelized, GB and D (golden brown and delicious) cauliflower?  Takes awhile, but well worth the wait and simplicity!
Zone Blocks: 4 cups of cauliflower is one block of carbohydrate.  

1 head of cauliflower per diner
garlic powder
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Wash the cauliflower head and cut in half (I know a little mess, but not nearly as much as with the rice!).  You might want to trim off the leaves since those aren't as tasty even when roasted.  Place head halves on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper (I totally destroyed a sheet pan when I didn't use it, so you are hereby warned) and sprinkle with olive oil.  Toss to coat all sides and parchment.  Then, dust liberally with garlic powder (the smell of this roasting will fill the house with garlicky goodness!) and sprinkle on some salt.  Whack it in the oven for about 30 minutes and check for browning (could take up to an hour).  If you don't have it yet or feel like chancing the carbon gods and going for a darker shade of brown at the cusp of burning, be my guest.  If you have acceptable brownage, flip and let 'er go another half an hour or so until you see similar browning on this side.  Once you are happy with your caramelized cauliflower, enjoy the feast--and go ahead, eat as much as want!

Serving Suggestions:
This makes an excellent side dish for any meat.  Try to avoid going overly fatty in the other foods you are serving with cauliflower to help prevent our friend flatulence.

Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!
(a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail in case you mistakenly thought I was being rude :) )

Cauliflower on FoodistaCauliflower


  1. Very interesting news. Just the other day actually I was pondering why I get so gassy and bloated whenever I eat super clean. I have always burped a lot whenever doing a WOD or similiar activity as well. I think I also eat too many fruits, this could be a reason, correct?

    "Some people have less efficient digestive tracts...more food makes it to the intestines and colon..."

    So this would mean that they are less gaseous because the bacteria did not get a chance to feed or more gaseous?

  2. Thanks for the comment, Fabio! Fruit was on the list of gassy foods for its fructose, cellulose, and fiber, which would explain your reaction. Some people have more efficient digestive tracts, so more food gets processed and absorbed before making it down into the intestines and colon. Less efficient systems don't digest food well and send more quantity down to the bacteria, which gives them more food to feast upon, which leads to more gas being produced. I have heard that introducing a lot of fiber to a diet can make a person bloated and gassy, but over time, the body adapts to the new diet and things right themselves (perhaps the two types of bacteria find a balance or the body becomes more efficient at breaking down foods--or both?). Anyway, I hope the information on what causes and can hopefully prevent gas will keep us eating those noxious fruits and veggies!

  3. Great post. I also roast mu cauliflower but just wash and roast it whole without cutting. I'll definitely try to carminitives!

  4. This is the first time I roasted cauliflower and it took about 45 minutes to become brown. I am right now eating your recipe for simple roasted cauliflower and I wanted to thank you so much for sharing it, it is delicious!