Asian Age

Rachna Chhabria, April 16, 2016

Cauliflower, the new diet God.

When I picked up a copy of The Cauliflower Diet by Radha Thomas, it was with some wariness. Not one more dieting book, I groaned. The world is bursting at the seams with dieting books promising to make us lean and fit. Perhaps feeling sorry for the cauliflower sitting alone on the plate on the cover, I hesitantly picked up the book.

There is no harm in reading how cauliflower can help us get into skinny jeans, pencil skirts and embrace those chiffon sarees that Yash Chopra’s heroines have done for decades with seductive grace, right?

From the first page itself I was hooked to the story of the humble cauliflower, Thomas’ own battle with the bulge and how the two met and then stuck to each other, like cellulite to a body.

Thomas discovered the power of the cauliflower around 2010, when she first made cauliflower rice. Not only did it keep her hunger free, it also helped her maintain her weight. I can’t call The Cauliflower Diet a food memoir or a cookbook, because it straddles both these genres. It’s a cookbook and it’s also Radha’s memoir, marking her weight loss struggle.

The book starts with the author talking of her weight problems and her desire to hide inside XXL clothes — especially the flowy black kaftans where there is always room for a little more weight — and her tryst with the Atkins diet, which she embraced like a glutton embraces food. Then one fine day she stumbled upon the cauliflower and her life was never the same.

The author chronicles the achievements of this calorie-burning vegetable. Once the cauliflower is partially cooked, it can produce any texture we want depending on what we are making. The cauliflower, devoid of any vegetable ego, blends meekly into any dish. It’s low in actual carbohydrates and has, according to Thomas, 50 per cent fibre content (though in another place she writes that cauliflower has 70 per cent water) — so it helps dispose what isn’t digested. The more fibre we eat, the more weight we lose.

Wish Thomas had mentioned how long it took her to lose how much weight by following “the cauliflower diet”. Nevertheless, who would have thought that the cauliflower, a low-starch and high-nutrient cruciferous vegetable, would one day be a weight-watcher’s calorie-burning-knight-to-the-rescue? With many people joining the dieting club, mention the word calorie-burner and eyes light up with excitement. Just imagine, no jogging, walking or panting on the treadmill, no dieting and yet one can shed pounds. This is the stuff of dreams. And cauliflower is the new food God, according to Thomas.

Bear with me for a bit as I delve into the scientific bits. Carbohydrates provide us with calories or nutrition. We need carbs for energy to perform our daily activities, just like a car needs petrol to run. This energy gets stored in our cells acting like a car battery waiting to be switched on. Sadly for us, while batteries can store energy indefinitely, until it’s used, in the human body, if we leave the energy idle, it converts into fat, bestowing all kinds of nasty bulges all over our bodies. Here is where the cauliflower comes like a saviour as it contains complex fibre, a little fat and some protein, making it harder for the digestive system to process it, meaning that our bodies have to work harder to digest a cauliflower than mangoes or grapes.

Before all the weight-watchers rush out to buy the magic calorie-burning vegetable, the author cautions that people diagnosed with iodine deficiency should take their doctor’s advice before starting this diet. One of the unfortunate side-effects of this wonderful vegetable is gas. And when the author talks of the cauliflower diet, she doesn’t mean indulging in an eat-all-you-can-buffet while chomping on a few florets of cauliflower hoping it will burn off the calories. She means replacing an entire meal of rice, wheat and potatoes with cauliflower. It’s not as hard as it sounds.

Each floret of this vegetable is a ninja fat-fighter. The cauliflower comes with a bouquet of vitamins: It’s rich in Vitamin B1, B2, Vitamin C and Vitamin B6. Its detoxifying properties make it a liver-friendly vegetable.

It’s an excellent source of Vitamin K which, besides controlling bleeding, is good for bone health. And the best thing is that as it’s high in fibre it helps people maintain a regular digestive tract which, in turn, lowers the risk of colon cancer. So it’s a win-win.

To cater to a range to taste buds, the author has filled the book with assorted recipes: Saffron rice, cauliflower sushi roll, bisi bele bath, cauliflower mashed potatoes, cauliflower tekkamaki and many more. I am tempted to try the cauliflower pizza and the cauliflower upma. A lot of research has gone into the writing of this book and the scientific facts could have bored readers, but kudos to Radha Thomas for pepping up the boring bits with humour. I have one grouse though. How could the author forget two popular dishes: Punjabi favourite Gobi Paratha and the pan-Indian favourite Gobi Manchurian? Couldn’t she have incorporated low-calorie versions of both these dishes into the book?

Rachna Chhabria is a Bengaluru-based children’s author and a freelance writer