Cauliflower may not be the most exciting vegetable among the bunch, as it doesn't boast a lot of flavor. At the same time, it's also one of the most versatile vegetables out there. Cauliflower rice, cauliflower crust…what can't you do with a head of cauliflower? However, there is one major side effect of eating cauliflower: it can cause a lot of gastrointestinal discomfort.
Similar to broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, all of which are great sources of folate, vitamin K, and fiber. Unfortunately, they can be hard to digest—especially when they're eaten raw—which can cause bloating and gas. (Related: The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now).
Cruciferous vegetables contain something called raffinose, which is an oligosaccharide—a type of carbohydrate that's naturally occurring in plants. Oddly enough, the human body isn't equipped with the proper enzyme to help break raffinose down, which means it travels from the small intestine to the large intestine undigested. Essentially, once this undigested part of cauliflower enters the large intestine, the bacteria in there will begin to ferment it. In turn, this can cause bloating and gas.
Not to mention, cauliflower also contains what's called glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals. As these chemicals break down in the intestines, they form other compounds such as hydrogen sulfide—aka, the culprit behind the sulfur-smelling gas you may pass after eating cauliflower.
Most people can handle cruciferous vegetables in moderate doses, however, those who have GI issues, including irritable bowel syndrome, may experience even more digestive distress. Following a low-FODMAP (an acronym for fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides, and polyols) can help to eliminate these hard-to-digest fibrous foods.
If you're sensitive to cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, consider cooking them instead of eating them raw. Cooking foods can help kickstart that process of breaking them down so your digestive tract doesn't have to work as hard, especially these 12 Surprising Vegetables That Become Healthier When They're Cooked.