Healthy pizza? It’s not an oxymoron… it’s entirely possible, courtesy of the wonder vegetable cauliflower. Unlike some stronger flavored cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, cauliflower is mild and takes on the taste of whatever you cook it with.
This is why cauliflower makes an excellent substitute for mashed potatoes and is crave-worthy when you roast it with some garlic, butter, and Himalayan salt. But cauliflower crust pizza?
It really works, and the crust is far more crust-like than you’d imagine (unless you’ve tried it before!). The recipe that follows, posted by Pop Sugar,1 came from, ironically, Paula Deen, who appears eager to turn over a healthier new leaf. I’ve modified it slightly but the gist is the same… feel free to add on even more veggies if you like.
- Cauliflower replaces refined grains in this recipe for healthy cauliflower crust pizza
- Refined carbohydrates promote chronic inflammation in your body and ultimately lead to insulin and leptin resistance, which promote chronic disease
- Cauliflower is packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber that fight chronic disease
Cauliflower Crust Pizza
- 2 teaspoons melted butter or coconut oil
- 2 ½ cups organic cauliflower, grated (about 1/2 a large head)
- 1 large organic pastured egg, lightly beaten
- 1 ¼ cups shredded mozzarella cheese, preferably raw
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- Kosher or Himalayan salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup tomato sauce (avoid canned, use natural jarred or fresh)
- 1 cup organic grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- Fresh basil leaves, optional
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, and preheat oven to 425ºF.
- Grate the cauliflower using a box grater until you have two cups of cauliflower crumbles. Steam until soft and let cool.
- Mix in the egg, one cup mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper. Once combined, pat into a 10-inch round prepared pizza pan. Coat lightly with melted butter or coconut oil and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden.
- Top the pizza with the sauce, ¼ cup mozzarella, grape tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Bake in the oven until melted and bubbly, another 10 minutes. Top with basil before serving.
Why Regular Pizza Crusts Are for the Birds
Most people eat far too many processed grains, of which most pizza crusts are made out of. Refined carbohydrates promote chronic inflammation in your body, elevate low-density LDL cholesterol, and ultimately lead to insulin and leptin resistance.
Insulin and leptin resistance, in turn, is at the heart of obesity and most chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s—all the top killers in the US.
Shunning the evidence, many doctors, nutritionists, and government health officials will still tell you to keep the bulk of your diet, about 60 percent, as carbs. This is madness, as it’s the converse of a diet that will lead to optimal health.
Even diabetes organizations promote carbohydrates as a major component of a healthy diet—even though grains break down to sugar in your body, and sugar promotes insulin resistance, which is the root cause of type 2 diabetes in the first place. As Business Insider reported:2
“One of the main problems is that refined, ‘simple’ carbohydrates are quickly broken down in the digestive tract, leading to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. This can lead to carb cravings a few hours later when blood sugar levels go down again.
This phenomenon is also called the ‘blood sugar roller coaster’ – which many people who have been on a high-carb diet can relate to. Not surprisingly, eating a lot of refined carbohydrates is associated with negative health effects and many chronic diseases.
Do NOT be fooled by labels like ‘whole grains’ that are often plastered on processed food packages… These are usually whole grains that have been pulverized into very fine flour and are just as harmful as their refined counterparts.”
Why Is Cauliflower So Good for You?
With the cauliflower crust pizza, not only are you skipping the unhealthiest element of pizza – the crust – but you’re replacing it with a powerhouse veggie.
One serving of cauliflower contains 77 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of vitamin K, protein, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorus, fiber, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, potassium, and manganese.
Cauliflower also contains sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has also been shown to kill cancer stem cells, thereby slowing tumor growth. A study published in Carcinogenesis found sulforaphane may reduce the incidence and rate of chemically induced mammary tumors in animals.3 It also inhibits the growth of cultured human breast cancer cells, leading to cell death.
Sulforaphane in cauliflower has also been found to significantly improve blood pressure and kidney function.4 Scientists believe sulforaphane’s benefits are related to improved DNA methylation, which is crucial for normal cellular function and proper gene expression.
Cauliflower contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory nutrients as well to help keep inflammation in check, including indole-3-carbinol or I3C, an anti-inflammatory compound that may operate at the genetic level to help prevent the inflammatory responses at its foundational level.5
Cauliflower even helps your body’s ability to detoxify in multiple ways. It contains antioxidants that support Phase 1 detoxification along with sulfur-containing nutrients important for Phase 2 detox activities. The glucosinolates in cauliflower also activate detoxification enzymes.6
It’s Ok to Load Up Your Pizza with Raw Grass-Fed Cheese
Many people believe it’s the cheese that makes pizza “bad” for you. In reality, if you use a high-quality product, the cheese is part of what makes pizza good for you (the “unhealthy award” for pizza goes to the grains in the crust and processed meat toppings… along with additives like preservatives and soybean oil if you don’t make your pizza fresh at home).
Natural cheese is a simple fermented dairy product, made with nothing more than a few basic ingredients — milk, starter culture, salt, and an enzyme called rennet. Salt is a crucial ingredient for flavor, ripening, and preservation.
You can tell a natural cheese by its label, which will state the name of the cheese variety, such as “cheddar cheese,” “blue cheese,” or “brie.” Real cheese requires refrigeration and contains a wealth of good nutrition, including:
- High-quality protein and amino acids
- High-quality saturated fats and omega-3 fats
- Vitamins and minerals, including calcium, zinc, phosphorus, vitamins A, D, B2 (riboflavin), and B12
- Vitamin K2
- CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a powerful cancer-fighter and metabolism booster
Ideally, the cheese you consume should be made from the milk of grass-fed animals raised on pasture, rather than grain-fed or soy-fed animals confined to feedlot stalls. Even cheesemakers will tell you that raw cheese has a richer and deeper flavor than cheese made from pasteurized milk because heat destroys the enzymes and good bacteria that add flavor to the cheese. They explain that raw cheese has flavors that derive from the pastureland that nourished the animals producing the milk, much like wine is said to draw its unique flavors from individual vineyards. Grass-fed dairy products not only taste better, they are also nutritionally superior. For instance, grass-fed cheese contains about five times the CLA of grain-fed cheese.
If you keep an eye out at farmer’s markets and food co-ops, it’s not unusual to find grass-fed raw cheeses, including mozzarella, for your healthy pizza. With a cauliflower crust, raw grass-fed cheese and fresh organic veggies, this pizza is not only comfort food… it’s health food! One final aside… avoid using canned tomato sauce for your pizza, as cans often contain linings with the toxic chemical bisphenol-A. Ideally make your sauce fresh or, if you’re in a crunch for time, use a high-quality, organic jarred version (watch out for brands with added sugar).
Sources and References
- Pop Sugar February 28, 2015
- 1 Pop Sugar February 28, 2015
- 2 Business Insider January 16, 2014
- 3 Carcinogenesis. 2008 Dec;29(12):2360-8.
- 4 Am J Hypertens February 2012
- 5 6 World’s Healthiest Foods, Cauliflower