The Humble but Mighty Cabbage

fresh green cabbage

The humble cabbage may not be exotic, but it was held in high regard in Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations as a general panacea capable of treating many health conditions. Interestingly enough, modern science is beginning to support that notion as well. Common, inexpensive cabbage is chock-full of powerful nutrients that fight disease and promote health in dramatic ways. Below, I will share the best ways to prepare cabbage to maintain its many nutrients and preserve its great flavor.

Eating cabbage is like taking a multi-vitamin in whole food form. Loaded with vitamin K for both bone and brain health, one cup of chopped cabbage provides between 42% (red cabbage) to 85% (green cabbage) of the recommended amount per day. Cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamin C, containing even more than oranges! It offers 54% (green) to 85% (red) of the daily recommended amount in one cup, which can help protect against infection. Cabbage is also rich in many other vitamins and minerals like vitamin B6, as well as the other B vitamins, manganese, fiber, potassium, copper, folate, choline, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, iron, calcium, and pantothenic acid. Wow! But just wait – cabbage contains even more disease-fighting nutrients.

Assortment cabbagesAll types of cabbage contain significant amounts of the phytonutrients that provide terrific benefits, well-documented in helping to fight cancer. Cabbage is rich in sulphur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates that have the power to inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Phytonutrients that fight inflammation are found in all types of cabbage, but anthocyanins, which comprise part of the red-purple pigmentation in red cabbage, intensify cabbage’s benefits of preventing and fighting disease. Anthocyanins have been shown to slow cancer cell proliferation, to kill already-formed cancer cells, and to stop the formation of new tumor growths. These anti-inflammatory phytonutrients help us fight diabetes, obesity, heart disease, age-related muscle loss, Alzheimer’s, and many other chronic health problems.

Cabbage helps to reduce the frequency and severity of ulcers. The benefit of cabbage juice has long been established with regard to its help in healing stomach ulcers, but more recent studies have looked further at cabbage’s overall health benefits to the entire digestive tract. These studies indicate that cabbage contains a variety of nutrients that potentially provide benefits for our stomach and the lining of our intestines.

Cabbage can also help fight infection. A compress filled with ground cabbage has been used for centuries to help heal wounds. The sulfur, vitamin C, and other nutrients found in cabbage seem to help speed healing and also to strengthen the immune system. The vitamin C, fiber, and phytonutrients, like isothiocyanates, encourage the body to detoxify naturally.

Chicken Apple Cabbage Salad
Chicken Apple Cabbage Salad

Be careful to not kill these powerful, disease-fighting compounds when cooking the cabbage. Recent studies have determined that short sautéing or steaming cabbage is much better than microwaving it, in order to preserve the phytonutrients, which have anti-cancer benefits. Two minutes in the microwave destroys the same amount of important enzymes as seven minutes of steaming.

Vegetable Ginger Noodle Stir Fry
Vegetable Ginger Noodle Stir-Fry with Cabbage
Berry Slaw Salad
Salad made with red cabbage and frozen or fresh berries

All varieties of cabbage contribute a nice crunchy texture to so many recipes. Add the cabbage near the end of cooking when making soups, curry, and stews. Cabbage is perfect for stir-fries, tacos, and burritos. Add it to salads of all types. One of my favorite side dishes is German red cabbage. Cabbage marinated in vinegar holds up well over time and is delicious. Try roasting cabbage for sweeter flavor. For a milder flavor, use Napa cabbage. With all the cabbage varieties to choose from and the tasty recipe possibilities, it will be fun to take March’s Healthy Challenge and eat more cabbage. You will be doing your body and taste buds a big favor!