Of Cabbages and ….. Cabbages

The often overlooked cabbage is a leafy vegetable that comes in a range of shapes, sizes, and colors including purple (also known as red cabbage), white, and green.  Its leaves can be crinkley or smooth.  It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Like broccoli, radishes and Brussels sprouts, the cabbage belongs to the Brassica genus of vegetables.  In other words, it is a cruciferous vegetable  — and that means it’s loaded with health benefits.

Inflammation isn’t always a bad thing, but it can be.  Cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, contain many different antioxidants compounds (for example sulforaphane, kaempferol and anthocyanins) that have been shown to reduce inflammation.  A 2014 study showed that certain blood markers for inflammation could be reduced by eating more cruciferous vegetables.  An older study with more than 1,000 female participants showed considerably lower levels of inflammation in those who consumed the highest amounts of cruciferous vegetables as compared with those who consumed the lowest amounts.

Anthocyanins, plant pigments that belong to the flavonoid family, give the red cabbage its vibrant color.  Anthocyanins protect against inflammation which is known to play a role in the development of heart disease.  A 2013 study with over 93,000 females has shown that those with higher intake of anthocyanin-rich foods had a lower risk of heart attack.  An analysis of 15 observational studies associated an increased intake of flavonoids with a significantly lower risk of dying from heart disease.  Studies have shown that an increased intake of dietary anthocyanins reduces blood pressure as well as LDL (bad) cholesterol.  Scientists have identified 36 different kinds of anthocyanins in cabbage.  The red cabbage is richer in polyphenols than the green variety.  A 100-gram serving of red cabbage delivers 196 milligrams of polyphenols, 28 of which are anthocyanins.  The green cabbage has 45 milligrams of polyphenols with only .01 milligram of anthocyanins.

Cabbage is packed with vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that does a lot of work for your body.  Green and red cabbage are excellent sources of this potent antioxidant, however, the red variety contains significantly more.  One cup/89 grams of chopped raw green cabbage contains 36% of DV. The same portion of red cabbage has 56% of the recommended intake for vitamin C, the same amount found in a small orange.  Vitamin C is needed to make collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body.  This protein gives structure and flexibility to the skin and is necessary for the proper functioning of bones, muscles, and blood vessels.  Vitamin C boosts the immune system and also helps the body absorb non-heme iron, the type of iron found in plant-based foods.  Vitamin C helps protect the body from free radical damage which has been associated with many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, certain cancers and vision loss.  Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin which means it is eliminated in the urine and not stored by the body.  Therefore, a continuous daily supply in your diet is required.  Cabbage is a great way to help you meet that requirement.

With 2 grams of fiber per 89 gram serving, adding cabbage to your diet is a good option if you’re trying to improve your digestive health.  It contains both, insoluble and soluble fiber.  Insoluble fiber, the type that can’t break down in the intestines, adds bulk to stools and promotes regular bowel movements.  Soluble fiber increases the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut.  It’s the main source of fuel for friendly bacterias like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli that protect the immune system and produce vitamins K2 and B12, two essential nutrients.

High blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, affects more than one billion people worldwide.   Those at risk are advised to reduce their salt intake; however, recent studies suggest that increasing your dietary potassium is just as important for lowering blood pressure.  Your body needs this important mineral and electrolyte to function properly.  One of potassium’s main roles is to help regulate blood pressure by counteracting the effects of sodium in the body.  It does this by helping the body excrete excess sodium through urine.  Potassium also relaxes the blood vessel walls, which lowers blood pressure.  Eating more potassium-rich foods such as cabbage may help keep your blood pressure within a healthy range.  While both are good sources of this important mineral, the red cabbage is the richer source with 5% of DV for potassium per serving (1cup/89 grams) compared to the green variety which delivers 3% of DV.

Cholesterol, a waxy, fat-like substance, is found in every cell in your body.  Contrary to what some people believe, cholesterol is not all bad.  In fact, it’s essential to the proper functioning of your body.  For instance proper digestion and the synthesis of hormones are critical processes that depend on cholesterol.  However, elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) can increase the risk of heart disease.  Cabbage contains soluble fiber and phytosterols (plants sterols), two substances that have been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol.  Soluble fiber lowers levels of low-density lipoprotein by binding with cholesterol in the gut and keeping it from being absorbed into the blood.  According to one review, increasing your intake of foods rich in soluble fiber could lower levels of both total and LDL cholesterol by as much as 5% to 10%.  Plant sterols are structurally similar to cholesterol and reduce LDL cholesterol by blocking the absorption of cholesterol in the digestive tract.  Studies have shown that increasing intake of phytosterols by 1 gram per day can reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 6%.


Vitamin K1 is a fat-soluble vitamin.  In other words, it is absorbed along with fats in the diet and stored in the body’s fatty tissue and in the liver.  This key nutrient is essential to your well-being.  Without it, your blood would lose its ability to coagulate properly and the risk of excessive bleeding would increase.   Vitamin K1 is also important to bone health and has been shown to reduce the risk of fractures in older populations, especially hip fractures.  Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K1.  In this case, green beats red with the green cabbage delivering 56% of DV as compared with 28% of DV per serving (1cup/89 grams) of red cabbage.

Cabbage has been grown around the world for thousands of years.  It may not be the most attractive vegetable, but given its many health benefits, it deserves a place at our tables.  It can be used in soups, salads, tacos, sandwiches and more.  To get the most benefit, eat it raw or stir-fried.  It can also be fermented in gut-friendly foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi.

This red cabbage salad from The Mediterranean Dish is colorful, satisfying and perfect for any occasion.

Red Cabbage Salad

♦ For The Vinaigrette:

¼ c. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. Dijon Mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

½ c. extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper to taste

♦ For The Salad:

1 head of red cabbage, cored and chopped or shredded

2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced

1 c. walnut hearts, roughly chopped

2 apples, any kind you like, quartered and thinly sliced or julienned

♦ Make the vinaigrette:

In a small bowl, combine the apple cider vinegar, honey, and mustard. Whisk to combine, then add the minced garlic. While whisking continuously, drizzle the extra virgin olive oil into the bowl. You should end up with a well emulsified dressing. Season to your taste with kosher salt and black pepper.

♦ Make the salad:

In a large mixing bowl, add the cabbage and shallots, then pour about half of the vinaigrette over and toss to make sure the cabbage is well coated in the vinaigrette.

Add the apples and walnuts, then toss again to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.

NOTE:  To prevent your entire salad from turning red, toss the cabbage with 2-3 Tbsp. of vinegar before combining it with the rest of the ingredients. Also, refrain from adding the apples until just before serving as they’re likely to turn red first.

You can save any remaining vinaigrette in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Use over roasted vegetables, salads, or chicken.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.