The Latest News about Cabbage
What's New and Beneficial About Cabbage
- Did you know that cabbage was one of two vegetable types (the other type was root vegetables) found to be a mainstay for prevention of type 2 diabetes in a recent study of over 57,000 adults in the country of Denmark? In this very large-scale study, adults who closely followed the Healthy Nordik Food Index were found to have the lowest incidence of type 2 diabetes. Importantly, this key health benefit was linked to six food intake categories: (1) fish, (2) rye bread, (3) oatmeal, (4) apples and pears, (5) root vegetables, and (6) cabbage!
- Researchers have now identified nearly 20 different flavonoids and 15 different phenols in cabbage, all of which have demonstrated antioxidant activity. This impressive list of antioxidant phytonutrients in cabbage is one key reason why an increasing number of studies link cabbage intake to decreased risk of several cardiovascular diseases. You can read more about these individual antioxidants in our Health Benefits section.
- In terms of price per edible cup, a report by the Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has shown cabbage to be the second most economical cooked vegetable in terms of price per edible cup. Only potatoes came out slightly less expensive. The relatively low economic cost of cabbage in comparison with most other vegetables makes this cruciferous vegetable a nutritional bargain, especially considering the 3 excellent, 6 very good, and 11 good rankings that it achieves in our WHFoods rating system.
- There are literally hundreds of varieties of cabbage grown worldwide. But of special interest in recent research studies have been cabbage varieties that fall into the red-purple category. It is the anthocyanin antioxidants (and in particular, a subcategory of anthocyanins called cyanidins) that have been the focus of these research studies. Impressively, the anthocyanins in red cabbage are a major factor in the ability of this cruciferous vegetable to provide cardiovascular protection, including protection of red blood cells. Blood levels of beta-carotene, lutein, and total blood antioxidant capacity have been found to improve along with red cabbage intake, while oxidized LDL has been found to decrease. (This reduction in oxidized LDL is a good thing, since LDL—an abbreviation which stands for low-density lipoprotein—becomes a risk factor for blood vessel problems if excessively present in its oxidized form.
- Cabbage turns out to be an especially good source of sinigrin. Sinigrin is one of cabbage's sulfur-containing glucosinolates that has received special attention in cancer prevention research. The sinigrin in cabbage can be also converted into allyl-isothiocyanate, or AITC. This isothiocyanate compound has shown unique cancer preventive properties with respect to bladder cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. It's also worth noting here that a second glucosinolate found in cabbage—glucobrassicin—can be converted into two cancer-protective compounds. These two compounds are indole-3-carbinol (or I3C, an isothiocyanate) and diindolylmethane (or DIM). DIM is an interesting sulfur-containing compound that can be produced in the stomach from I3C if the stomach juices are sufficiently acidic. Like AITC and I3C, DIM has been shown to have cancer-preventive properties for the specific cancer types listed above.
You'll want to include cabbage as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, we recommend 3/4 cup of cruciferous vegetables on a daily basis. This amount is equivalent to approximately 5 cups per week. A more optimal intake amount would be 1-1/2 cups per day, or about 10 cups per week. You can use our Veggie Advisor for help in figuring out your best cruciferous vegetable options.
Traditional methods of steaming or boiling make cabbage watery. Traditional methods of steaming or boiling make cabbage watery. To avoid this result and promote optimal flavor, we recommend Healthy Sautéeing cabbage. Slice cabbage into 1/8-inch slices and let sit for 5 minutes to enhance its health-promoting benefits before cooking. For more details see the Nutrient-Rich Way of Cooking Cabbage below.
Our Chinese Chicken Cabbage Salad recipe is a great example of how to enjoy the delicate flavor of napa cabbage in your favorite salad. It is a milder tasting variety of cabbage that boasts the highest concentration of folate.
Enjoy the mild flavor of bok choy by using our Healthy Sauté method of cooking. Our 4-Minute Healthy Sautéed Bok Choy recipe will give you great tasting bok choy in a matter of minutes!
While green cabbage is the most commonly eaten variety of cabbage, we highly recommend trying red cabbage because of its added nutritional benefits and its robust hearty flavor. We don't think you will be disappointed. The rich red color of red cabbage reflects its concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, which bring along with them unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cruciferous Vegetable Benefits
All cruciferous vegetables—including cabbage—provide integrated nourishment across a wide variety of nutritional categories and provide broad support across a wide variety of body systems as well. For more on cruciferous vegetables see:
Cabbage provides numerous health benefits including:
- Antioxidant properties
- Anti-inflammatory benefits
- Cancer prevention
- Digestive support
- Cardiovascular support
For more details on cabbage's health benefits, see this section of our Cabbage write-up.
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin B6. It is also a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B1, folate and copper. Additionally, cabbage is a good source of choline, phosphorus, vitamin B2, magnesium, calcium, selenium, iron, pantothenic acid, protein and niacin.
As described earlier in this food profile, cabbage is also a unique source of several types of phytonutrients. Its overall antioxidant activity is largely due to its unusual phenol and polyphenol content. With red cabbage, these polyphenols include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins. Cabbage is also unique for it rich supply of glucosinolates. These phytonutrients can be converted by the body into isothiocyanates that have special detoxification and anti-cancer properties.
Cabbage and Goitrogens
You may sometimes hear cabbage being described as a food that contains "goitrogens," or as a food that is "goitrogenic." For helpful information in this area—including our WHFoods Recommendations—please see our article What is meant by the term "goitrogen" and what is the connection between goitrogens, food, and health?.
For more on this nutrient-rich vegetable, including references related to this Latest News, see our write-up on Cabbage.