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10 Reasons Why Cabbage is Good for You


Not only is cabbage a versatile Brassica vegetable that can be used to add flavor and texture to everything from soups to slaws, it is also good for you. Cabbage is loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, dietary fiber and glucosinolates, and it is a decent source of potassium and vitamin B6. All of these nutrients and phytochemicals contribute to the potential health benefits of cabbage which are explored in detail below.

10 Health Benefits of Cabbage

1. Cabbage is Loaded with Vitamin C

Raw cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, with 1 ounce of raw cabbage providing 17 to 27 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin C, depending on the type of cabbage (red cabbage varieties generally have more vitamin C than their green and white counterparts). For the sake of comparison, 1 ounce of oranges delivers around 25 percent of the DV for this important nutrient. [1]

As you may already know, vitamin C is important to keeping your immune system healthy, but it is also good for your skin, blood vessels, heart and bones. Most of the health benefits associated with consumption of vitamin C rich foods, such as cabbage, are believed to be linked to the antioxidant properties of this vital nutrient and its ability to boost the formation of collagen (for those who missed the memo, collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues of the body).

Tip: To maximize the health benefits of cabbage linked to its high vitamin C content, eat your cabbage together with foods that contain vitamin E as these two antioxidants have a synergistic relationship.

2. Eating Cabbage May Be Good for Your Heart

Cabbage contains at least a couple of nutrients that are thought to be good for your heart. First, vitamin C has been shown to reduce the blood levels of an inflammatory marker called C-reactive protein, or CRP [2]. Some studies suggest a high level of CRP in the blood may be an even better indicator of a person's heart disease risk than high cholesterol levels.

Second, cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K, with 1 ounce of regular green cabbage providing a whopping 27% of the Daily Value for vitamin K [1]. Vitamin K is thought to be good for the heart and the overall cardiovascular system because it helps direct calcium into the bones, thereby reducing the risk of calcium build-up in blood vessels.

3. Benefits for People Suffering from Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world and a leading cause of anemia, a condition characterized by inadequate levels of healthy red blood cells. Symptoms associated with low iron levels and anemia include dizziness, weakness and fatigue, but insufficient iron levels may also cause loss of appetite, brittle nails, and hair loss.

If you have been diagnosed with low iron levels, your doctor or nutritionist may recommend you treat your condition with dietary supplements, iron-rich foods such as red meat, or a combination of supplements and foods. You may also be told to take your iron with some orange juice because vitamin C helps boost iron absorption in your digestive tract.

Cabbage is not a particularly rich source of iron, but as it contains high levels of vitamin C, it can help your body absorb more iron from other foods. What's more, cabbage does not contain high amounts of phytates or other compounds that are known to hinder iron absorption. In fact, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage) was ranked 1st and regular cabbage came in 3rd in a study comparing iron bioavailability from different plant-based foods [3].

4. Consumption of Crucifers Like Cabbage May Lower Cancer Risk

Some epidemiological studies suggest that consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, may decrease the risk of certain types of cancer in some people [4].

The potential benefits of cabbage in cancer prevention are thought to be linked, at least partially, to the high concentration of glucosinolates found in cabbage. Glucosinolates are abundant in almost all cruciferous vegetables, but cabbage has been shown to be a particularly good source [5]. While glucosinolates themselves have limited health benefits, they are pre-cursors to biologically active isothiocyanates which have been shown to inhibit proliferation of cancer cells and to promote their self-destruction [6].

Tip: Cooking, particularly boiling and microwaving at high power, may reduce the bioavailability of isothiocyanates. To maximize the potential anti-cancer effects of cabbage, avoid over-cooking.

5. Protection Against the Harmful Effects of Radiation

Not only does cabbage contain compounds that may help reduce your risk of developing cancer in the first place, this amazing Brassica vegetable may also help protect healthy tissues during cancer treatment.

A study published Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM), a compound that is formed in the stomach after you eat cruciferous vegetables, may protect normal tissues during radiation therapy for cancer treatment. In this study, rats were given a lethal dose of gamma ray radiation, after which some of the animals were left untreated, while others received a daily infection of DIM for two weeks. All of the untreated rats died, but more than 50 percent of those that were treated with DIM were still alive after 30 days. [7]

The study's corresponding author, Dr. Eliot Rosen from Georgetown University, has also pointed out that in addition to DIM's potential role in protecting normal tissues in cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy, it might also help provide some protection against the harmful effects of a nuclear disaster [8].

6. Benefits for People with Excess Body Weight

If all of the above-described potential health benefits of cabbage are not enough to convince you to add this healthy Brassica vegetable to your diet, consider this: cabbage is also good for those who are trying to keep their weight in check. Not only is cabbage very low in calories, it also contains fiber which promotes satiety.

In addition, cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, and according to some preliminary research, vitamin C may promote fat burning in some situations [9]. However, additional studies must be conducted before any definite conclusions about the weight loss benefits of vitamin C can be made. Finally, red cabbage contains anthocyanins, and there is some evidence suggesting that anthocyanins may help promote weight loss.

7. An Effective Remedy for Gastric Ulcers

Cabbage has a long history of use as a natural remedy for stomach ulcers, and the much-touted anti-ulcer activities of cabbage juice also seem to be backed by science.

One of the earliest studies on the ability of cabbage juice to treat ulcers in humans was published in the journal California Medicine in 1949. In this groundbreaking study, 13 patients with duodenal or gastric ulcers were instructed to drink one liter of fresh cabbage juice per day. The results were remarkable: The average healing time in the study participants with a duodenal ulcer was only 10 days, compared with an average of 37 days in patients treated with the standard therapy of the time. In patients with gastric ulcer, the cabbage juice treatment resulted in ulcer healing in an average of only 7 days. [10]

Now, despite the long history of use of cabbage juice as a remedy for ulcers, it is important that you talk to your doctor if you suspect you might have an ulcer. Treatments for gastric and duodenal ulcers have become more effective since the late 1940s, and different types of ulcers require different treatments. After determining the cause and severity of your ulcer, your doctor can help you find the best cure for you.

8. Anthocyanins in Red Cabbage Are Good for Your Eyes

Many foods that land on superfood lists contain anthocyanins, antioxidant pigments that may appear red, purple or blue and that are thought to be particularly good for your eyes. Blueberries, acai berries, aronia berries and Queen Garnet plums are examples of famous "superfoods" that are rich anthocyanins, but also some humble vegetables, such as red cabbage, contain these eye health boosting antioxidants.

Research suggests that anthocyanins can benefit eyesight in a number of ways. For example, they have been shown to enhance night vision, increase circulation within retinal capillaries, fight age-related macular degeneration, and prevent retinopathy in people with diabetes [11].

Tip: Reap the health benefits of red cabbage by whipping up a tasty blueberry cabbage smoothie that is packed with anthocyanins to boost your eye health.

9. Antioxidants in Cabbage May Also Help Fight Diseases Related to Aging

Cabbage antioxidants may also slow the progression of age-related diseases and conditions as well as protect your skin against premature signs of aging. A study that compared the antioxidant activity of four types of cabbage found that red cabbage had the highest total antioxidant contents, followed by Savoy, Chinese and green cabbage [12].

According to the popular free radical theory of aging, which has been around for a long time, aging and age-related health problems result from the harmful effects of free radicals produced in the course of cellular metabolism. Antioxidants can protect the body from these effects by preventing the formation of radicals, by scavenging them, or by promoting their decomposition [13].

As some synthetic antioxidants have been reported to be dangerous to human health, interest in antioxidant-rich foods has surged [13]. A laboratory study that compared the antioxidant activity of four types of cabbage found that red cabbage had the highest total antioxidant contents, followed by Savoy, Chinese and green cabbage [12].

That, however, doesn't prove that red cabbage has the strongest protective effect against free radical damage in the human body because not all antioxidants are equally well absorbed in the digestive system. In fact, an intriguing study published in the British Journal of Nutrition that found a positive association between diets rich in fruits and vegetables and high blood levels of antioxidants in healthy young adults singled out dietary fiber and vitamin C as key contributors to this beneficial relationship [14]. All types of cabbage are packed with fiber and vitamin C.

10. Cabbage Has Anti-Inlammatory Properties

Acute inflammation is part of the body's natural healing process. When you catch a cold or injure yourself, your immune system moves into gear and triggers a chain of events known as the inflammatory cascade. The familiar signs of acute inflammation – fever, pain, redness and swelling – are the first signs that your immune system has been called into action and that the healing process has begun. Once the threat has been neutralized, anti-inflammatory compounds move in to stop the inflammatory response.

But sometimes the body's inflammatory response won't get turned off, and acute inflammation can progress into chronic inflammation. This type of inflammation has been linked to the development of a wide range of conditions, including allergies, Alzheimer's disease, Crohn's disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis.

The good news is that many foods have anti-inflammatory properties, and by eating these foods and avoiding foods that are known to promote inflammation, you may be able to reduce inflammation within your body.

Cabbage is an example of a food with strong anti-inflammatory properties, with Chinese cabbage, Savoy cabbage and regular green cabbage heads showing the strongest anti-inflammatory activity and red cabbage showing the weakest anti-inflammatory activity in laboratory experiments [12].

How to Incorporate More Cabbage into Your Diet

Can't wait to start eating more cabbage to reap all the wonderful health benefits of this powerful Brassica vegetable? As cabbage is inexpensive, readily available all year round, and easy to incorporate into a variety of dishes, getting more cabbage into your diet doesn't require much effort. If you have a vegetable garden, you Here are some ideas on how you can incorporate this amazing vegetable into your diet:

  • Adding cabbage to soups and stews is one of the easiest ways to incorporate cabbage into your diet. Those who are trying to lose weight may want to look into the cabbage soup diet, a weight loss plan that involves eating large amounts fat-free cabbage soup.
  • If you like to eat your cabbage raw, slaws are one of the best ways to enjoy cabbage. The Veggie Bullet or a food processor with a grater blade make quick work of preparing cabbage for slaws, but you can also use a regular box grater.
  • If you're DIY-inclined, you can also try making sauerkraut at home. Sauerkraut is simply shredded cabbage that is salted and fermented in its own juice for several weeks.
  • Juicing cabbage is yet another great way to add some cabbage goodness to your diet, but keep in mind that when you juice cabbage, the health-benefiting fiber is left behind. A small amount of freshly-made cabbage juice adds nice kick to smoothies (here's a recipe for a cabbage smoothie that pairs red cabbage juice with blueberries and fresh fruits).

Book You May Like
Brassica Cookbook
Even though the health benefits of Brassica vegetables have been documented in numerous studies, many home cooks still find these green veggies a little intimidating. In Brassicas: Cooking the World's Healthiest Vegetables, cookbook author Laura Russell teaches home cooks how to bring out the wonderful flavors of these super-veggies without burying them under unhealthy ingredients like cheese. Brussels sprouts, for example, develop a wonderful sweet flavor when they are roasted, while watercress comes into its own in salads that can benefit from a little peppery kick. To learn more, or to order a copy on Amazon, click here.