When you think of cabbage, you likely think of wonderful summer picnics with grandma’s special coleslaw recipe or a nice winter dinner of spicy cabbage rolls, but this very robust vegetable is much more than a memorable culinary dish.
While it is closely related to broccoli and cauliflower, this leafy green vegetable actually contains the highest amount of some of the most powerful antioxidants found in any of the cruciferous vegetables, including the phytonutrients thiocyanates, lutein, zeaxanthin, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane, which are known to stimulate a variety of detoxifying enzymes. (1)
Not only are these compounds known to protect against several types of cancer, including breast, colon, and prostate cancers, but now studies also show they can actually help lower your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” levels. (2)
And to top it off, certain types of cabbage are also a bountiful source of anthocyanin polyphenols, which are not only key antioxidants but also powerful anti-inflammatories that play a protective, preventative, and therapeutic role against many diseases including types 2 diabetes. (3)
The Healing Benefits of Cabbage
Cabbage has been around for centuries.
In fact, today’s cabbage varieties are descended from the cabbages that grew wild in the Mediterranean regions thousands of years ago. Ancient Greeks were known to regularly prescribe cabbage and/or cabbage juice to treat such things as constipation or even poisoning from various mushrooms.
The Ancient Egyptians also ate cabbage with their meals as a means to lower the effects of alcohol in wine.
The Irish used this bitter vegetable to treat ulcers and burns and even the British used cabbage leaves during World War I to treat “trench foot.” In fact, historically, cabbage has been used to treat everything from headaches and sore throats to sunstroke, warts and even typhoid fever. (4)
So what makes this common vegetable so effective as a medicinal remedy?
Cabbage Vs. Cancer
Cabbage contains extremely high concentrations of phytonutrients, which are found to be highly effective for fighting disease, especially cancer. In fact, over 475 studies show cabbage is key for cancer prevention (and even treatment in some cases) because of three specific types of nutrients: antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and glucosinolates. (5)
1. Antioxidants— Cabbage is a key source of both vitamin C and manganese as well as numerous polyphenols that are the prime factor in cabbage’s overall antioxidant abilities.
White cabbage for instance (the lightest of the cabbage varieties) provides close to 50 milligrams of polyphenols in just a half-cup serving. And red cabbage provides almost 30 milligrams of anthocyanins (the red pigment polyphenols) in each half cup.
Antioxidants are necessary for all disease prevention. If we do not eat enough antioxidant-containing foods, we can experience a metabolic issue called oxidative stress in which our oxygen metabolism becomes compromised, putting us at risk of developing cancer.
According to researchers of a study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention in 2013, “cabbage heads could contribute as sources of important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients related to the prevention of chronic diseases associated to oxidative stress, such as in cancer and coronary artery disease.”
2. Anti-inflammatories—although all types of cabbage contain significant amounts of polyphenols that provide anti-inflammatory benefits, researchers have shown that the anthocyanins found in red cabbage are powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. When our bodies do not receive enough anti-inflammatory nutrients, our inflammatory system can become compromised, resulting in chronic inflammation that can significantly raise our risk of developing cancer.
3. Glucosinolates—glucosinolates are a class of nitrogen and sulphur containing compounds shown to have cancer prevention properties. The glucosinolates found in cabbage have been shown in studies to be effective against a variety of cancers, including bladder, breast, colon, and prostate cancer. (6)
Cabbage Vs. Diabetes
Cabbage has also been shown to have potent antidiabetic benefits. One study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine showed that when diabetic rats were fed red cabbage extract for 60 days, they had lower blood glucose levels, better kidney function and more weight loss than those that were not fed cabbage.
While these effects were thought to be a result of this vegetable’s key antioxidant and antihyperglycemic properties, researchers also state that cabbage is a great source of fiber, which helps to slow the absorption of sugar and thus prevent diabetes. (7)
Cabbage And Vitamins
Cabbage is also an excellent source of vitamins. Just a half cup green cabbage contains approximately 47 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and a whopping 102 percent of vitamin K. While vitamin C acts as an antioxidant vitamin K is helpful for blood clotting and bone health.
Cabbage Juice Recipe
- apple cider vinegar
- Slice your cabbage in two halves and store one part for another time.
- Soak your cabbage in warm water and a little bit of apple cider vinegar.
- Juice your cabbage.
Drink 1-2 glass a day, once in the morning and the second in the evening.
How to Choose Cabbage
Red cabbages are known to contain the most antioxidants, although Chinese, Savoy and green cabbage contain the most anti-inflammatory properties.
So, if you are planning to eat cabbage, you should chose a variety of cabbages to maximize your phytochemical intake.
When it comes to preparing cabbage, raw is best but if you want to cook them you should sauté them lightly to retain the most nutrients.
You can also opt for steaming and boiling but stay away from the microwave whenever possible.
And because cabbage heads are not protected by shells or skins like many other vegetables, they are often exposed to harmful pesticides and herbicides so choosing organic is always best.