10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cabbage

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Heather M. Duquette-Wolf, RD, CSSD
by Sindhu Koganti

Cabbage is among the most popular cruciferous vegetables. It is densely packed with nutrients, including vital minerals and vitamins.

This vegetable is available in a variety of colors, and its leaves can either be shriveled or smooth.

Research states its ability to boost heart health and help in the treatment of inflammation and cancer. In this post, we cover more about what various studies state about cabbage and its uses.

How Is Cabbage Good For You?

Cabbage contains four major antioxidants. These are choline, beta-carotene, lutein, and quercetin.

Choline can improve memory and fight inflammation. It can also prevent neural tube defects in pregnant women (1).

Beta-carotene protects the human DNA from the ill effects of smoking (2).

Lutein can prevent age-related macular degeneration (3).

Quercetin fights harmful bacteria and combats disease (4).

Cabbage is also rich in vitamins C and K, and B vitamins that offer plenty of other benefits. Cabbage is available in different varieties, including:

  • Cannonball cabbage (also called green cabbage, the most common variety)
  • Bok choy
  • Choy sum
  • Napa cabbage
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Red cabbage

No matter the variety, the benefits are similar. Cruciferous vegetables, in general, are one of the most researched food groups. Cabbage happens to be among the popular ones. The following section will shed more light on how including cabbage in your regular diet may benefit you.

How Does Cabbage Benefit You?

Cabbage is rich in various antioxidants, including anthocyanins and sulforaphane. These help fight inflammation and the associated ailments like heart disease and cancer. Fermented forms of cabbage may also boost your digestive health.

1. May Promote Heart Health

Red cabbage is rich in anthocyanins (5). These compounds are responsible for its characteristic red color. Studies link anthocyanins to a reduced risk of heart disease, though more long-term research is warranted (6).

A high intake of anthocyanins may also reduce the risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women. Further trials should give us more information on this aspect (7). These anthocyanins may also lower arterial stiffness, potentially reducing blood pressure (8).

Sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage preparation, also promotes heart health (9). It is believed that sauerkraut neutralizes the gut flora, whose chemical by-products could harden the arteries. However, more research is needed to establish this connection.

Red cabbage also protects the heart by reducing the levels of bad cholesterol in the body (10).

2. May Enhance Digestive Health

Kimchi, another fermented food prepared from cabbage, can promote digestive health. It is rich in probiotics and promotes digestive health in ways similar to yogurt and other dairy products. Kimchi prevents constipation and also promotes colorectal health (11).

Cabbage is also rich in both insoluble and soluble fibers. The former adds bulk to stools and promotes regularity (12). The latter promotes gut-friendly bacteria (13).

3. May Fight Inflammation

Though inflammation by itself is not bad, chronic inflammation is. Cruciferous veggies, like cabbage, fight chronic inflammation (14).

In a study, women who had the highest intake of cruciferous vegetables displayed the lowest levels of inflammation. The study partly links the intake of such vegetables to reduced inflammation (15). This can be attributed to an antioxidant called sulforaphane present in cruciferous vegetables (16). Sulforaphane may also slow down cartilage damage in joints (17).

In another study, cabbage leaf wraps helped relieve inflammation of the knee in patients with osteoarthritis. They could be recommended for those with knee osteoarthritis, though more research is warranted (18).

Cabbage phytochemicals can also help fight health problems related to inflammation, including cancer and coronary artery disease (clogged Arteries) (19).

4. May Offer Protection From Cancer

Research is ongoing on the anticancer effects of sulforaphane. At the molecular level, this antioxidant has shown promising results (20).

Cabbage also contains another set of compounds called isothiocyanates. These may disarm carcinogens by getting them out of their toxic states and flushing them out of the body (21).

Cabbage contains another compound called brassinin, which also exhibits chemopreventive activity (22).

In rat and mouse studies, compounds in cabbage (cruciferous vegetables, in general) could inhibit the development of cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, liver, stomach, and lung (23), (24).

5. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Red cabbage has antihyperglycemic properties, which can cut the risk of diabetic nephropathy (25). Red cabbage extract also shows promise in alleviating diabetes and its vascular complications (26).

In a study, oral administration of cabbage extracts lowered blood sugar levels in fasting rabbits and relieved diabetic symptoms in depancreatized dogs (27).

The anthocyanins in cabbage could also have a role in treating (and even preventing) diabetes (28).

6. May Promote Vision Health

The lutein in cabbage contributes to vision health. Lutein (along with another antioxidant called zeaxanthin) protects the retina and the lens against the ultraviolet light. Cabbage also contains trace amounts of zeaxanthin (29).

Cabbage also contains vitamin C, another nutrient that aids vision. It may regenerate vitamin E inside the eye, which is an antioxidant important for vision health (30).

7. May Strengthen Immunity

The vitamin C in cabbage could strengthen immunity, though more studies are needed to further validate this statement (31). The antioxidant stimulates the white blood cells that help form the first line of defense. It also promotes the maturation of T-cells, which are an important component of the body’s immune system (32).

8. May Help With Weight Loss

Fruits and vegetables containing fiber (including cabbage) can help with weight loss (33). Some individuals also believe in a particular weight loss diet made of cabbages, called the cabbage soup diet.

This diet involves the intake of large amounts of cabbage soup for seven days. You may also consume certain other fruits and veggies, brown rice, chicken, and beef.

Though proponents say it is a good way to lose a few pounds quickly, you shouldn’t be staying on it for more than a week because it lacks in complex carbohydrates, protein, and other vitamins and minerals (34).

9. May Improve Skin Health

Cabbage is rich in vitamin C. This nutrient boosts the production of collagen, a structural protein that helps with skin formation and wound healing (35).

As per mice studies, red cabbage may also have a role in preventing skin cancer (36).

10. Might Strengthen Hair

Cabbage contains quercetin. This antioxidant shows some promise in the treatment of alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition involving sudden hair loss). Mice studies show that subcutaneous injections of quercetin may induce hair growth in preexisting alopecic lesions (37).

We need more research in this regard, though. Of course, the studies have been promising. But we are yet to see how effective the quercetin in cabbage can be in boosting hair growth in humans.

The above benefits can undoubtedly be attributed to the powerful nutrients present in cabbage. Let’s take a look at its nutritional profile.

What Is The Nutrition Profile Of Cabbage?

Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories22.2(92.9 kJ)1%
From Carbohydrate18.7(78.3 kJ)
From Fat0.7(2.9 kJ)
From Protein2.8(11.7 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)
Carbohydrates
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Total Carbohydrate5.2 g2%
Dietary Fiber2.2 g9%
Starch0.0 g
Sugars2.8 g
Protein & Amino Acids
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Protein1.1 g2%
Vitamins
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A87.2 IU2%
Vitamin C32.6 mg54%
Vitamin D~~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)0.1 mg1%
Vitamin K67.6 mcg85%
Thiamin0.1 mg4%
Riboflavin0.0 mg2%
Niacin0.2 mg2%
Vitamin B60.1 mg6%
Folate38.3 mcg10%
Vitamin B120.0 mcg0%
Pantothenic Acid0.2 mg2%
Choline9.5 mg
Betaine0.4 mg
Minerals
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium35.6 mg4%
Iron0.4 mg2%
Magnesium10.7 mg3%
Phosphorus23.1 mg2%
Potassium151 mg4%
Sodium16.0 mg1%
Zinc0.2 mg1%
Copper0.0 mg1%
Manganese0.1 mg7%
Selenium0.3 mcg0%
Fluoride0.9 mcg

Values sourced from USDA, cabbage, raw

Including cabbage in your regular diet is one way of benefiting from these nutrients. In the following section, we will discuss how you can do that.

How To Include Cabbage In Your Diet

The first thing to do is pick the right cabbage. You need to choose one that is heavy for its size. Also, ensure the leaves are tight and firm. Loose leaves indicate the cabbage is older.

You can eat this veggie raw, boiled, steamed, roasted, stuffed, or even sautéed. Don’t overcook cabbage as doing so leads to the characteristic sulfurous odor.

Following are the ways you can include cabbage in your diet:

  • Add shredded cabbage to your evening vegetable salad.
  • Add chopped cabbage to the soup you have for dinner.
  • Drizzle roasted cabbage with powdered black pepper, olive oil, and minced garlic and have it as it is.

Eating raw cabbage can offer the greatest amount of nutrients, followed by fermenting and cooking. Plan your cabbage meals accordingly. But before you do that, you should know the possible side effects of cabbage.

What Are The Side Effects Of Cabbage?

  • Possible Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

Avoid eating raw cabbage to cut the risk of food-borne illness (38). Ensure you cook cabbage properly before consumption.

  • Allergies

If you are allergic to other veggies from the cabbage family (like broccoli or cauliflower) (39), stay away from cabbage.

  • May Lower Blood Sugar Way Too Much

If you are already on diabetes medication, do check with your doctor before you start consuming cabbage (40). This is to ensure your blood pressure doesn’t go way too low.

  • Hypothyroidism

Cabbage may interfere with the thyroid hormone. If you have hypothyroidism, cut back (or even avoid) cabbage. This is truer with raw cabbage. Consult your doctor too (41).

Conclusion

Cabbage is a nutrient-dense healthy food with a strong nutritional profile. Eating cabbage may help improve your digestive health, fight inflammation, and strengthen your immune system. However, be wary of the side effects. If you have hypothyroidism, check with your doctor before consuming cabbage.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How to store cabbage?

Wrap cabbage tightly in a plastic wrap (if it is already cut) or in a sealable plastic bag (if it is whole). You can store the cabbage in the crisper draw in your refrigerator for up to 2 to 3 weeks.

Is cabbage keto?

Since cabbage is comparatively low in carbohydrates, it can be a part of your keto diet.

Is cooked cabbage is good for you?

Eating raw or lightly cooked cabbage is good for health. Cooking cabbage at high temperatures for long periods destroys the active enzymes in it.

Is cabbage healthier than lettuce?

In terms of proteins and vitamins, cabbage is healthier than lettuce. A regular serving of cabbage meets 60% of the RDA of vitamin C intake, while lettuce only meets about 4% of the RDA of the vitamin (42), (43), (44).  Cabbage also contains vitamin B6, while lettuce does not. Hence, cabbage could be a healthier option than lettuce.

Is cabbage water healthy?

Yes, cabbage water is healthy. Vitamins E and C in the vegetable can stimulate the digestive and immune systems. Drinking cabbage water is linked to many benefits, including weight loss, improved gut health, decreased inflammation, balanced hormones, and body detoxification. However, none of them have been scientifically proven.

How long does it take cabbage juice to heal an ulcer?

On average, cabbage juice can heal ulcers after 7-10 days of treatment. In one study, 13 participants with stomach and upper digestive tract ulcers were given around one quart (946 ml) of fresh cabbage juice throughout the day (45).

What are the possible issues of eating cabbage during surgery?

Cabbage may affect blood sugar control during and after surgical procedures. Avoid eating it at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

45 sources

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Sindhu Koganti is a Biotechnology graduate and has been in the writing field for over 4 years now. She specializes in writing on Health and Wellness. She has hands-on experience in writing articles and press releases on Life Sciences and Healthcare, Food and Beverages, and Chemicals and Materials. When she’s not writing, she loves watching movies and listening to music. She also enjoys traveling.
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