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What Are The Research-Based Benefits Of Cabbage?

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Heather M. Duquette-Wolf, RD, CSSD
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What Are The Research-Based Benefits Of Cabbage? Hyderabd040-395603080 July 8, 2019

Cabbage is one of the most popular cruciferous vegetables. It is densely packed with nutrients – but is often overlooked. This vegetable comes in a variety of colors, and its leaves can either be shriveled or smooth. Research speaks a lot about its ability to boost heart health and fight inflammation and cancer. But that’s not all. There is more to cabbage than what most of us may know.

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. These offer plenty of other benefits. Cabbage is available in different varieties. These include the following:

  • 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 is among the most popular of them – and so are its benefits.

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 work wonders in boosting your digestive health.

1. Promotes Heart Health

Promotes Heart Health Pinit

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Red cabbage is rich in anthocyanins (5). These compounds are responsible for its characteristic red color. Anthocyanins are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease (6).

A high intake of anthocyanins can also prevent myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women (7). These anthocyanins may reduce blood pressure as well (8).

Sauerkraut, a fermented cabbage preparation, also promotes heart health. It neutralizes the gut flora, whose chemical by-products may harden the arteries (9).

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

2. Enhances Digestive Health

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

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. Fights 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 (15). This can be attributed to an antioxidant called sulforaphane present in cruciferous vegetables (16). Sulforaphane also may slow down cartilage damage in joints (17).

In another study, cabbage leaf wraps could help relieve inflammation of the knee in patients with osteoarthritis (18).

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

4. Offers 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 could inhibit the development of cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, liver, stomach, and lung (23).

5. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Red cabbage has antihyperglycemic properties, which can cut the risk of diabetic nephropathy (24). Red cabbage extract also shows promise in alleviating diabetes and its vascular complications (25).

In a study, oral administration of cabbage extracts lowered blood sugar levels in fasting rabbits and relieved diabetic symptoms in depancreatized dogs (26).

The anthocyanins in cabbage also have a role in treating (and even preventing) diabetes (27).

6. Can 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 (28). Cabbage also contains trace amounts of zeaxanthin.

Vitamin C is another nutrient that aids vision. It may regenerate vitamin E inside the eye, which is an antioxidant important for vision health (29).

7. Strengthens Immunity

Strengthens Immunity Pinit

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The vitamin C in cabbage can strengthen immunity (30). 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 (31).

8. Might Help With Weight Loss

Fruits and vegetables containing fiber (including cabbage) can help with weight loss (32). Research also sheds light on 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’s 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 (33).

9. Can 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 (34).

Red cabbage may also have a role in preventing skin cancer (35).

10. Might Strengthen Hair

Cabbage contains quercetin. This antioxidant can aid the treatment of alopecia areata (an autoimmune condition involving sudden hair loss) (36). Mice studies show that subcutaneous injections of quercetin may induce hair growth in preexisting alopecic lesions.

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

An impressive nutritional profile as this should not be missed! This can be achieved by making cabbage a regular part of your diet. But how?

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. You may want to plan your cabbage meals accordingly. But before you do that, you may want to 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. Ensure you cook your cabbage properly before consumption.

  • Allergies

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

  • Might Lower Blood Sugar Way Too Much

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

  • Hypothyroidism

Cabbage might 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 (37).

  • Possible Issues During Surgery

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

Conclusion

With these benefits, cabbage shouldn’t be one of those veggies that are overlooked. It is simple to include in your diet and simpler to eat. Being a nutrient-dense vegetable, it sure will up your health quotient in no time.

Do you like cabbage? How often do you eat it? Do let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

How to store cabbage?

Wrap cabbage tightly in a plastic wrap (if it’s already cut) or in a sealable plastic bag (if it’s still 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.

References

  1. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health” Nutrition Reviews, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. The effect of carrot juice, beta-carotene…” Nutrition Research and Practice, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. The role of lutein in eye-related disease” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Characterisation of anti-Staphylococcus aureus…” International Journal of Food Science + Technology, Wiley Online Library.
  5. When it comes to red cabbage…” ScienceDaily.
  6. Anthocyanins in cardiovascular disease” Advances in Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. High anthocyanin intake is associated with…” Circulation, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with…” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. VA capitol health care network” US Department of Veteran Affairs.
  10. Red cabbage microgreens lower…” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, US National Library of Medicine.
  11. Health benefits of kimchi…” Journal of Medicinal Food, US National Library of Medicine.
  12. Effect of dietary fiber on constipation” World Journal of Gastroenterology, US National Library of Medicine.
  13. Fiber and prebiotics…” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine.
  14. Cruciferous vegetables: prototypic anti-inflammatory…” Clinical Phytoscience.
  15. Cruciferous vegetable intake is inversely…” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  16. The anti-inflammatory effects of…” European Respiratory Journal.
  17. 6 food choices to help ease arthritis pain” Arthritis Foundation.
  18. Efficacy of cabbage leaf wraps in the…” The Clinical Journal of Pain, US National Library of Medicine.
  19. Cabbage phytochemicals with antioxidant…” Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, US National Library of Medicine.
  20. Epigenetic regulation by sulforaphane…” Current Pharmacology Reports.
  21. Eat cabbage to fight cancer” Environews.
  22. Cancer chemopreventive activity…” Carcinogenesis, US National Library of Medicine.
  23. Cruciferous vegetables and cancer prevention” National Cancer Institute.
  24. Red cabbage ameliorates diabetic nephropathy…” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  25. Antidiabetic effects and…” Food & Function, US National Library of Medicine.
  26. The influence of cabbage extracts upon the blood…” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  27. The significance of anthocyanins in the…” Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  28. Dietary consumption of lutein and…” Current Developments in Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  29. Nutrients for the aging eye” Clinical Interventions in Aging, US National Library of Medicine.
  30. Emerging evidence on neutrophil motility supporting…” Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine.
  31. Vitamin C promotes maturation of T-cells” Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, US National Library of Medicine.
  32. Changes in intake of fruits and…” PloS, US National Library of Medicine.
  33. What is the cabbage soup diet?…” MayoClinic.
  34. Vitamin C” National Institutes of Health.
  35. Plants used to treat skin diseases” Pharmacognosy Review, US National Library of Medicine.
  36. Prevention and treatment of alopecia areata with…” Cell Stress & Chaperones, US National Library of Medicine.
  37. Various possible toxicants involved in…” Journal of Clinical & Diagnostic Research, US National Library of Medicine.

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