Health Benefits Of Red Cabbage, Nutrition, And Side Effects

Add this delicious and vibrant vegetable to your diet for a stronger and healthier you.

Medically Reviewed by Dr Archana Batra, CDE
By Aparna Mallampalli, BEd (Biological Sciences), MSc (Microbiology), Diploma In Nutrition

Cabbages have long been a part of a healthy diet, given their benefits. Among the different varieties, red cabbages (also called purple cabbages) are considered superior in terms of nutrients. These have a reddish-purple hue due to the presence of a flavonoid and antioxidant called anthocyanin. Red cabbages are also a rich source of dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Consuming this vegetable may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve the immune and digestive systems. In this article, we further explore the benefits of red cabbage, its nutrient profile, and potential side effects. Read on.

What Is Red Cabbage?

Red cabbage belongs to the brassica family and tastes the same as the green variant. It has gained special interest because of its unique color and is preferred by many as a garnish. Besides, it can be eaten raw or cooked, and can also be used as a fermented food. Red cabbage is rich in vitamins A, B6, C, and K, and helps strengthen bones and reduce inflammation.

The vibrant red cabbage provides a significant amount of essential nutrients. Let us know what they are from the next section.

Red Cabbage Nutrients

Chopped red cabbage on a cutting board

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100g of red cabbage contain (1):

Energy31 kcal
Water90.4g
Protein1.43g
Fiber2.1g
Carbohydrates7.37g
Vitamin C57 mg
Calcium45 mg

Heather Hanks, a nutritionist, says, “Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables contribute to your “good” gut bacteria, which can help boost immunity and fight diseases. Additionally, red cabbage is a good source of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been shown to protect against many conditions.” In the following section, we understand these health benefits of red cabbage in detail. Keep reading.

Health Benefits Of Red Cabbage

1. May Reduce The Risk Of Cancer

“Red cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that has been shown to help protect against cancer,” says Hanks. Studies suggest that anthocyanins provide 36 varieties of anti-cancer chemicals. They are said to have many protective and therapeutic roles in human health due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Besides, red cabbages contain glucosinolates (a natural compound), which are broken down into isothiocyanate compounds. These compounds have anti-cancer effects and may reduce the risk of bladder, breast, colon, and prostate cancers (2).

Studies suggest that young shoots of red cabbage have higher antioxidant activity and are richer in vitamin C, polyphenolic compounds, and carotenoids. The juice of these young shoots was found to effectively reduce the proliferation of cancer cells better than that of the mature vegetable (3).

Red cabbage extract is also linked with a high death rate of cancerous cells. However, the extract was also said to have a cytotoxic (causing damage to living cells) effect and must be used at concentrations lower than 6.4 mg/ml (4).

2. May Aid In Weight Loss

Red cabbage may aid weight loss

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Red cabbage is a rich source of dietary fiber and has fewer calories. Fiber intake helps increase satiety and reduces energy intake. This way, it may promote weight loss and dietary adherence in adults who are overweight or obese (when coupled with a calorie-restricted diet) (5).

Whole red cabbage was also found to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in hypercholesterolemic rabbits better than its extract. This is due to the presence of vitamin C, polyphenols (anthocyanins, other flavonoids, and isothiocyanates), and manganese in red cabbages (6). Moreover, an encapsulated red cabbage extract was found to increase butyric acid production in the colon. Studies suggest that this short-chain fatty acid may help alleviate obesity and prevent associated diseases in adults (7),(8).

3. May Help Boost The Immune System

Red cabbage is a good source of vitamins C and K. Vitamin C supports various cellular functions of both innate and adaptive immune systems. It also supports the epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes free radical scavenging activity of the skin. This, in turn, helps protect the body against environmental oxidative stress. Vitamin C deficiency often leads to impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. Hence, dietary intake or supplementation of vitamin C may help prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections (9). Besides, fermentable dietary fibers may regulate various properties of the immune system, including those of the gut-associated lymphoid tissues (10).

4. May Improve Digestive Health

Red cabbage may improve digestive health

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Red cabbage is rich in sulfur and other minerals. These nutrients cleanse the digestive system, especially the bowels, and help prevent indigestion and constipation. Besides, raw cabbage juice has traditionally been used to repair the stomach lining and heal ulcers (2).

Vitamin C increases the absorption of non-hemeiron (mainly found in plant foods). It prevents the formation of insoluble and unabsorbable iron in the small intestine, and allows for its efficient transport across the intestinal epithelium. Vitamin C also reduces ferric to ferrous iron, which may be essential for iron uptake by the mucosal cells. Moreover, vitamin C-rich foods or supplements, when consumed with iron, may also increase hemoglobin production in anemic patients (11),(12).

Vitamin C also has antimicrobial effects against harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Therefore, it may be able to regulate intestinal microbial communities. Vitamins C and D also help boost gut immune response and barrier function. Such changes can further regulate the gut microbiome (13). All these factors contribute to improved digestion and digestive health.

5. May Improve Heart Health

Anthocyanins exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-carcinogenic activities. They also show beneficial effects on blood vessels, platelets, and lipoproteins, which reduce coronary heart disease risk (14).

Red cabbage contains vitamin B6, whose intake is linked with a reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. It inhibits lipoperoxide production and decreases homocysteine (an amino acid) levels and inflammation, which are CVD risk factors. Increased homocysteine levels in the blood may damage arterial walls (15).

Low vitamin C levels are linked with conditions like high blood pressure, endothelial dysfunction, heart disease, atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in arteries), and stroke (16). As stated, red cabbage has a significant amount of Vitamin C, and its regular intake may benefit your cardiovascular health.

6. May Help Fight Inflammation

Consuming cabbages helps fight inflammation (17). Studies suggest that the anthocyanin-rich red Chinese cabbage may help reduce aortic inflammation and reduce the risk of vascular inflammatory diseases (18). According to another study, a mixture of commercial red Chinese cabbage leaves and Aronia fruits exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, and may be used to treat inflammatory diseases (19).

This way, red cabbage is way more beneficial than other varieties. However, this nutrient-dense food has some downsides too. Let us find out what they are.

Side Effects Of Red Cabbage

1) May Cause Flatulence

Woman experiencing flatulence due to red cabbage

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Cabbage is a flatogenic (the ability to increase intestinal gases) food. You may feel abdominal fullness, bloating, and movement of gas in the abdomen after consuming cabbage (20). Hence, eating it in moderation is advised.

2) May Cause Diarrhea

Repeated intake of fermented red cabbage (sauerkraut) may cause diarrhea. Some individuals may also experience intolerance reactions (21).

3) May Cause Carbohydrate Malabsorption

A cup of chopped red cabbage contains carbohydrates like fructose (1.9 g), which may cause malabsorption. The symptoms of carbohydrate malabsorption include flatulence, abdominal cramps and pain, diarrhea, and headache. These usually occur after eating a product containing incompletely absorbed sugar (22). Hence, avoid eating red cabbage with other high carbohydrate foods. These negative effects seem to occur only in people with cabbage allergies or if eaten in excess.

You can enjoy this nutrient-rich vegetable unless you are allergic to cabbage or its smell. But how can you prepare and eat red cabbage? Keep scrolling to know.

How To Prepare And Eat Red Cabbage

A red cabbage dish being prepared

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Red cabbage can be consumed as:

  •  Sauerkraut
  •  Pickle
  •  Juice
  •  Salad
  •  Boiled veggies

Here is a simple recipe with red cabbage:

Sautéed Red Cabbage

  •  Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and onion and sauté for 3 minutes.
  •  Add cabbage pieces and sauté it (with the pan covered) until it wilts for 3 to 5 minutes.
  •  Add vinegar and gently stir the cabbage.
  •  Sprinkle sugar and stir again.
  •  Season with mustard seeds, salt, and pepper, and reduce the heat.
  •  Allow the cabbage to cook for 10 minutes (stirring constantly).
  •  Garnish with chopped parsley and sprinkle some lemon juice.

Red Cabbage Vs. Green Cabbage

Sally Stevens, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, says, “In comparison to green cabbage, red cabbage contains 10 times more vitamins, cancer-fighting flavonoids, and a winning number of antioxidants that improve eye, teeth, bone, and immune health.” However, they taste the same except that green cabbage turns sweeter when cooked.

Infographic: Benefits Of Red Cabbage

Red cabbage or purple cabbage is gaining popularity not only because of its unique color but also because of its health benefits. This unique cabbage variety promotes overall health if included as a part of the diet.

The following infographic lists the various benefits offered by red cabbage. Check it out!

benefits of red cabbage [infographic]

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

The benefits of red cabbage are attributed to its rich nutritional properties. This cruciferous veggie has many beneficial properties, ranging from aiding weight loss to boosting cardiovascular health. Red cabbage is healthier than green cabbage as it has a higher antioxidant content. It may also be useful for promoting gut health and enhancing immunity due to its rich vitamin content. Red cabbages are a healthy superfood featured in pickles, juices, and salads. However, overconsumption may have unpleasant side effects. It can cause gastrointestinal issues such as flatulence or diarrhea. If you experience any adverse effects, limit its use and seek medical advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is red cabbage good for your liver?

Yes, red cabbage is good for the liver. It contains indoles, compounds that may help reduce the risk of fatty liver.

Is red cabbage good for your hair?

Yes, red cabbage is good for your hair. Its vitamin A content helps boost hair health and hair growth.

Key Takeaways

  • Red cabbage has glucosinolates that help reduce the risk of bladder, breast, colon, and prostate cancers.
  • It also helps improve digestive health, boosts the immune system, and reduces the risk of inflammatory diseases.
  • However, if consumed in excess, you may experience issues like flatulence, diarrhea, or carbohydrate malabsorption.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

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  2. Red cabbage millennium’s functional food
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  3. Comparative study of young shoots and the mature redheaded cabbage as antioxidant food resources with antiproliferative effect on prostate cancer cells
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  5. Fiber Intake Predicts Weight Loss and Dietary Adherence in Adults Consuming Calorie-Restricted Diets: The POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Study
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  6. Bioefficacy of red cabbage against hypercholesterolemic diet mediated oxidative stress
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  7. The Influence of Red Cabbage Extract Nanoencapsulated with Brassica Plasma Membrane Vesicles on the Gut Microbiome of Obese Volunteers
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351487000_The_Influence_of_Red_Cabbage_Extract_Nanoencapsulated_with_Brassica_Plasma_Membrane_Vesicles_on_the_Gut_Microbiome_of_Obese_Volunteers
  8. The Protective Role of Butyrate against Obesity and Obesity-Related Diseases
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  10. The immune-enhancing effects of dietary fibers and prebiotics
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  14. Anthocyanins and heart health
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  15. Dietary Vitamin B6 Intake Associated with a Decreased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Prospective Cohort Study
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  18. Anthocyanin-Rich Extract from Red Chinese Cabbage Alleviates Vascular Inflammation in Endothelial Cells and Apo E -/- Mice
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  19. Anti-inflammatory effect from extracts of Red Chinese cabbage and Aronia in LPS-stimulated RAW 264.7 cells
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Aparna is a professor-turned-content writer with over 5 years of experience in life sciences. Her passion for writing and interest... more

Dr Archana Batra

(PG Diploma, CDE)
Dr Archana Batra is a dietitian, physiotherapist, and Certified Diabetes Educator with over 13 years of experience in nutrition and... more

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