Cabbage (brassica oleracea var. capitata) (1) is a delicious food that is part of the cruciferous vegetable (Brassicaceae) family. Other cruciferous veggies include broccoli, cauliflower, and kale (2). Traditionally, cabbage was used in Greek, Roman, and Egyptian civilizations for eating as well as medicinal purposes for relief of gastrointestinal problems and constipation (1).
There are several diverse types of cabbage eaten throughout various parts of the world. The most popular and most studied types of cabbage are green, white, and red (2). Cabbage can be enjoyed in a variety of ways and is most often consumed cooked, raw, or fermented. Cabbage can be added to dishes such as salads, soups, slaws or when fermented eaten as sauerkraut or kimchi.
Table of Contents
- Health Benefits of Cabbage
- Things to Consider
Health Benefits of Cabbage
Want to know more about why cabbage should be a staple in your diet? Check out these incredible benefits below!
1. It is High in Key Nutrients
Cabbage has a high amount of vitamins and minerals, all of which can contribute to an overall healthy diet and help to decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases (3).
Cabbage is high in vitamins C, A, and K, which serve important roles in all organs and systems of the body.
Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning it must be consumed through the diet and our bodies cannot produce it on their own. Vitamin C is needed for certain reactions in the body and for the formation of connective tissues skin, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels, as well as for synthesizing hormones (4).
Vitamin A is part of a variety of physiological processes in the body, including maintaining eye health, immune system function, central nervous system formation, and bone and fetus development (5).
Vitamin K is most known for helping make proteins in the body that are necessary for blood clotting (6).
In just one cup of raw cabbage, there is:
32.6 mg vitamin C (7) (43% of recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for women, 36% of RDA for men 8)
87.2 IU vitamin A (7) (41.5% of RDA for women, 32% of RDA for men 8)
67.6 mcg vitamin K (7) (75% of RDA for women, 56% of RDA for men 88)
Cabbage contains lesser amounts of other nutrients, including calcium, phosphorous, potassium, folate, and iron (7).
2. Cabbage is High in Fiber
Cabbage has a high amount of fiber, which is hard for Americans to get enough of in their diets (9). Consuming an adequate amount of fiber daily has been proven to have a lengthy list of health benefits. Individuals who consume an overall high amount of dietary fiber daily appear to be at significantly lower risk for health problems including developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases (9). Increasing the amount of fiber in the diet can lower blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels (9). One cup of cabbage contains over two grams of fiber per 1 cup of shredded raw cabbage (7).
3. Cabbage contains Anthocyanin
Red cabbage contains anthocyanins, which are a type of pigment found in certain foods. Studies have demonstrated anthocyanins play a role in having antimicrobial, antioxidative, and anti-inflammatory properties (10).
Eating foods that are high in anthocyanins has been shown to reduce inflammation markers in the body which can further help to decrease diseases like obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes (11).
It is important to note that when cooking with cabbage, anthocyanins are vulnerable to heat. Cooking methods, such as boiling, steaming, microwaving, and conventional stir-frying, in which the cooking temperature reached as low as 212 degrees Fahrenheit (one hundred degrees Celsius), resulted in the loss of anthocyanin (12).
4. It May Help Prevent Weight Gain
Cabbage is considered a nutrient-dense food, meaning that it is high in nutrients and lower in the number of calories per serving. For example, one cup of raw cabbage contains around 22 calories (7). For someone who is wanting to lose weight, cabbage can be a good option to not only provide fuel to your body but also help with feeling full for a longer period. This can help to prevent overeating. Additionally, animal studies have shown that consuming red cabbage helps to slow down weight gain (10).
5. It May Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Recent research has suggested that cabbage has functional properties that may help improve blood sugar regulation and may improve health in people with type 2 diabetes (2). Some of the research is still unclear, but different mechanisms have been proposed to show how cabbage may regulate glucose levels by reducing oxidative stress, obesity, insulin resistance, and hyperglycemia, all of which can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes (2). It is suspected that this is due to the high amount of bioactive compounds cabbage contains (17). Cabbage is high in fiber, low in carbohydrates, and has a low glycemic index, all of which help to keep blood sugars stable (13). Research shows that increasing consumption of cabbage leads to a decrease in glucose absorption and insulin resistance (2), both of which are risk factors for preventing type 2 diabetes development.
6. It May Help Prevent Cancer
Cabbage, which is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, has been shown to contain chemicals that may be effective in preventing and even fighting cancer (13). Sulforaphane is the active ingredient in cruciferous vegetables. Growing evidence from research has shown sulforaphane may prevent and treat cancers including prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer, urinary bladder cancer, and oral cancer (13). It has even been named the “green chemoprevention” (13). The components glucosinolates that are present in cruciferous vegetables have also been shown to have anti-cancerous properties for gastrointestinal cancers such as colorectal, liver, and stomach cancer (14).
7. It Is Good for Brain Health
A new area of growing research is showing that cabbage, in addition to other vegetables in the cruciferous vegetable family, may contain phytochemicals that have neuroprotective effects on the brain (13). Sulforaphane has been shown to help treat neurological conditions such as traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Parkinson’s disease (13).
8. It Has Anti-inflammatory benefits
Animal studies have shown that consuming red cabbage microgreens decreased inflammatory markers in the blood (10). The active phytochemical sulforaphane has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects by supporting the prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases such as colitis, arthritis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (13).
9. It May Help Prevent Heart Disease
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States (15). Having elevated levels of LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, cholesterol, and high blood pressure are all contributors and risk factors for heart disease (15). Even though cholesterol is essential to the body, many Americans are consuming too much cholesterol in their diet. Research studies have found that cabbage may have a positive effect on reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease (10).
Polyphenols and glucosinolates are bioactive molecules that possess cholesterol-lowering, antioxidant, and anti-inflammation properties (15). Cabbage contains a higher amount of these phytonutrients than other foods. Studies have shown that after consuming cabbage microgreens on a high-fat diet, LDL, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels all decreased (10). Another study showed that when consuming a Western-type or American diet, the addition of red cabbage extract along with other anthocyanins was found to decrease the risk of forming plaques in arteries which can eventually lead to atherosclerosis (11). More research needs to be done to confirm these findings.
Things to Consider
If you are on blood clotting medications or have health conditions, ask your doctor before consuming cabbage. Due to its high amount of vitamin K, consuming considerable amounts of cabbage can work against medications like warfarin (16).
When you are ready to start adding more cabbage to your diet, do not forget to wash it before you use it.
The method by which cabbage is prepared can alter the nutrient content of cabbage depending on the preparation methods. For example, when cabbage is stir-fried or boiled, the levels of vitamin C are reduced significantly (12). The vitamin C levels in cabbage are the least impacted when it can be served fresh cut, microwaved, or steamed (12).
Studies suggest that cabbage consumed as fresh-cut salad may be the best way to maintain the highest nutrition content (12). Additionally, fermented cabbage has been shown to preserve antioxidant activity and increase vitamin C content2.
Cabbage is a tasty vegetable with a fun texture that can be eaten in a variety of ways. Having a regular intake of cabbage in your diet, in addition to other vegetables, is a key factor in living a healthy lifestyle and can provide protection against chronic and degenerative diseases (11). Cabbage can help promote overall health and may influence reducing risk for chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.