@ The Simple Cabbage – but not so simple!

Article from “The World’s Healthiest Foods” by George Matelijan

What’s New and Beneficial About Cabbage

  • Cabbage can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you will cook it by steaming. The fiber-related components in cabbage do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw cabbage still has cholesterol-lowering ability, just not as much as steamed cabbage.
  • Researchers now realize that different types of cabbage (red, green, and Savoy) contain different patterns of glucosinolates. This new knowledge means that your broadest health benefits from cabbage are likely to come from inclusion of all varieties in your diet.
  • Cabbage in general—but also Savoy cabbage in particular—turns out to be an especially good source of sinigrin. Sinigrin is one of the cabbage glucosinolates that has received special attention in cancer prevention research. The sinigrin in cabbage can be converted into allyl-isothiocyanate, or AITC. This isothiocyanate compound has shown unique cancer preventive properties with respect to bladder cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.
  • In one recent study, short-cooked and raw cabbage were the only types of cabbage to show cancer-preventive benefits—long-cooked cabbage failed to demonstrate measurable benefits.
  • New research shows that steaming is a better cooking method than microwaving if you want to maximize the health benefits of glucosinolates found in cabbage. That’s because two minutes of microwaving destroys the same amount of myrosinase enzymes as seven minutes of steaming, and you need those myrosinase enzymes to help convert cabbage’s glucosinolates into cancer-preventive compounds.
  • Our Healthy Sauté method, which we recommend for cabbage, is very similar to steaming and enhances the flavor the of cabbage. See “How to Enjoy” below.

Recommendations

You’ll want to include cabbage as one of the cruciferous vegetables you eat on a regular basis if you want to receive the fantastic health benefits provided by the cruciferous vegetable family. At a minimum, include cruciferous vegetables as part of your diet 2-3 times per week, and make the serving size at least 1-1/2 cups. Even better from a health standpoint, enjoy cabbage and other vegetables from the cruciferous vegetable group 4-5 times per week, and increase your serving size to 2 cups.

Traditional methods of steaming or boiling make cabbage watery. To retain the maximum number of nutrients and flavor we recommend Healthy Sautéeing cabbage. Slice cabbage into 1/4-inch slices and let sit for 5 minutes to enhance its health-promoting benefits before cooking. For more details see Healthiest Way of Cooking Cabbage below.

The Chinese Chicken Cabbage Salad recipe is a great example of how to enjoy the delicate flavor of napa cabbage in your favorite salad. It is a milder tasting variety of cabbage that boasts the highest concentration of folate.

Enjoy the mild flavor of bok choy by using Healthy Sauté method of cooking. Bok choy is the #1 vegetable in China and has a higher concentration of beta-carotene and vitamin A than any other variety of cabbage. The 4-Minute Healthy Sautéed Bok Choy recipe will give you great tasting bok choy in a matter of minutes!

* Chinese Chicken Cabbage Salad

An excellent source of vitamins A, C, and protein this Asian-flavored salad is a quick and easy addition to your Healthiest Way of Eating any time of year.

Chinese Chicken Cabbage Salad Prep and Cook Time: 10 minutesIngredients:

  • 4 cups napa cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBS rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 TBS minced ginger
  • 1 medium clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 TBS chopped cilantro
  • 4 oz cooked chicken breast, shredded or cut into 1″ cubes

Directions:

  1. Toss all ingredients together and serve.

Serves 1

4-Minute Healthy Sautéed Bok Choy

Enjoy this great tasting recipe and get 375% of your Daily Value for vitamin A, 318% DV for vitamin C, 188% DV for vitamin K and 69% for folate!

4-Minute Healthy Sautéed Bok Choy Prep and Cook Time: 10 minutesIngredients:

  • 1 lb bok choy, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 TBS low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 drops soy sauce
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional:
  • 1 TBS grated ginger
  • 2 TBS tofu, cubed
  • toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Chop bok choy and garlic and let sit for 5 minutes to bring out their health-promoting properties.
  2. In a stainless steel heat broth. When it begins to steam add bok choy and healthy saute,Healthy Sauté for 4 minutes.
  3. Toss with garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste and any of the optional ingredients you would like to include.

Serves 2

Red Cabbage

While green cabbage is the most commonly eaten variety of cabbage, we highly recommend trying red cabbage because of it added nutritional benefits and its robust hearty flavor. We don’t think you will be disappointed. The rich red color of red cabbage reflects it concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, which contribute to red cabbage containing significantly more protective phytonutrients than green cabbage. Interest in anthocyanin pigments continues to intensify because of their health benefits as dietary antioxidants, as an anti-inflammatory, and their potentially protective, preventative, and therapeutic roles in a number of human diseases.

A recent study showed that a 100 gram (about 3 ounces) serving of raw red cabbage delivers 196.5 milligrams of polyphenols, of which 28.3 milligrams are anthocyanins. Green cabbages yielded much less per 100 grams: 45 milligrams of polyphenols including 0.01 milligram of anthocyanins. The vitamin C equivalent, a measure of antioxidant capacity, of red cabbage is also six to eight times higher than that of green cabbage. Red cabbage is one of the most nutritious and best tasting vegetables around — a great addition to your Healthiest Way of Eating.

Nutrients in Cabbage
1.00 cup, raw (70.00 grams)
Nutrient%Daily Value
vitamin K66.5%
vitamin C42.7%
folate7.5%
fiber7%
manganese5.5%
molybdenum4.6%
vitamin B64.5%
potassium3.4%
tryptophan3.1%
calcium2.8%
vitamin B12.6%
Calories (17)0%

This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Cabbage provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System.

Health Benefits

Cancer prevention tops all other areas of health research with regard to cabbage and its outstanding benefits. More than 475 studies have examined the role of this cruciferous vegetable in cancer prevention (and in some cases, cancer treatment). The uniqueness of cabbage in cancer prevention is due to the three different types of nutrient richness found in this widely enjoyed food. The three types are (1) antioxidant richness, (2) anti-inflammatory richness, and (3) richness in glucosinolates.

Antioxidant-Related Health Benefits

Cabbage ranked in our WHFoods rating system as an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of vitamin A (which comes from its concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene). But in terms of antioxidants in the newer, phytonutrient category, cabbage is impressive, even among cruciferous vegetables. Polyphenols rank at the top of the list for phytonutrient antioxidants in cabbage. In fact, one group of researchers has described polyphenols as the primary factor in cabbage’s overall antioxidant capacity. Even white cabbage (a very lightly-colored form of green cabbage and the most commonly eaten variety of cabbage in the U.S.) provides about 50 milligrams of polyphenols in a half-cup serving. Red cabbage is even more unique among the cruciferous vegetables in providing about 30 milligrams of the red pigment polyphenols called anthocyanins in each half cup. (These anthocyanins qualify not only as antioxidant nutrients, but as anti-inflammatory nutrients as well.) The antioxidant richness of cabbage is partly responsible for its cancer prevention benefits. Without sufficient intake of antioxidants, our oxygen metabolism can become compromised, and we can experience a metabolic problem called oxidative stress. Chronic oxidative stress—in and of itself—can be a risk factor for development of cancer.

Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

Without sufficient intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients, regulation of our inflammatory system can become compromised, and we can experience the problem of chronic inflammation. Especially when combined together with oxidative stress, chronic inflammation is a risk factor for development of cancer.

The anthocyanins found in red cabbage are well-documented anti-inflammatory compounds, and make red cabbage a standout anti-inflammatory food for this reason. However, all types of cabbage contain significant amounts of polyphenols that provide anti-inflammatory benefits.

Glucosinolates and Cancer Prevention

Given the roles of oxidative stress and chronic inflammation as risk factors for cancer, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory richness of cabbage would provide anti-cancer health benefits without the addition of cabbage’s glucosinolates. But glucosinolates are cabbage’s trump card with regard to “anti-cancer” benefits. The glucosinolates found in cabbage can be converted into isothiocyanate compounds that are cancer preventive for a variety of different cancers, including bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Different types of cabbage highlight different glucosinolates, as summarized in the chart below:

Glucosinolates in Cabbage and Their Anti-Cancer Thiocyanates

Best Cabbage Source Glucosinolate Derived Isothiocyanate Isothiocyanate Abbreviation
red cabbage glucoraphanin sulforaphane SFN
savoy cabbage glucobrassicin indole-3-carbinol* I3C
savoy and green cabbage sinigrin allyl-isothiocyanate AITC
green cabbage glucotropaeolin benzyl-isothiocyanate BITC

* Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is not an isothiocyanate. It’s a benzopyrrole, and it is only formed when isothiocyanates made from glucobrassicin are further broken down into non-sulfur containing compounds.

The isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from cabbage’s glucosinolates act to protect us against cancer through a variety of different mechanisms. In some cases, they help regulate inflammation by altering the activity of messaging molecules within our body’s inflammatory system. In other cases, they improve our body’s detoxification system and leave our cells with a smaller toxic load. But the bottom line is decreased risk of cancer from consumption of cabbage and its glucosinolates. We’ve seen one study, from Poland, showing impressive reduction of breast cancer risk in women consuming large amounts of cabbage. (In this particular study, this reduction in risk was associated with consumption of at least 4 cabbage servings per week, in comparison with the once-per-week serving consumed by women with higher breast cancer risk.)

Digestive Tract Support

Long-established in health research is the role of cabbage juice in helping heal stomach ulcers (called peptic ulcers), but more recent studies on cabbage have looked at the overall health benefits of this food for the stomach and digestive tract as a whole. Present-day studies make it clear that cabbage contains a variety of nutrients of potential benefit to our stomach and intestinal linings. These nutrients include glucosinolates (and the anti-inflammatory isothiocyanates or ITCs made from them), antioxidant polyphenols, and the amino acid-like substance called glutamine. In the case of ITCs, digestive tract benefits include proper regulation of bacterial populations of Helicobacter pylori inside the stomach. These bacteria are normal stomach inhabitants, but their populations can become too large and they can latch onto the stomach lining in an undesirable way. The ITCs made from cabbage’s glucosinolates can lower the risk of these unwanted stomach events.

Cardiovascular Support

You can count on cabbage to provide your cardiovascular system with valuable support in the form of cholesterol reduction. Researchers understand exactly how this process takes place. Your liver uses cholesterol as a basic building block to produce bile acids. Bile acids are specialized molecules that aid in the digestion and absorption of fat through a process called emulsification. These molecules are typically stored in fluid form in your gall bladder, and when you eat a fat-containing meal, they get released into the intestine where they help ready the fat for interaction with enzymes and eventual absorption up into the body. When you eat cabbage, fiber-related nutrients in this cruciferous vegetable bind together with some of the bile acids in the intestine in such a way that they simply stay inside the intestine and pass out of your body in a bowel movement, rather than getting absorbed along with the fat they have emulsified. When this happens, your liver needs to replace the lost bile acids by drawing upon your existing supply of cholesterol, and as a result, your cholesterol level drops down. Cabbage provides you with this cholesterol-lowering benefit whether it is raw or cooked. However, a recent study has shown that the cholesterol-lowering ability of raw cabbage improves significantly when it is steamed. In fact, when the cholesterol-lowering ability of steamed cabbage was compared with the cholesterol-lowering ability of the prescription drug cholestyramine (a medication that is taken for the purpose of lowering cholesterol), cabbage bound 17% as many bile acids (based on a standard of comparison involving total dietary fiber).

The Healthiest Way of Cooking Cabbage

From all of the cooking methods we tried when cooking cabbage, our favorite is Healthy Sauté. We think that it provides the greatest flavor and is also a method that allows for concentrated nutrient retention.

To Healthy Sauté cabbage, heat 5 TBS of broth (vegetable or chicken) or water in a stainless steel skillet. Once bubbles begin to form add shredded cabbage, cover, and Healthy Sauté for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 2 more minutes before transferring to a bowl and tossing with Mediterranean Dressing.* Ginger is a great addition to your Healthy Sautéed cabbage; you can also add rice vinegar and sesame seeds.

A few quick serving ideas:

Braise red cabbage with a chopped apple and red wine. This is a child-friendly dish since the alcohol (but not the flavor or the flavonoids) will evaporate.

Combine shredded red and green cabbage with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and seasonings such as turmeric, cumin, coriander, and black pepper to make coleslaw with an Indian twist.

*5-Minute Healthy Sautéed Red CabbageIf you are used to eating green cabbage, I encourage you to try the special flavor and nutrients found in red cabbage as part of your Healthiest Way of Eating. It tastes great and you will also benefit from its rich concentration of health promoting vitamins A, C, and K. Enjoy.

5-Minute Healthy Sautéed Red Cabbage Prep and Cook Time: 5 minutesIngredients:

  • 4 cups red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 5 TBS low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • Mediterranean Dressing
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 medium clove garlic, chopped or pressed
  • Sea salt, and pepper to taste
  • Optional:
  • 2 TBS grated ginger
  • 1 TBS sesame seeds
  • 5 drops soy sauce
  • 1 TBS chopped cilantro
  • few drops of rice vinegar/rice wine

Directions:

  1. Quarter cabbage, slice into 1/4-inch strips, and let sit for at least 5 minutes to bring out the hidden health benefits of cabbage.
  2. Chop or press garlic and let sit for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle cabbage with 1 TBS lemon juice before cooking to prevent it from turning blue.
  4. Heat 5 TBS broth over medium heat in a stainless steel skillet. When broth begins to steam, add cabbage and cover. Sauté for no more than 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a bowl. For more flavor, toss cabbage with the dressing ingredients and any of the optional ingredients you desire while it is still hot. (Mediterranean Dressing does not need to be made separately.)

5 thoughts on “@ The Simple Cabbage – but not so simple!

  1. I’m just amazed how much you manage to get on this blog. That plus all the classes you do. I’m often very impressed!!!
    I’m of Dutch descent and have a few dishes with sourkrout that have come from my childhood.

    Like

  2. Wow Galy, that is what I call a well researched cabbage!!! The jar you gave me is the most delicious I have ever tasted.

    Like

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