As part of Nutrition to Fit’s Frugal Food Favorites series, each week we highlight a favorite affordable food and all of its nutritional benefits, in addition to ways and recipes to include it in your life. This week is all about cabbage!
Cabbage, part of the cruciferous vegetable family, has multiple varieties that all boast impressive health benefits. Worldwide, there are actually hundreds of varieties (1)! Popular cabbage types include green, red, savoy, napa, and even brussels sprouts and bok choy are considered part of the cabbage family (2). No matter the type of cabbage you prefer, you can be confident in knowing that cabbage is usually a very frugal food that has ample nutritional benefits.
Possible Protection from Radiation Therapy
A study from Georgetown University is showing prospective research that a compound in cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables (3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM)) may have protective benefits against the harmful effects of radiation therapy (3). Studies done in both rats and mice showed that the subjects that received DIM had about a 50% survival rate after given a dose of lethal radiation, whereas the subjects without DIM all died. There is definitely more research that needs to be done, but it’s an exciting look into protecting against radiation treatment side effects.
Sulforaphane is a cancer-fighting compound found in cabbage (3). There is over thirty years of research that show consumption of cruciferous vegetables, cabbage included, are linked to lower risk of cancer. Researchers have more recently been able to narrow down the source of this benefit specifically to sulforaphane and other sulfur-containing compounds. You know the sligtly bitter taste you get with cabbage? It’s these sulfur-containing compounds that you’re tasting!
Antioxidants, especially anthocyanin can give even more cancer-fighting benefits. Anthocyanins slow rapid cancer cell growth, kill already formed cancer cells, and stop the formation of new tumor growth (3). Red cabbage in particular contains anthocyanin, as it’s what gives it its beautiful color.
Anthocyanin also suppresses inflammation in the body, including the inflammation that can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (3). This makes cabbage, red cabbage in particular, a very heart-healthy food.
In addition to the heart health benefits provided from anthocyanins, other polyphenols in cabbage are proving to have heart healthy benefits as well (3). It’s possible the high polyphenol content in cabbage can lead to decreased blood pressure and prevention of platelet buildup.
The fiber and water content in cabbage help prevent constipation and aid in improved digestion. Additionally, a very popular way to consume cabbage is in the form of sauerkraut and kimchi – fermented foods. The fermentation process leads to a ton of probiotics in the kimchi and sauerkraut. Probiotics are important in aiding your digestive and immune systems.
Immune System + Inflammation Regulation
Recent studies show that dietary fiber, of which cabbage is a good source, plays a role in regulating immune system and inflammation. Decreased inflammation can lead to a whole host of other benefits, including decreased risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
Selection + Storage
Select heads of cabbage (or brussels sprouts) that are firm, dense, with crisp, intact leaves. If the leaves have a significant amount of blemishes it could indicate an insect has invested it, or the core may be rotting, too. It is recommended to store cabbage whole in sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (one week for savoy cabbage). If the cabbage is cut, it still needs to be stored in a sealed bag in the fridge, and it is recommended to use quickly. The longer a cabbage is cut (or bought as pre-shredded at the store), the more vitamin C can leech out.
Uses + Recipes
Try shredding some cabbage and adding to your salads, slaws, soups or stews. Cabbage can be roasted, sauteed, or served raw. You also can use cabbage leaves as a naturally gluten-free wrap or “taco shell” of sorts. One of the reasons I personally love cabbage (besides it being so economical!) is because there are a lot of ways you can use it in recipes. Check out the recipes below for a variety of ways to use cabbage, contributed from Registered Dietitians.
Crunchy Asian Chopped Salad with Peanut Dressing by E.A. Stewart, RDN of Spicy RD Nutrition
Thai Lettuce Wraps with Cabbage Apple Slaw by Chrissy Carroll, RDN of Snacking in Sneakers
Sheet Pan Salmon and Veggies by Jennie Shea Rawn, RDN of My Cape Cod Kitchen
Roasted Cabbage and Golden Beet Pot O’Gold by Jennie Shea Rawn, RDN of My Cape Cod Kitchen
Cabbage Pancakes by Ariella Nelson, RDN of Perspective Portions
Cabbage Rolls by Nazima Qureshi, RDN of Nutrition by Nazima
Fish Tacos with Chipotle Crema by Judy Barbe, RDN of Live Best
Colcannon by Judy Barbe, RDN of Live Best
Asian Sprout and Cabbage Slaw by Dr. Jenn Bowers, RDN of Dr. Jenn Bowers Nutrition
One Sheet Lemon Chicken Cabbage Carrot Dinner by Dr. Jenn Bowers, RDN of Dr. Jenn Bowers Nutrition
Sauteed Cabbage and Kale with Bacon by Karman Meyer, RDN of The Nutrition Adventure
Braised Red Cabbage and Apples with Maple and Thyme by Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN of Nutritioulicious
Red Cabbage, Snap Pea, and Blueberry Salad by Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN of Nutritioulicious
Collard Green Wraps with Tofu and Thai Peanut Sauce by Kara Lydon, RDN, RYN of The Foodie Dietitian
Stuffed Cabbage Soup by Amanda Hernandez, RDN of The Nutritionist Reviews
Asian Chopped Salad by Amanda Hernandez, RDN of The Nutritionist Reviews
Let’s hang out!