I really enjoy looking at red cabbage on my plate. The deep, purplish hue lifts my spirits and literally brightens my day. Health coaches (such as myself) often get excited about the colors, textures, flavors and benefits of common fruits and vegetables. Then watching our enthusiasm for produce slowly rub off on clients, friends and family - produces 😉 even more bliss!
If you’ve hesitated to buy red cabbage before because you weren’t sure how to cook it, here’s my mother’s tasty, yet “oh, so simple” red cabbage recipe.
Why should you put red cabbage on your family’s table? Continue reading to learn about the benefits and proper prep/cooking method important for maximizing nutrient absorption. If you have trouble digesting cabbage (bloating, gas), try fermented cabbage which has amazing health benefits as well (whole other blog for later!).
Cabbage, often considered boring and dull is actually a powerhouse of nutrients, including some potent enough to fight cancer and lower cholesterol (1).
In fact, extensive research has been done on the cancer fighting benefits of cabbage and we now know that there are 3 key nutritional components that make this vegetable a “must eat” for cancer prevention and treatment (2):
1) Cabbage is loaded with important antioxidants - polyphenols (natural colorful compounds found in plants), vitamin C and manganese. Antioxidants neutralize excess, disease causing free radicals that are produced as a result of normal metabolic processes in our body. Red cabbage has 6-8 times more antioxidant power than green cabbage (2).
2) The polyphenols in cabbage are also known for their strong anti-inflammatory properties. Red cabbage trumps green and savoy cabbage with a particular kind of polyphenol called anthocyanin, which in addition to being an antioxidant is also known for it’s anti-inflammatory and other disease prevention benefits (2).
3) The most significant anti-cancer component of cabbage are natural compounds called glucosinolates (also found in other cruciferous vegetables, mustard, horseradish, capers, watercress, and radishes). Reduced risk of many types of cancer have been associated with glucosinolates found in cabbage - one study found reduced risk of breast cancer in women who ate 4 servings of cabbage per week in comparison to women who ate only one serving (2).
Cabbage, especially cooked cabbage has very strong cholesterol lowering capabilities - a mechanism achieved by binding bile acids in the digestive tract (1). Due to its rich fiber content, cabbage also aids in restoring beneficial gut flora, constipation and weight loss (1, 2). A ¾ cup of cooked cabbage also provides more than your daily requirement of vitamin K1 (3). Research suggests that vitamin K1 may be useful in preventing Alzheimer's, osteoporosis and heart disease (4, 5). Cabbage is high in choline and B vitamins, specifically folate, vitamin B1, B6 and B5 (2, 4). B vitamins and choline are especially important for energy and brain health . Cabbage is also a good source of minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, selenium and iodine (1, 2).
There’s good news for those who don’t enjoy their cabbage raw - all the mentioned nutrients and benefits are retained by using a quick 5 minute cooking method - so you can enjoy your red cabbage quickly steamed or sauteed. It’s also important to let sliced cabbage “sit and rest” for 5 minutes before cooking to maximize its anti-cancer potency. Don’t forget to eat cabbage with good fat like coconut oil or ghee to help absorb the benefits of polyphenols and vitamin K1 which are both fat soluble.