If you haven’t eaten cabbage for a while, well, maybe now’s the time to reconsider this delicious, healthy vegetable. Although this may be one of the most unappreciated greens in the vegetable kingdom, cabbages are actually chock full of nutritional benefits (1) (2).
Clear skin, boosted immune system, cancer-fighting properties, and weight loss (1) (2)? – These are just some of the benefits that you can get from this veggie!
Meet the Superstar!
Cabbage is a popular kind of vegetable around the world (3). While it may resemble a lettuce, this veggie actually belongs to the Brassica genus of vegetables, along with kale, cauliflower, broccoli. It comes with a variety of shapes and colors, including purple, red, white, and of course, green. Furthermore, you’ll notice its leaves can be either wrinkled or smooth (4).
For at least 6,000 years, cabbage has been cultivated. Up to this day, there are more than 400 varieties of cabbage – with some grown for ornamental purposes. It grows around the world in cool climates. Plus, it’s cheap and easily available in grocery stores or farmer’s markets (5).
This vegetable has been grown worldwide for thousands of years and can be found in various dishes. Among these include: sauerkraut, coleslaw, and kimchi (4). Cabbage is also a great dietary staple in many circles. It is consumed by several people worldwide (5).
For centuries, Russian peasants sustained themselves on this leafy veggie, which helps answer the question of whether cabbage is good for you (6).The weight-loss benefits of this veggie is still debated between dietitians, fitness gurus, and lay people (5).
Like most vegetables, however, cabbage does benefit a lot of people in terms of weight loss – so as it is eaten in moderation (3). As a matter of fact, sole dependence on it as a weight loss food is viewed by nutritionists as unhealthy (5).
Cabbage is loaded with essential vitamins and minerals (even in greater concentrations compared to other foods) and is lower in sugars and carbohydrates (4) (5). Because of this, some consider cabbage as a “superfood (5).”
It’s very low in calories yet high in fiber – which is the perfect combination for weight loss. With its low glycemic index – or the measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar – cabbage is also known for maintaining blood sugar (6).
Health and Weight Loss Benefits of Cabbage
Cabbage is particularly helpful for short-term weight loss. Like its cruciferous relatives, it is also believed to have cancer-fighting properties (5).
With all that said, let’s take closer look at how this vegetable can benefit your health and weight loss goals:
1. Cabbage is packed with nutrients.
Cabbage – specifically red cabbage – is a surprisingly excellent source of vitamin C, which some experts believe may reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Plus, this cabbage is also rich in natural pigments known as anthocyanins. New research suggests that these pigments may help boost insulin production as lower blood sugar levels (6).
In general, a half cup of cooked cabbage contains about one-third of the vitamin C you need daily. It also offers you doses of folate, potassium, fiber, magnesium, vitamins A and K, and more (7).
Cabbage has an impressive nutrient profile. Just half a cup (or 89 grams) of raw green cabbage contains (4):
- Calories: 22 (4)
- Fiber: 2 grams (4)
- Protein: 1 gram (4)
- Magnesium: 3% of the RDI (4)
- Vitamin K: 85% of the RDI (4)
- Vitamin C: 54% of the RDI (4)
- Manganese: 7% of the RDI (4)
- Calcium: 4% of the RDI (4)
- Folate: 10% of the RDI (4)
- Vitamin B6: 6% of the RDI (4)
- Potassium: 4% of the RDI (4)
Along with this, cabbage also contains small amounts of other micronutrients, which includes vitamin A, riboflavin, and iron (4).
As observed in the list above, cabbages are also rich in folate and vitamin B6 – both of which are essential for a lot of important processes in the body. This includes energy metabolism and the normal functioning of your nervous system (4).
Cabbage is also high in fiber and contains powerful antioxidants, which includes polyphenols and sulfur compounds. These antioxidants protect your body from damage caused by free radicals, which are molecules that are unstable due to an odd number of electrons. Furthermore, free radicals can damage your cells when they become too high (4).
You’ll also get a good dose of manganese. Plus, cabbages are well-received for their phytonutrients – plant chemicals that are a cell-protecting force (7).
2. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C.
Cabbage is also high in vitamin C – a potent antioxidant that protects you from heart disease, certain types of cancer, and vision loss. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble solution that functions in a lot of important roles in the body (4).
More specifically, vitamin C helps your body to absorb the non-heme iron, which is iron found in plant foods (4).
Like other antioxidants, vitamin C works to protect your body against damage caused by free radicals, which is associated with several chronic diseases, such as cancer (4). Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and has been extensively researched for its potential cancer-fighting qualities (4).
Evidence suggests that a diet high in vitamin-C-rich foods reduces your risk of developing certain cancers (like colorectal cancers), as well as toxins that cause gout, arthritis, and skin diseases (1) (2) (4).
As a matter of fact, a recent analysis of 21 studies discovered that the risk of lung cancer was decreased by 7 percent per each daily 100-mg increase in vitamin C intake. However, the said study was limited, as it cannot determine whether the decreased risk of lung cancer was caused by vitamin or other compounds found in fruits and vegetables (4).
With its high vitamin C content, cabbages also promote collagen production in the body, which is mainly responsible for strong bones and healthy skin (2). Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It provides structure and flexibility to the skin and is critical for the proper functioning of muscles, bones, and blood vessels (4). So, if you want to be younger while staying fit, consume more cabbage as part of your diet (2).
Red cabbage is known to contain 30 percent more than green cabbages, which has 54 percent of vitamin C (2). A cup (or 89 grams) of chopped red cabbage contains 85 percent of the recommended intake for vitamin C – the same amount found in a small orange (4).
3. It helps keep inflammation in check.
Cabbage is loaded with tons of chemicals that help ease swelling in your tissues. This helps protect you from other health issues as inflammation is linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease (7).
Note, however, that inflammation is not always a bad thing. As a matter of fact, an inflammatory response helps protect your body against infection and boost healing. This type of acute inflammation is a normal response to infection or an injury (4).
However, chronic inflammation occurs over a long period of time and is associated with many diseases, including heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis (4).
Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage contain a lot of different antioxidants that have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation. As a matter of fact, research has found that eating more cruciferous vegetables reduces particular blood markers of inflammation (4).
A study of more than 1,000 Chinese women showed that those who consumed the highest amounts of cruciferous vegetables had considerably lower levels of inflammation, compared to those who ate the lowest amount (4).
Some powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidants found in cabbage include sulforaphane and kaempferol (4).
4. Cabbage is great for weight loss and your digestive system.
Cabbage contains a gram of fiber for every 10 calories. This helps fill you up, so you can eat less. Plus, it also helps lower your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol and control your blood sugar (7).
If you’re aiming to improve digestive health, fiber-rich cabbage is a great way to do so. This crunchy vegetable is packed with gut-friendly insoluble fiber – a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down in the intestines. Insoluble fiber keeps your digestive system healthy by adding bulk to stool and promoting regular bowel movements (4).
Moreover, it is also rich in soluble fiber, which is shown to increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This is because fiber is the main source of friendly species like Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These bacteria function in protecting the immune system and producing critical nutrients like vitamins K2 and B12 (4). With this, cabbages are considered great for your digestive system. It prevents constipation and keeps you “regular (2).”
Cabbage also contains nutrients that keep your stomach lining and intestines strong. Furthermore, its juice also helps stomach ulcers heal (7).
Also, given that it is low in calories, carbs, and fat yet is high in fiber, cabbages work great for your weight loss goals (1) (5). Cabbage contains around 2.5 grams of fiber per 100 grams, which is a good amount of fiber compared to a lot of whole foods (3).
Fiber benefits weight loss in many ways. For one, it feeds your microbiome, which are microbes that live in your intestines. The health of your microbiome influences your body’s health and weight. That’s why feeding it well can help you greatly (3).
Another weight loss benefit of fiber involves helping you feel less hungry without having more calories to your diet. Hunger and cravings can be a big challenge for people who are trying to lose weight, so avoiding this significantly helps with your weight loss goals. By eating cabbages, you can reduce the time you spend craving for food (3).
5. Cabbage keeps your blood pressure in check.
Surprisingly, cabbages have the ability to keep high blood pressure in check, thanks to its Potassium content (2).
One of the medical advice given to any individual with HBP is that they should lower their salt intake. Research shows that increasing intake of Potassium-rich foods benefits in lowering high blood pressure. This is because their Potassium helps your body in excreting excess sodium through urine (2).
6. Cabbage is high in vitamin K.
Cabbage is a great source of vitamin K, which aids in blood clot – especially when you are wounded. Blood clot is especially important in preventing you from bleeding to death (2).
Vitamin K is a collection of fat-soluble vitamins that functions in several important roles in the body. These vitamins are divided into two main groups: vitamin K1 (or phylloquinone), which are found primarily in plant sources, and vitamin K2 (menaquinone), which are found in animal sources and some fermented foods (4).
Cabbage is a great source of vitamin K1, which is 85 percent of the recommended daily amount in a single cup (89 grams). Furthermore, this is a key nutrient that plays several important roles in the body. For one, it acts as a cofactor for enzymes that are responsible for blood clotting. On one hand, vitamin K2 can also be produced by bacteria in the large intestine (4).
Do note, however, that weight loss may interfere with certain blood-thinning medications. If you take these types of medicines, you may want to consult with your doctor before consuming large amounts of cabbage in your diet (3).
7. Cabbage helps lower cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in each cell in your body. Some people think all cholesterol is bad. Still, it’s essential for the proper functioning of the body. Critical processes depend on cholesterol, such as proper digestion and synthesis of vitamin D and hormones. However, people who have high cholesterol tend to have an increased risk of heart disease, especially with high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol (4).
Nonetheless, cabbage is known to have two substances that decrease unhealthy levels of LDL cholesterol (4):
Cabbage is known to be a good source of soluble fiber. As a matter of fact, around 40 percent of the fiber found in cabbage is soluble (4).
Soluble fiber has been found to help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol levels by binding with cholesterol in the gut and keeping it from being absorbed into the blood (4).
A wide-ranging analysis of 67 studies found that when people ate 2 to 10 grams of soluble fiber each day, they lost roughly 2.2 mg per deciliter in LDL cholesterol levels, which is a small, yet significant decrease.
Cabbage contains substances called phytosterols, which are plant compounds that are structurally similar to cholesterol. They reduce LDL cholesterol by blocking its absorption in the digestive tract (4).
Increasing phytosterol intake by 1 gram per day are known to reduce LDL cholesterol concentrations by as much as five percent (4).
8. Cabbage is versatile and easily available.
One of the best things about cabbages is that it is incredibly cheap and available all-year round. There are a lot of varieties of cabbage, including green, savoy, red, Napa, bok choy, and Brussels Sprouts (tiny cabbages). Plus, you can enjoy eating cabbage pretty much all-year round (1).
Although most cabbages work for any use, plant breeders have developed tons of varieties in several colors and textures to specifically accommodate particular preferences. For instance, some of these are sweet, mild, and tender like lettuce, while others are rock hard and are great for shredding or slicing crosswise into thick “steaks” for roasting (1).
It can be eaten raw or cooked (4). For some, cabbages are used in soups and salads, shredded into coleslaws, stir-fried with onions and apples, made into stuffed cabbages or individual cabbage leaves, steamed, stewed, boiled, fried, roasted, and grilled (1) (4).
If you prefer to eat it raw, this will give you the best nutritional boost for each serving. Slice it thinly and leave it for about 10 minutes to help you bring out the fullest, most complex flavors (7).
One way to make it healthier is by fermenting it, whereby you leave it in its own juices until bacteria feeds on it. This food variant is known as sauerkraut. If you want to make it spicier and exotic, try kimchi – a popular dish originating in Korea (7).
You don’t have to worry about “bacteria” – when cabbage ferments, it makes natural probiotics that nourish the bacteria in your gut. The said bacteria help your body combat germs, take in nutrients, control anxiety, and digest food (7).
Interestingly, some people also came up with interesting recipes for cabbage desserts – although not always successful (1).
Apart from being incredibly healthy, it’s safe to say that cabbages are delicious. Apart from being adaptable to several recipes, cabbage is extremely affordable. Regardless of how you want to add it to your diet, this cruciferous vegetable is a tasty way to benefit your health and taste buds (4).
Just a tip: Cabbages do last longer than most vegetables when stored in the fridge. With proper storage, cabbages can last from 3 weeks to up to 2 months in your refrigerator. Under the best root cellar conditions, it can even last longer. When storing cabbages, do so in a hydrator drawer if possible. Also, you should not remove the outer leaves nor wash them until you’ll use them (1).
The Cabbage Soup Diet: Is It Effective?
Gaining popularity as a diet fad in the 1980s, the Cabbage Soup Diet is known as a rapid weight loss diet. While its proponents claim that seven days on the diet can eventually lead to weight loss of up to 10 pounds (or 4.5 kg), there is no scientific evidence to support the diet’s suitability for weight loss (8) (9).
As the name implies, this diet entails you to eat nothing but homemade cabbage soup (8). There are several variations of the cabbage soup diet. Along with white cabbage, some people add the following low-calorie vegetables (9):
- bell peppers (9)
- spinach and other leafy greens (9)
- mushrooms (9)
- leeks (9)
- broccoli or cauliflower (9)
- zucchini (9)
Along with this, you can gradually add 1 to 2 other foods like fruits, vegetables, and skim milk. However, the diet is intended to last no longer than one week and is done to either slim down or jump start a long-term diet plan (8) (9). Although the cabbage soup diet may initially aid in weight loss, most people gain weight once they stop following the diet (9).
Points to Ponder
Despite being underappreciated as a weight-loss food, cabbage is a popular kind of vegetable worldwide. Apart from its extremely impressive versatility, this vegetable is well known for its excellent nutrition profile and health benefits, like fighting cancer, lowering levels of cholesterol, and aiding in weight loss.
If you plan on incorporating this in your weight loss diet, be sure to consume adequate amounts of the vegetables. No matter how you prepare it – fermenting, stewing, making it into a soup, enjoy this delicious vegetable in your diet!