Some folks might be surprised to learn that cabbage is not in the same category as lettuce, despite their similar appearance. Cabbage is cousin to kale and broccoli and is part of the cruciferous vegetable family. Varying in color from pale green to red and purple, cabbage contains many nutrients that offer health benefits such as protecting against cancer, lowering risk for heart disease, and supporting immunity and digestion.
Researchers have identified 20 different flavonoids and 15 different phenols in cabbage, all of which have antioxidant activity in the human body. These plant nutrients protect the cells from damage (e.g., reducing inflammation), and are linked to a decreased risk of chronic illness. Cabbage also contains a sulfur-compound called sulforophane, which has been shown to have cancer preventive properties. A study conducted at the University of Missouri, looked at another chemical found in cabbage, called apigenin. In lab studies, apigenin was found to decrease tumor size when cells from an aggressive form of breast cancer were implanted in mice. More research is required to determine if apigenin has the potential to be used as a non-toxic treatment for cancer in humans. Lastly, red-purple cabbage contains the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin that bolsters protection for red blood cells.
Oh My is right: there are so many kinds of cabbage, with so many ways to protect your health. Be sure to include this cruciferous vegetable in your weekly diet. When buying cabbage, select one that is heavy for its size. The leaves should be tightly wrapped, as loose, limp leaves indicate an older cabbage. Store cabbage in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
Cabbage can be eaten raw, or steamed, boiled, roasted, sautéed, or stuffed for side dishes or entrees. (If you smell a sulfurous odor while cooking, then the cabbage is overcooked.) Add shredded cabbage near the end of cooking to soups or stews or stir-fry dishes; add it to fresh green salads or chop and drizzle with herbs and olive oil.
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