This simple veggie holds a reputation as peasant food, but it packs potent nutritional power for a humble head of leaves! Cabbage has sustained humans through treacherous winters because it can be stored until cooked or fermented as sauerkraut in Northern Europe or as Kim Chee in Asia.
COOKING NOTES: Savoy cabbage, with its softer-green, lacier leaves lends itself well to braising. Napa cabbage is perfect for salads or pickling into kim chee. Be sure to cook your cabbage lightly (5-7 minutes) as important enzymes (myrosinase) begin to diminish when overcooked.
KEY NUTRIENTS AND PHYTONUTRIENTS:
Cabbage is a member of the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, cauliflower, watercress, arugula, kale, collards, turnip and mustard greens. Cruciferous veggies are prized for their unique class of phytonutrients, called glucosinolates (like sulforaphane and indole-3 carbinol). These compounds enhance detoxification of estrogen and other toxins, activate key antioxidant systems, and have been associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer (breast, prostate, colon and lung). Even the American Cancer Society has urged us to include regular intake of cruciferous vegetables to reduce our risk of cancer.
Colorful varieties give cabbage greater nutrient density and different flavor profiles. Purple or red cabbage pack more anthocyanins, a kind of flavonoid that benefits the eyes, stabilizes blood vessel walls, and enhances vitamin C and collagen levels. Savoy, Napa and green cabbage tend to have higher levels of sulfur compounds and chlorophyll. Cabbage has high levels of vitamin C, glutamine and fiber. In fact, that fiber also helps to reduce cholesterol levels in much the same way as the lipid lowering drug, cholestyramine.
HEALTH NOTES: Research from the 1950s demonstrated that cabbage juice, rich in glutamine, helps speed the healing of stomach ulcers. More recent research shows that it can help regulate levels of Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that lives in and contributes to the development of ulcers.
DOCTORS NOTE OF CAUTION: Cabbage is part a group of foods called “goiterogens”. Eating cruciferous veggies in excess may slightly inhibit thyroid function, especially in the absence of sufficient iodine. Eat a few servings a week and add a sprinkle of sea salt or seaweed to correct that problem.
- Savoy Cabbage with Yukon Gold Potatoes and Smoked Paprika
- Kim Chee
- Napa Cabbage Chinese Chicken Salad
- Napa Cabbage Fish Tacos
- Braised Christmas (Red and Green) Cabbage