One widely available cruciferous vegetable that is often overlooked is cabbage.
Cabbage belongs to the Brassica genus of vegetables, which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. It comes in different shapes and colors (red, purple, white and green) with either crinkled or smooth leaves.
Cabbage is good for your health due to its impressive nutritional profile.
It has fiber, folate, manganese, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins B6, K, and C. In addition, it has micronutrients like vitamin A, iron, and riboflavin.
Along with its impressive nutrient profile, cabbage is very low in calories and contains powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols and sulfur compounds.
Cabbage is not only healthy, it’s also delicious. It’s good both raw or cooked, and you can add it to a wide variety of dishes like salads, soups, stews, and slaws. You can also ferment cabbage and make sauerkraut or kimchi.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of cabbage, some of which you may find quite surprising.
1. Helps You Lose Weight
Cabbage is a good vegetable for people who want to lose weight in a healthy way.
One cup of shredded cabbage contains just 22 calories. So, being low in calories, it makes a great addition to any weight loss diet.
Also, the fiber in cabbage provides bulk in your digestive system, which helps your stomach empty more slowly. Cabbage is also high in water content, which means it keeps you feeling full longer and prevents hunger pangs. Plus, it keeps the body hydrated.
In fact, in the 1950s, the cabbage soup diet was very popular as a way to quickly lose a few pounds. It is beneficial but, being low in complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins, and minerals, the cabbage soup diet should be followed for not more than 1 week at a time.
2. Boosts Heart Health
Including cabbage in your diet can help protect against heart disease.
The anthocyanins in red cabbage help suppress inflammation in the body that may lead to cardiovascular disease. Also, the high polyphenol content in cabbage helps prevent platelet buildup and reduces blood pressure. This, in turn, helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The potassium content in cabbage also helps regulate blood pressure by working against the harmful effects of excess sodium in your body. High potassium intake is also associated with a reduced risk of strokes.
Moreover, cabbage helps reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) level and increase your level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol). This also helps reduce the risk of heart disease over time.
3. Promotes Brain Health
Cabbage is good for your brain. Being rich in iodine, cabbage improves brain functioning and keeps the nervous system functioning properly. In fact, a healthy amount of iodine plays a key role in preventing and treating neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Also, the vitamin K and anthocyanins in cabbage help improve mental functioning and concentration. In fact, vitamin K aids in the production of sphingolipids, which help protect nerves from damage and decay.
Cabbage also has several B vitamins that play a key role in improving mental stamina and memory.
4. Improves Digestion
If you want to improve your digestive health, include cabbage in your diet.
Cabbage is full of gut-friendly insoluble fiber that helps keep the digestive system healthy by adding bulk to stools. Fiber also helps promote regular bowel movements.
The water content in cabbage further helps prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract.
Plus, cabbage has natural anti-inflammatory properties that help alleviate various kinds of digestive problems including heartburn.
5. Regulates Blood Sugar
The antioxidant and antihyperglycemic properties of cabbage offer a potential therapeutic source for managing diabetes. It helps lower blood sugar levels and aids insulin production.
Moreover, the fiber content in cabbage helps prevent diabetes, since it slows the absorption of sugar.
A 2008 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that diabetic rats that were fed red cabbage extracts for 60 days exhibited reduced blood glucose levels. Plus, the rats had better renal function and weight loss as compared to the control group.
6. Aids Detoxification
Cabbage is beneficial for the body’s natural detoxification process.
The good amount of fiber and sulfur in cabbage aid detoxification. Fiber binds to harmful toxins, preventing them from being absorbed by the body and helping get rid of the toxins as waste products.
The glucosinolates, sulfur-containing compounds, in cabbage aid in breaking down harmful chemicals in the body, so that they can be eliminated as waste products.
Enjoy raw cabbage in juice, smoothie or salad form to support your body’s detoxification process.
7. Treats Stomach Ulcers
Cabbage is effective at treating a stomach ulcer.
It helps produce an amino acid in the body that stimulates blood flow to the stomach lining. This helps strengthen the stomach lining and heal the ulcer.
It is also rich in vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps prevent and treat H. pylori infections, one of the common causes of stomach ulcers.
- Cut half of a raw head of cabbage and 2 carrots into small pieces.
- Put them in a blender to extract the juice.
- Drink ½ cup of this juice before each meal and at bedtime.
- Repeat daily for a few weeks.
8. Keeps Inflammation in Check
Inflammation can be the cause and the symptom of many health problems, including arthritis. By including cabbage in your diet, you can control inflammation in the body.
Cabbage is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, especially glutamine that helps reduce pain and inflammation. Sulforaphane, kaempferol and other antioxidants found in cabbage also add to the anti-inflammatory effect.
It also has vitamins E and C that help protect the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that people who ate the most cruciferous vegetables had less inflammation than those who ate the least.
9. Cures Engorgement of the Breasts
Dealing with engorgement of the breasts during breastfeeding is nothing less than a nightmare for a mother. Breast engorgement occurs when your breasts are painfully overfull of milk. You can use cabbage leaves to reduce swelling and pain in moderate to severe engorgement of the breasts.
The antibiotic and anti-irritant properties of cabbage help reduce tissue congestion by dilating local capillaries and improving the blood flow in the area.
- Put a few cabbage leaves in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Place a cold cabbage leaf on the engorged breast.
- When the leaf reaches room temperature, replace it with a new one.
- Do this a few times daily until the engorgement subsides.
10. Heals Sprained Ankles
If you’ve sprained your ankle, cabbage is all that you need. Its anti-inflammatory effect helps treat simple sprains. It helps reduce the swelling in sprains and broken bones.
It is also high in vitamins and phytonutrients that support the healing process.
- Remove the outer leaves from a head of cabbage.
- Using a rolling pin, gently crush the leaves so that juice is released.
- Wrap the cabbage leaves in foil and warm them in the oven.
- Put the warm cabbage leaves over the painful area.
- Secure them with a gauze bandage, then cover the area with plastic wrap to retain its warmth.
- Leave it on for 30 minutes.
- Use this remedy twice daily for a few days.
- If you have thyroid problems, avoid eating large amounts of cabbage. It interferes with the body’s absorption of iodine.
- Some people may have trouble digesting cruciferous vegetables and may experience digestive symptoms. In such cases, eating small portions and cooking the cabbage well may help.
- When buying cabbage, choose one that is heavy for its size. Make sure the leaves are tight and firm.
- You can store cabbage in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- Do not overcook cabbage, as it can lead to a sulfurous odor.