Cabbage Super Food

We are having a bit of a hot and dry spell here in San Diego, what is dubbed a “Santa Ana” condition, where the wind comes out of the eastern desert, and the humidity drops to the low 20’s. The air temp is 81. It all makes me want to eat salad. And one of my favorites is cabbage. Cabbage is a super food, and in Chinese Medicine is  is slightly sweet, neutral in temperature (neither cooling like cucumber, nor heating like mustard green or cinnamon) has a hearty, crunchy texture, and in Chinese medicine is said to “nourish the Spleen and regulate the Stomach.” This is code for saying that it is easy to digest and assimilate and good for the stomach.

Indeed, raw cabbage juice is a well documented treatment for peptic ulcers. In one study, 1 liter of the fresh juice per day, taken in divided doses, resulted in total ulcer healing in an average of 10 days. The high content of glutamine, an amino acid that is the preferred fuel for the cells that line the stomach and small intestine, is likely the reason for cabbage juice’s efficacy in healing ulcers. I have also read cabbage is high in “Vitamin U”, to which similar properties are attributed.

I wonder also if, since Cabbage pickles so easily, it might, like chicory, be a “pre-biotic”, that is, a substance that feeds the healthy bacteria of the gut. (vs. a pro-biotic, a substance that itself has the bacteria, like yogurt and sauerkraut). Having said that, some folk report getting gas from cabbage, though I am suspicious it may have to do with what else they eat it with. I could be wrong, of course. I recommend those folk try raw sauerkraut, instead.

Cabbage is a “super food” in my book. It’s cheap in cost, high in soluble and insoluble fiber, low in calories, fat and gluten free, easy-to-digest, grows most anywhere, keeps for a long time, can be eaten raw, cooked, or pickled, is high in bioflavonoids and Vitamin C (one cup of BOILED cabbage provides 50% of an average adults daily need, wow!) a very good source of manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium and omega 3 fatty acids, a good source of thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, and has some protein, too. That’s a whole lotta nutrients!

Caution: 1 cup of cabbage gives you 90% of your vitamin K; so if you are on blood thinning drugs, you may need to avoid this very valuable vegetable. The question arises, however, whether one might not be better off without blood thinning drugs, and eating healthy vegetables alongside blood thinning herbs?.

Cabbage a Cancer Preventing Cruciferous Vegeteble

But that is far from all. White and red cabbage, like collards, kale, brussel sprouts, bok choy, and savoy cabbage, is in the family of cruciferous vegetables. And numerous recent studies suggest that those eating cruciferous vegetables regularly lowers the risk of prostate, colorectal, breast, bladder, and lung cancer considerable, even when compared to those who regularly eat other vegetables.

The George Mateljan Foundation website, a non-profit foundation for dietary change ( http://www.whfoods.com) lists numerous studies that have demonstrated anti-carcinogenic properties to cruciferous veggies in general and cabbage in particular. Here is just one. See the end of their article on cabbage for all the citations if you are further interested.

“In a study of over 1,000 men conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA, those eating 28 servings of vegetables a week had a 35% lower risk of prostate cancer, but those consuming just 3 or more servings of cruciferous vegetables each week had a 44% lower prostate cancer risk.”

Evidently, new research is investigating the possibility that the phyto-nutrient medicines in cruciferous vegetables work differently than anti-oxidants like Vitamin C that scavenge free radicals.

It seems that the phytonutrients in crucifers like our humble cabbage, called glucosinolates and isothiocyanates, actually signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in the elimination of harmful carcinogenic compounds out of the body.” This is real detoxification, and it does not involve harsh cleanses, just making sensible changes in diet.

Isothiocyanates are also potent inducers of the liver’s Phase II enzymes, which detoxify carcinogens, and research recently conducted at the Institute for Food Research in the U.K. shows one of these compounds, allyl isothicyanate, also inhibits mitosis (cell division) and stimulates apoptosis (programmed cell death) in human tumor cells.

And how many servings of cruciferous vegetables do you need each week to lower your risk of cancer? Just 3 to 5. That’s less than one serving a day! (1 serving = 1 cup)

Red Cabbage and Alzheimer’s

Science now understands that there are phytochemicals special to red and blue foods that are good for us. According to the Matlejan web site: “Red cabbages contain significantly more protective phytonutrients than white cabbages: The vitamin C equivalent, a measure of antioxidant capacity, of red cabbages is six to eight times higher than that of white cabbage.

A 100 gram (about 3 ounces) serving of raw red cabbage delivers 196.5 milligrams of polyphenols, of which 28.3 milligrams are anthocyanins. White cabbages yield 45 milligrams of polyphenols including .01 milligram of anthocyanins per 100 grams. ”

And claims are made about the effects of these polyphenols in prevention of Alzheimer’s. One thing I notice is that red cabbage does not taste as sweet as white. I like to cook them together sometimes for that reason.

Maximizing Anti-Cancer Value of Cabbage

To promote the production of the most glucosinolates, slice or chop your cabbage and let sit for 5-10 minutes before cooking, and cook lightly, steaming or sautéing for 5 minutes or less. The more you cook cabbage, the more these phyto-medicines disappear, although the Vitamin C and other nutrients remain.

Cabbage and Apple Shredded Salad

I loved Cabbage long before I knew how good it was for me. I love it raw in salad, I love cole slaw and sauerkraut, and I love it stir fried Chinese style, and in soups. I even love Chinese pickled cabbage, and I sure like Kim Chee.

One thing I noticed in my forays into Russian and French delicatessens is the way they make a wide variety of salads with mayonnaise. Of course they tend to use more than I do, especially the Russians.

The other thing is that cabbage has a long history of being combined with sweet things like apple and raisin. Something about both the crunchy texture and the slightly spicy flavor do really well with small amounts of fruit.

So I guess this is basically a kind of cole slaw, but with much less mayo and no water.


-1 cup Shredded Cabbage (I shred mine by hand on a hand grater. It takes 60 seconds. Why bother with a food processor’s noise and extra work when you don’t have to?)
-1/4 cup Chopped Onion, more or less to taste
-1/4 cup Shredded Apple, more or less to taste (I like Fuji the best here)
-2 tsp Organic Mayonnaise or “Veganaise”
-A dash or two (probably equal to 1 tsp) Balsamic Vinegar, more or less to taste
-A 1/4 tsp freshly ground Tellichery Black Pepper (more fruity and aromatic than the common black pepper, which is called Malabar).

Simply mix all of the above in a bowl.

That’s It! I made this in about 10 minutes today for lunch, and had it with one piece of toasted whole grain bread and a small piece of cold cooked salmon.
A pretty low fat meal with healthy fats and plenty of fiber. Its not as hard to eat your vegetables as some folk think.


copyright eyton shalom san diego ca 2012 all rights reserved use with permission

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