Red Cabbage: The Queen of Cruciferous Veggies

Notable Personality Factors:

Previously we crowned broccoli the “King of Cruciferous Veggies.”  This week we turn our attention to red cabbage, the “Queen of Cruciferous.”  Although cabbage is not quite as popular as broccoli — its royal cruciferous counterpart — the disease-fighting faculties of red cabbage (and cabbage in general) should not be overlooked.  In fact, I like to think of red cabbage as a longevity food.  It’s full of revitalizing phytonutrients and cancer combating antioxidants that protect the mind and body from aging and disease.  Interestingly enough, these same nutrients that fortify our defenses against unnecessary aging and illness are also responsible for the plant’s vibrant reddish / purple pigment — nature’s way of grabbing our attention and helping us identify nutrient-rich foods full of nutritional and therapeutic benefits.

Therapeutic and Healing Powers:***

Like all cruciferous veggies, cabbage is best known for combating cancer.  The cabbage plant, and red cabbage in particular, is full of cancer-fighting phytonutrients such as indoles and isothiocyanites that block cancerous cells from forming and help eliminate dangerous carcinogens from the body.

As an added benefit, red cabbage is also an excellent source of polyphenols.  Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals, accelerated aging, and disease.  Not only are polyphenols known for their preventive effects on cancer, but they are also being studied for their role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative diseases.

It’s also important to note that red cabbage is a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C — two important antioxidants that boost the immune system and increase the body’s cancer-fighting capacity.  Red cabbage has a nutritional edge over green cabbage in that red cabbage is a more concentrated source of polyphenols, vitamin A, and vitamin C.

In addition to helping prevent cancer, red cabbage is a great food for the detoxification and elimination of harmful chemicals and hormones found in food, water, and air pollutants.  The vegetable’s waste removing abilities are particularly beneficial to the liver, the digestive tract, and the colon.

Nutrient Value:

In addition to the wide range of phytonutrients and antioxidants mentioned above — namely the isothiocyanites, indoles, polyphenols, vitamin A, and vitamin C — red cabbage is a great source of fiber, vitamin K, and many B-vitamins such as folate, vitamin B1 and vitamin B6.  It’s also a notable source of potassium, calcium, and a variety of other minerals that are essential for your health.

Selection and Care:

Select fresh, firm, crisp cabbages with compact heads, heavy for their size, and tightly wrapped leaves free of discoloration at the edges.

Optimal Use and Combining:

Red cabbage is a colorful, crunchy, and nutritious addition to any vegetable salad.  In fact, adding red cabbage to your salad is a great way to make sure you have a wide variety of colors represented — a good indication that you are getting a plentiful supply of immune-boosting phytonutrients and antioxidants.  Cabbage, cauliflower, and the rest of the cruciferous family mix well with beets, carrots, leafy greens, and other root vegetables.  It’s best to eat red cabbage raw (or if you are going to cook it, steamed) to preserve the full range of life-giving nutrients.

***This article is not intended to treat or diagnose any type of health condition or disease. Any nutritional considerations for any health complication should be discussed with your physician or healthcare provider.

  • By Judith Dolan, January 9, 2012 @ 2:42 am

    There are so many good foods that help us prevent disease and keep our bodies strong. Nice to hear that red cabbage is on the list too. I eat it a few times a year, but knowing it has so many good things I think I need to eat it more often.

  • By Annie Heath, January 9, 2012 @ 6:36 am

    Give me a choice and I would choose red cabbage over raw brocolli anyday. I have never tried it with any dips, but by itself it is a much better flavor and I love the crunch. The health benefits are a great bonus and I would like to see more people eat more of it.

  • By Maurice Douglas, January 9, 2012 @ 8:57 am

    I cook a red cabbage every year in my science class to get the juice which is a natural acid and base indicator. I also get the kids to try the cooked and raw cabbage. They are always surprised at how good it tastes raw and I never have any left over.

  • By Sadie, January 9, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    I started putting raw red cabbage in our dinner salads and my kids just love it. They actually ask for it and eat it in big chunks at a time. Nice to know it’s really good for them.

  • By Brenda Pittman, January 9, 2012 @ 12:40 pm

    Raw red cabbage rocks! I could eat it all day.

  • By Mary Holden, January 9, 2012 @ 3:28 pm

    It is so hard to find red cabbage in my town. Only one store carries it out of about 5. I love adding it as a side in thick slices.

  • By Anna Chen, January 9, 2012 @ 3:36 pm

    My wife is from Slovakia and she introduced me to red cabbage about 10 years ago. She cooks sheds it and cooks it and the first time she made it I didn’t want to eat it because it was pink! She adds a little vinegar to the cabbage and the vinegar turns pink. I think it is the only pink food I have ever eaten (besides frosting).

  • By hdtvvan, January 9, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

    I know that a lot of the foods discussed here are very nutritious and play a part in preventing cancer, but how much and how often does one need to eat these foods. Obviously I’m not going to eat red cabbage everyday, maybe not even once a week. Do the benefits still apply even if it is only eaten sparingly? Or do you need to these foods consistantly to get the benefits?

  • By Udo's Mom, January 9, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

    I love red cabbage and I have always wished restaurants put more in the salads. I only occaisionally buy it because I don’t make many salads by myself at home. I have tried steaming it, but it does get a bit smelly. I really like the slightly sweet taste of it raw.

  • By meltzer, January 11, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

    Great to hear everyone’s positive experience with red cabbage!

  • By meltzer, January 11, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

    Great question regarding how often to eat red cabbage and other cancer-fighting foods. Red cabbage, specifically, doesn’t need to be eaten every day. however, consuming a wide variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and legumes on a daily basis has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic illnesses. When it comes to veggies, try having at least one fresh vegetable salad a day emphasizing leafy greens like romaine lettuce or spinach, and adding a variety of colorful veggies such as carrots, red cabbage, broccoli, red pepper, tomatoes or any other veggies that you enjoy. And, for those salad enthusiasts out there, eating a fresh vegetable salad with your lunch and a fresh vegetable salad with dinner is a great way to go

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