Cabbages are one of the oldest vegetables around. It is a strong, sturdy and abundant vegetable which continues to be a dietary staple available in all countries and cultures. It is easy to grow, tolerates the cold and keeps well. The word cabbage derives from the Latin word caput, meaning "head" and is related to brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli and collard greens.

There are many variety of cabbage, each provides unique and strong health benefits. The three most common types are green, red and savoy. Green is the most popular and commonly used where as red cabbage contains the highest level of antioxidant level.

Cabbage is also one of the healthiest vegetables, containing high levels of vitamins and chemicals that inhibit tumor growth and protect cells against free radicals. Nutritional benefits of cabbage include:

  • Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer. Cabbage contains a high content of fibre and fibre helps our intestines to stay healthy by increasing our transit movements.
  • Men who eat cabbage more than once a week, cut their odds of getting colon cancer by 66%.
  • Cabbage contains chemicals that speeds up estrogen metabolism, this is suggested to help reduce the incidence of breast, uterus and ovaries cancer and suppress growth of polys, a prelude to colon cancer.
  • Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C (more than oranges) and beta carotene. These antioxidants help to fight free radicals in our body which increases the aging process. Also the high amount of beta carotene also may cut the risk of cataracts.
  • Eating raw cabbage is a good source of folic acid, which lowers the risk of having babies with spina bifida.
  • Cabbage also reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, alleviate rheumatisms and skin problems.
  • Cabbage contains the fewest calories and least fat of any vegetable.
  • Drinking fresh raw cabbage juice can alleviate stomach ulcers. Also fresh raw cabbage juice is effective against fungus infections of the feet and skin because of its sulphur content.
  • Contains chlorine and sulphur, which help to cleanse mucous membranes of the stomach and intestines.
  • Cabbage nourishes the spleen-pancreas, regulates the stomach, and relieves abdominal spasms and pain. It treats constipation, the common cold, mental depression, and irritability.
  • Cabbage lowers serum cholesterol (lowers low density lipoprotein which causes hardening and narrowing of arteries).
  • Cabbage boosts the immune system ability to produce more antibodies.
  • The outer, greener cabbage leaves contain more chlorophyll, vitamin E & A, iron and calcium than the inner, pale leaves.

Beware that cabbage reduces absorption of iodine. If you do eat more than 2 to 3 times a week of cabbage, be sure you do not suffer from thyroid disorders and ensure your intake of iodine. Consult your doctor before eating cabbage.  

How to select and store cabbage

  • Keep the cabbage cold, this helps retain the vitamin C content
  • Fresh cabbage will have a generous amount of outer leaves.
  • Check the bottom of the cabbage to be sure the leaves are not beginning to separate from the stem (an indicator of age).
  • Look for stems that are healthy looking, closely trimmed, and are not dry or split.
  • Choose a firm, compact, heavy, large head.
  • Leaves should look fresh and unblemished, showing no evidence of damage or insect bites/ worm damage.
  • Avoid cabbages that have discolored veins
  • Store the whole cabbages in a tightly sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to a week. (remember the older the cabbage gets, the stronger the flavour and odor will be)
  • Cabbage will loose freshness fast once cut, so use within a few days.
  • Cooked cabbage may be refrigerated in a covered container for up to four days.

Cooking/ preparation advice

  • When cooking cabbage, keep it to a minimum. Excess heat treatment of cabbage is destructive to its vitamins B and C content. Under no circumstances should the water, in which the cabbage is boiled, be thrown away. It contains many nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium, iron, phosohate and magnesium.
  • Do not wash the cabbage until ready to eat. Avoid slicing or shredding cabbage in advanced. This will cause vitamin C to be lost.
  • Do not cook cabbage in an aluminum pot as it causes chemical reaction that discolour the vegetable and alter its flavour. As cabbage contains mustard oils that break down into a variety of smelly sulfur compounds, when the cabbage is heated.

Cabbage can be eaten raw, shredded, boiled, steamed or even fried. It is a delicious, vitalizing, light, good for your heart and an excellent source of anticarcinogenic phytonutrients. So cabbage isn’t as plain and boring as you think, it is in a world of its self with nutrition value.

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Genetically Modified Food

Posted on April 29, 2007 by Sarmaad

The genetic modifications of plants and animals is one of the biggest and most difficult environmental challenges of the 21st century. Did you know that GMOs are found extensively in many food products on the supermarket shelves and the chances are you have already eaten GMOs!!!

What is a genetically modified organism?

The general principal behind GMO is to insert DNA that has been taken from another organism and modified through genetic engineering techniques into an organism's genome to create both new and enhanced traits and phenotypes. By being able to take genetic material from one organism and insert it into the permanent genetic code of another, biotechnologists have engineered numerous creations, such as pigs with human growth genes, fish with cattle genes and so on.

What were the first crops?

The first commercially grown genetically modified food crop was the Flavr Savr tomato which was made more resistant to rotting. It was released into the market for sale in 1994. This tomato was found to cause damage to the stomachs of rats and was later taken off the market. This was followed by insect protected cotton and herbicide tolerant soybeans, which both were commercially released in 1996. Today the soybean is by far the world's most cultivated GM plant, followed by corn, cotton and canola.

The world leaders in GM crops

The United States accounts for nearly two thirds of all biotechnology crops planted globally. The GM food crops grown by US farmers include corn, cotton, soybeans, canola, squash and papaya. Other major producers of GM crops are Argentina, which plants primary biotech soybean; Canada, whose principal biotech crop is canola; Brazil, which has recently legalized the planting of GM soybean; China, where the acreage of GM cotton continues to increase; and South Africa, where cotton is also the principal biotech crop. Worldwide, about 672 million acres of land are under cultivation of which 25% or 167.2 million acres - an area twice the size of the UK- consists of GM crops.

Why GM crops?

Crops can destroyed by many different factors including insects, weeds and disease. GMO's are used to make crops herbicide tolerant and pesticide resistant, to increase their nutritional content, to make them taste better and to reduce their growing time and increase their tolerance to fluctuating temperatures.

Foods that have been genetically modified

GM foods have been available to the public since the1990s, so the invasion of GMOs will continue in our grocery stores and in our kitchen pantries. The most common crops which have been modified and to watch for include:

  • Maize.Soybean (Soy flour, soy oil, lecithin, soy protein isolates and concentrates).
  • Oilseed rape - canola (Oil, fabric).
  • Squash.
  • Potato (Right now the only potato that has been genetically engineered is the Burbank Russet, but you still have to look out for potato starch and flour).
  • Corn (flour, corn starch, corn oil, corn sweeteners, syrups).
  • Cotton
  • Dairy Products (Milk, cheese, butter, buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, whey).
  • Animal Products (Because animal feed often contains genetically engineered organisms, all animal products, or by-products may be affected).
Affects to human health and the environment

The GMO foods currently on the market have not undergone adequate testing to ensure their safety for human consumption and also to quantify what impact they have on the environment. Genetically engineered food can have a serious effect on human health, on wildlife and the environment. Human risks can include;
  • Allergic/ toxic reactions (to hidden genes and combination)
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Immune - suppression
  • Increased cancer risk
  • Unsuspected side effects
Environmental impacts can include;
  • Uncontrolled biological pollution
  • Threatening numerous microbial, plant and animal species with extinction.
  • Potential contamination of non-genetically engineered life forms with novel and possibly hazardous genetic material.
  • Increased use of and dependence on toxic herbicides.
  • Harm to farming (deformed crops, increased pest resistance, increased farmer costs and debt).
  • Crop failures.
  • Biodiversity (implications for biodiversity, the balance of wildlife and the environment).
  • Creation of GM "Superweeds" and "Superpests".
  • Damage to food quality and nutrition.
  • Ethical Issues
How to avoid GMO
  • The only guaranteed way to avoid eating GMOs is to buy fresh certified organic produce.
  • Read labels - When buying a product check the ingredients on the label. GM soybean and corn make up the largest portion of GE crops. If they are listed then there is a good chance it is GM. Remember the label does not have to declare that it contains GM ingredients.
  • Avoid processed foods - 70% of processed foods contain GM ingredients.
Australia and GMO

Australia is already commercially producing GE cotton. This cotton is known as BT cotton as it produces a genetically engineered toxin called Bacillus Thuringensis (BT). Bt cotton produces this toxin in every part of the plant so that the cotton plant itself becomes a pesticide factory. Bt cotton is not only used for cloth and cotton products but the cottonseed is crushed for oil used in food.

Australia is also commercially growing GE canola, carrying on trials of GE wheat and growing GE blue carnation flowers.

The major problem remains that genetic engineering is highly unpredictable and that the "jury is still out" as to what impact GMO crops will have on human beings and on the environment!

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