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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