Cabbage, which is often lumped into the same category as lettuce because of their similar appearance, is actually a part of the cruciferous vegetable family.
Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, kale, and broccoli are notorious for being chock-full of beneficial nutrients. If you are trying to improve your diet, cruciferous vegetables are a good place to start.
The cabbage may help protect against radiation, prevent cancer, and reduce heart disease risk.
Cabbage can vary in color from green to red and purple, and the leaves can be smooth or crinkled. There is a range of cabbage products available for purchase online. With less than 20 calories per half cup cooked, it is a vegetable worth making room on your plate for.
This MNT feature is part of a collection of articles discussing the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of cabbage and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more cabbage into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming this vegetable.
Fast facts on cabbage:
Here are some key points about cabbage. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable.
A chemical in cabbage may protect against the negative effects of radiation.
The sulforaphane found in cabbage may help protect against cancer.
Half a cup of cooked cabbage contains 81.5 micrograms of vitamin K.
Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions.
Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant-based foods like cabbage decreases the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and overall mortality. It can also help promote a healthy complexion, increased energy, and overall lower weight.
1) Protection from radiation therapy
One big cabbage
The humble cabbage may have a range of health benefits.
A compound found in cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables known as 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM) has been shown to increase short-term survival rates in some animal studies on radiation.
In a study conducted at Georgetown University, rats were given a lethal dose of radiation. Some were left untreated, and others were treated with a daily injection of DIM for 2 weeks.
All the untreated rats died, but over 50 percent of those receiving DIM remained alive at the 30-day mark.
The same researchers ran the experiment on mice and found similar results.
They were able to determine that the DIM-treated mice had higher counts of red and white blood cells and blood platelets, which radiation therapy often diminishes.
It is thought that DIM has protective effects against cancer, but this study shows there is also hope for using it as a shield to protect healthy tissues during cancer treatment in the future.
2) Cancer prevention
Another potential cancer-fighting compound found in cabbage is sulforaphane. Research over the past 30 years has consistently shown that consuming cruciferous vegetables is associated with a lower risk of cancer.
More recently, researchers have been able to pinpoint that the sulfur-containing compound that gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter taste — sulforaphane — is also what appears to give them their cancer-fighting power.
Researchers are currently testing sulforaphane's ability to delay or impede cancer. Promising results at the molecular level have been seen with multiple types of cancers, including melanoma, esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic.
Researchers have discovered that sulforaphane has the power to inhibit the harmful enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), known to be involved in the progression of cancer cells. The ability to stop HDAC enzymes could make sulforaphane-containing foods a potentially powerful part of cancer treatment.
Another study, conducted at the University of Missouri, looked at another chemical found in cabbage, parsley, and celery, called apigenin; it was found to decrease tumor size when cells from an aggressive form of breast cancer were implanted in mice. Researchers claim that their findings show that apigenin has the potential to be used as a non-toxic treatment for cancer in the future.
Red cabbage contains the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin, the same compound that gives other red and purple fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors.
In the lab, anthocyanins have been shown to slow cancer cell proliferation, kill already formed cancer cells, and stop the formation of new tumor growths. It is not known whether these effects will carry over into cancer prevention or treatment in humans.
3) Heart health
The same potent anthocyanins in red cabbage that help protect against cancer have been shown to suppress the inflammation that may lead to cardiovascular disease.
A recent report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition associated the intake of flavonoid-rich foods with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and stated that even small amounts of flavonoid-rich foods might be beneficial. The high polyphenol content in cabbage might also reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing platelet buildup and reducing blood pressure.