Cabbage health benefits

One of my favourite local Super Foods must be cabbage. Be it savoy, purple or white, I love the juicy, sweet and subtle taste of this rustic veg. It is way cheaper than chips and can be eaten raw, fermented (as sauerkraut) or cooked in soups or stews. 

 Purple cabbage is rich in antioxidant called Anthocyanin, which gives the plant it's purple colour

Purple cabbage is rich in antioxidant called Anthocyanin, which gives the plant it's purple colour

It is worth mentioning this hardy plants’ rich phytochemical and antioxidant yield. Phytochemicals are compounds contained within plants, which may have benefits for human health. Antioxidants are molecules, which neutralize oxidative damage by restricting the number of free radicals within the body. The more antioxidant rich foods we consume, the better we defend our cells against time, disease and stress, be it physical or mental in nature. Different colors in plants signal different antioxidants, giving the basis for the ‘rainbow diet’.

There are plenty of different cabbage varieties to choose from but in the UK, the cabbages usually available for us consumers are the purple and green (white) variety. 

The purple cabbage has been found to contain the highest total level of anti-oxidants, but the green cabbage has also been found to have a high free-radical scavenging activity, while both varieties differ in the types of antioxidants they contain. The leaves closest to the heart of the plant have been found to be richer in phytochemicals, so don’t throw the core away but use all of the produce the best you can.

In addition to phytochemicals, cabbages are rich in vitamins including vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and vitamin B6. They’re also rich in minerals, but the composition is dependable on the soil where the produce is grown. Rich in fibre and light in calories like most plant foods, the cabbage has a history of being used as a slimming aid. However, too much of a good thing can produce some uncomfortable symptoms such as flatulence, so introduce cabbage to your diet in small quantities, increasing amounts gradually. 

Cabbage is a versatile ingredient in cooking but most of the nutrients are retained when you eat it raw. Think of coleslaws (see recipe below) and vegetable crudités; you can also add some cabbage to your juicing. Cheap but nutritionally Super, cabbage is now in season and local, organic produce is readily available. If you can’t access organic varieties, make sure you peel the outer leaves and wash the remaining produce well to avoid pesticide exposure.

NOTE – HYPOTHYROIDISM/ LOW THYROID FUNCTION

If you suffer from low thyroid function, it is not advisable to enjoy raw cabbage in large quantities. This is due to the possible interaction between Brassica vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts) and the thyroid gland. While steaming / blanching / cooking reduces this interaction, enjoy a maximum of 4 portions of these plant foods per week if you have a diagnosed hypothyroid condition.

RECIPE : VEGAN CRUNCHY SLAW WITH TAHINI

Source : Functional Medicine Cookbook by Lorraine Nicolle and Christine Bailey

Crisp cabbage combined with fresh herbs and red onion makes a robust salad, tossed with a zesty tahini dressing. Including both red and green cabbage provides a greater variety of antioxidant and liver-supporting compounds, including polyphenols, glucosinolates and vitamin C. This salad will keep for 2–3 days in the fridge and makes a tasty and healthy accompaniment to main dishes; or, for a lunch, add some protein, such as a hard-boiled egg, mixed beans or some organic feta cheese. 

SERVES 4

DRESSING : 2 tbsp tahini, Juice and zest of 1 lemon, 2 tbsp tamari soy sauce, 2 tsp chopped chilli, deseeded, 1 garlic clove, crushed, 2–3 tbsp water to thin as needed

SALAD: 150g red cabbage, 150g green cabbage, 1 red pepper, finely diced, 1 small red onion, finely diced, Handful of fresh parsley, chopped, Handful of fresh mint, chopped

Place all the dressing ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Thin with water to create a thick, pouring consistency. Finely chop or shred the cabbage and place in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Pour over the dressing and toss to coat completely. Chill in the fridge until needed.

Nutritional information per serving:  Calories 87kcal, Protein 3.2g, Carbohydrates 7.6g of which sugars 6.5g, Total fat 4.8g of which saturates 0.7g