HEALTHY FOODS — By Mini Padikkal — Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that is edible both raw and cooked. There are three major varieties of cabbage — green, red and savoy. The red variety has more nutrients because of its red-to-purple pigmentation. Hundreds of years ago, people were using cabbage to keep their bodies in tip-top shape. Cabbage, a leafy vegetable with calories and low fat and plenty of energy, holds out many benefits. Cabbage is rich in fibre. It contains carbohydrates, proteins, sugars, edible fats, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, Vitamin C, K, B6, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. Cabbage is a great store of vitamin C, fibre and vitamin K. Red cabbage also contains anthocyanins, a phytochemical also found in blueberries and beets. The rich deep colour of this vegetable is due to a high concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols (strong dietary antioxidants, possessing anti-inflammatory properties), with more phytonutrients than a green cabbage. Studies show that anthocyanins may help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. It is rich in anti-oxidants which makes skin supple and clear. Thinly cut strips of red cabbage with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or greek olive oil can create a healthy dish.
Cabbage is rich in the anti-cancer compound indole-3-carbinole(13C), isothiocyanates (a type of beneficial compound found in Brassica vegetables) and sulphoraphane. These compounds help activate and stabilise the body’s antioxidant and detoxification mechanisms, which in turn eliminate cancer producing substances. Cabbage intake has been linked to lower incidence of colon, lung, cervical and breast cancer. Fibre in cabbage keeps our intestines healthier by increasing our transit movements and the chemicals inhibit tumour growth and protects the cells from free radicals.
Cabbage is rich in fibre and it is very effective in reducing the cholesterol in our body. Cabbage gets together with the bile acids in the digestive system and lets them out of the body and reduces the levels of cholesterol in the body. Therefore it is effectively considered as weight reducing diet food. As a source of fibre, it is also effective in treating constipation. Scientists agree that cabbage juice has been shown to improve stomach ulcers. The amino acid glutamine in cabbage juice is totally gentle and cleansing on the digestive system, detoxifying, repairing ulcers, healing and regenerating. The juice is to be taken in small amounts of about 100 ml, three times a day on an empty stomach. The high sulphur, chlorine and iodine content in cabbage have the significant ability in cleansing the mucus membranes in the intestinal tracts.
Cabbage contains enormous anti-ageing compounds like beta carotene and Vitamin C. These compounds repair the damaged cells of the skin and give healthy and shiny skin protecting against the ageing of the skin.
Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin. It cannot be stored in the body and it needs to be replaced daily. Therefore the intake of cabbage can make a significant contribution for the daily requirement of Vitamin C in our body.
When buying cabbage, choose the smaller variety, they taste better. Cabbage is easier to digest in its raw fresh form than when cooked. Raw cabbage has a slightly bitter taste. This makes it difficult for some people to consume. If cooked, it is best to do so just slightly. Prolonged cooking destroys most of the nutrients. Cabbage consumption may cause gas in some people, especially when cooked. In this case, add a few slices of turmeric in cooking to prevent gas, or limit your cabbage intake. To make it easier on the taste buds, mix your cabbage juice with any of these: carrot, green apple, celery, cucumber, spinach or even a slice of lemon (with peel). With so many health benefits, we can say that cabbage is a very healthy vegetable and must have in our daily diets!
(The writer is a dietician at Atlas Star Medical Centre, Al Khuwair, Muscat)