Cabbage. It’s one of those foods you don’t often think about, unless you’re making its famous companion, corned beef, or whipping up a batch of creamy cole slaw for your next barbecue. The truth is this vegetable is versatile and packs a nutritional punch. Maybe cabbage deserves a little more attention. 

What is cabbage?

Cabbage is a dense, leafy vegetable. While it looks similar to a head of lettuce, it’s actually a member of the “cruciferous” vegetable group that includes broccoli, kale, radishes, Brussel sprouts, and more. 

Cabbage comes in a variety of colors – green, white, purple and red. It’s been grown around the world for thousands of years and is a common ingredient in many dishes, such as kimchi and sauerkraut. 

Why cabbage is a superfood         

Cabbage, like other cruciferous vegetables, is packed with vitamins and minerals that your body craves, while remaining low in calories. Given its nutritional profile, it certainly qualifies as a superfood, but is often passed over for more trendy and fashionable items such as acai berries. Let’s take a look at all the power packed into those cabbage leaves. 

If cabbage came with a nutrition label, it would be quite impressive. According to Livestrong, one cup of cabbage contains:

  • Calories: 22
  • Total fat: 0.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 16 mg
  • Total carbs: 5.2 g
  • Dietary fiber: 2.2 g
  • Sugar: 2.8 g
  • Added sugar: 0 g
  • Protein: 1.1 g

Along with being low in calories, salt, and sugar, it offers some fiber and protein as well. Foods that contain fiber are an important part of a balanced diet and support a healthy digestive system. Also, protein from plants is considered a healthy alternative to protein from meats. 

Finally, cabbage is a great source of something called antioxidants. These compounds help the body fight against what are known as free radicals -- compounds that can damage the cells. Free radicals are thought to contribute to the development of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Antioxidants help reduce the free radicals in your body and help improve your immune system and fight inflammation that can be damaging to your body.

Cabbage also packs a wallop when it comes to vitamins and minerals your body needs. 

  • Vitamin K: 56% of your Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin C: 36% DV
  • Folate (B9): 10% DV
  • Manganese: 6%
  • Vitamin B6: 6% DV
  • Thiamin (B1): 5% DV
  • Pantothenic Acid (B5): 4% DV
  • Calcium: 3% DV
  • Magnesium: 3% DV
  • Potassium: 3% DV
  • Riboflavin (B2): 3% DV
  • Vitamin A (IU): 3% DV

Health benefits of cabbage

Thanks to all those vitamins and minerals, cabbage has numerous effects on the body that can improve your overall health. 

  • Reduced inflammation. Inflammation is the way your body helps fight infection. However, chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to conditions such as heart disease and cancer. The antioxidants found in cabbage and other fruits and veggies can help reduce inflammation. 
  • Improved digestion. The fiber found in cabbage can help improve your digestive system and promote regular bowel movements. 
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. The antioxidants in cabbage help reduce inflammation, which is linked to heart disease. Cabbage also contains something called anthocyanins. Several studies have found these compounds can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Finally, while too much sodium in your diet is linked to heart disease, the potassium in cabbage helps your body get rid of excess sodium through the urine. 
  • Improved immune system. The vitamin C found in cabbage is good for your whole body. Not only is it an antioxidant that fights free radicals, but it also helps to fight heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold. Vitamin C also helps your body to absorb the iron it needs.
  • Stronger bones. Cabbage is loaded with vitamin K. This important vitamin helps your body fight the breakdown of bone and improves bone strength. It is believed that a lack of vitamin K can contribute to the development of osteoporosis and an increased risk of fractures, especially in older individuals.
  • Managing diabetes. Because cabbage is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, it’s a great choice for those living with diabetes as it can help keep blood sugar levels stable without dangerous spikes. 

You can learn more about the benefits of cabbage in this article

The negative side of cabbage

While cabbage offers lots of vitamins and minerals your body needs, there can be a downside to eating cabbage. 

Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea. It’s best to slowly introduce these vegetables into your diet and gradually increase your intake. Individuals with sensitive digestive tracts might want to limit cabbage or talk to your doctor. 

If you’re on a blood thinner such as Warfarin, talk to your doctor before increasing your intake of cabbage. The vitamin K in cabbage can interfere with the effectiveness of blood thinning medications. 

How to enjoy cabbage

Now that you’ve discovered how amazing cabbage is, go ahead and start enjoying. You can find some delicious and healthy cabbage recipes in this article.   

Food can have a tremendous impact on your health. Learn more in the Nourishing section of our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog. 

Lifespan Blog Team

The Lifespan Blog Team is working to provide you with timely and pertinent information that will help keep you and your family happy and healthy.