You are on page 1of 5

r Cabbage

(Bok choy [Chinese cabbage], green cabbage, red cabbage,


o savoy cabbage)
See also Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Radishes,
3 Spinach, Turnips.

Nutritional Profile
] Energy value (calories per serving): Low
Protein: Moderate

1 Fat: Low
Saturated fat: Low
Cholesterol: None
Carbohydrates: High

[ Fiber: Low
Sodium: Low
Major vitamin contribution: Vitamin A, folate, vitamin C
Major mineral contribution: Calcium (moderate)

8 About the Nutrients in This Food


All cabbage has some dietary fiber food: insoluble cellulose and lignin in

/ the ribs and structure of the leaves. Depending on the variety, it has a little
vitamin A, moderate amounts of the B vitamin folate and vitamin C.
One-half cup shredded raw bok choy has 0.1 g dietary fiber, 1,041 IU
vitamin A (45 percent of the RDA for a woman, 35 percent of the RDA for
a man), and 15.5 mg vitamin C (21 percent of the RDA for a woman, 17
w percent of the RDA for a man).
One-half cup shredded raw green cabbage has 0.5 g dietary fiber, 45
IU vitamin A (1.9 percent of the RDA for a woman, 1.5 percent of the RDA
for a man), 15 mcg folate (4 percent of the RDA), and 11 mg vitamin C (15
^ percent of the RDA for a woman, 12 percent of the RDA for a man).
One-half cup chopped raw red cabbage has 0.5 g dietary fiber, 7 mcg
folate (2 percent of the RDA), and 20 mg vitamin C (27 percent of the RDA
for a woman, 22 percent of the RDA for a man).
? One-half cup chopped raw savoy cabbage has one gram dietary fiber,
322 IU vitamin A (14 percent of the RDA for a woman, 11 percent of the
RDA for a man), and 11 mg vitamin C (15 percent of the RDA for a woman,
12 percent of the RDA for a man).
Raw red cabbage contains an antinutrient enzyme that splits the thiamin molecule
so that the vitamin is no longer nutritionally useful. This thiamin inhibitor is inactivated
by cooking.

The Most Nutritious Way to Serve This Food


Raw or lightly steamed to protect the vitamin C.

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food


Antiflatulence diet
Low-fiber diet

Buying This Food


Look for: Cabbages that feel heavy for their size. The leaves should be tightly closed and
attached tightly at the stem end. The outer leaves on a savoy cabbage may curl back from the
head, but the center leaves should still be relatively tightly closed.
Also look for green cabbages that still have their dark-green, vitamin-rich outer leaves.
Avoid: Green and savoy cabbage with yellow or wilted leaves. The yellow carotene pig-
ments show through only when the cabbage has aged and its green chlorophyll pigments
have faded. Wilted leaves mean a loss of moisture and vitamins.

Storing This Food


Handle cabbage gently; bruising tears cells and activates ascorbic acid oxidase, an enzyme in
the leaves that hastens the destruction of vitamin C.
Store cabbage in a cool, dark place, preferably a refrigerator. In cold storage, cabbage
can retain as much as 75 percent of its vitamin C for as long as six months. Cover the cabbage
to keep it from drying out and losing vitamin A.

Preparing This Food


Do not slice the cabbage until you are ready to use it; slicing tears cabbage cells and releases
the enzyme that hastens the oxidation and destruction of vitamin C.
If you plan to serve cooked green or red cabbage in wedges, dont cut out the inner core
that hold the leaves together.
To separate the leaves for stuffing, immerse the entire head in boiling water for a few
minutes, then lift it out and let it drain until it is cool enough to handle comfortably. The leaves
should pull away easily. If not, put the cabbage back into the hot water for a few minutes.
What Happens When You Cook This Food
Cabbage contains mustard oils (isothiocyanates) that break down into a variety of smelly
sulfur compounds (including hydrogen sulfide and ammonia) when the cabbage is heated,
a reaction that occurs more strongly in aluminum pots. The longer you cook the cabbage,
the more smelly the compounds will be. Adding a slice of bread to the cooking water
may lessen the odor. Keeping a lid on the pot will stop the smelly molecules from floating
off into the air, but it will also accelerate the chemical reaction that turns cooked green
cabbage drab.
Chlorophyll, the pigment that makes green vegetables green, is sensitive to acids.
When you heat green cabbage, the chlorophyll in its leaves reacts chemically with acids in
the cabbage or in the cooking water to form pheophytin, which is brown. The pheophytin
gives the cooked cabbage its olive color.
To keep cooked green cabbage green, you have to reduce the interaction between the
chlorophyll and the acids. One way to do this is to cook the cabbage in a large quantity
of water, so the acids will be diluted, but this increases the loss of vitamin C. Another
alternative is to leave the lid off the pot so that the volatile acids can float off into the air,
but this allows the smelly sulfur compounds to escape too. The best way may be to steam
the cabbage very quickly in very little water so that it keeps its vitamin C and cooks before
there is time for the chlorophyll/acid reaction to occur.
Red cabbage is colored with red anthocyanins, pigments that turn redder in acids
(lemon juice, vinegar) and blue purple in bases (alkaline chemicals such as baking soda). To
keep the cabbage red, make sweet-and-sour cabbage. But be careful not to make it in an iron
or aluminum pot, since vinegar (which contains tannins) will react with these metals to
create dark pigments that discolor both the pot and the vegetable. Glass, stainless-steel, or
enameled pots do not produce this reaction.

How Other Kinds of Processing Affect This Food


Pickling. Sauerkraut is a fermented and pickled produce made by immersing cabbage in a
salt solution strong enough to kill off pathological bacteria but allow beneficial ones to sur-
vive, breaking down proteins in the cabbage and producing the acid that gives sauerkraut its
distinctive flavor. Sauerkraut contains more than 37 times as much sodium as fresh cabbage
(661 mg sodium/100 grams canned sauerkraut with liquid) but only one third the vitamin C
and one-seventh the vitamin A.

According to USDA, if you cook three cups of cabbage in one cup of water you will lose only 10
percent of the vitamin C; reverse the ratio to four times as much water as cabbage and you will lose
about 50 percent of the vitamin C. Cabbage will lose as much as 25 percent of its vitamin C if you
cook it in water that is cold when you start. As it boils, water releases oxygen that would otherwise
destroy vitamin C, so you can cut the vitamin loss dramatically simply by letting the water boil for
60 seconds before adding the cabbage.
Medical Uses and/or Benefits
Protection against certain cancers. Naturally occurring chemicals (indoles, isothiocyanates,
glucosinolates, dithiolethiones, and phenols) in cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauli-
flower, and other cruciferous vegetables appear to reduce the risk of some cancers, perhaps
by preventing the formation of carcinogens in your body or by blocking cancer-causing
substances from reaching or reacting with sensitive body tissues or by inhibiting the trans-
formation of healthy cells to malignant ones.
All cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, a member of a family of chemicals
known as isothiocyanates. In experiments with laboratory rats, sulforaphane appears to
increase the bodys production of phase-2 enzymes, naturally occurring substances that inac-
tivate and help eliminate carcinogens. At Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland,
69 percent of the rats injected with a chemical known to cause mammary cancer developed
tumors vs. only 26 percent of the rats given the carcinogenic chemical plus sulforaphane.
In 1997, Johns Hopkins researchers discovered that broccoli seeds and three-day-old
broccoli sprouts contain a compound converted to sulforaphane when the seed and sprout
cells are crushed. Five grams of three-day-old broccoli sprouts contain as much sulforaphane
as 150 grams of mature broccoli. The sulforaphane levels in other cruciferous vegetables have
not yet been calculated.
Vision protection. In 2004, the Johns Hopkins researchers updated their findings on sulfora-
phane to suggest that it may also protect cells in the eyes from damage due to ultraviolet
light, thus reducing the risk of macular degeneration, the most common cause of age-related
vision loss.
Lower risk of some birth defects. As many as two of every 1,000 babies born in the United
States each year may have cleft palate or a neural tube (spinal cord) defect due to their moth-
ers not having gotten adequate amounts of folate during pregnancy. The current RDA for
folate is 180 mcg for a woman and 200 mcg for a man, but the FDA now recommends 400
mcg for a woman who is or may become pregnant. Taking a folate supplement before becom-
ing pregnant and through the first two months of pregnancy reduces the risk of cleft palate;
taking folate through the entire pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects.
Possible lower risk of heart attack. In the spring of 1998, an analysis of data from the records
for more than 80,000 women enrolled in the long-running Nurses Health Study at Harvard
School of Public Health/Brigham and Womens Hospital, in Boston, demonstrated that a diet
providing more than 400 mcg folate and 3 mg vitamin B6 daily, either from food or supple-
ments, might reduce a womans risk of heart attack by almost 50 percent. Although men
were not included in the study, the results were assumed to apply to them as well.
However, data from a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association in December 2006 called this theory into question. Researchers at Tulane Univer-
sity examined the results of 12 controlled studies in which 16,958 patients with preexisting
cardiovascular disease were given either folic acid supplements or placebos (look-alike pills
with no folic acid) for at least six months. The scientists, who found no reduction in the risk
of further heart disease or overall death rates among those taking folic acid, concluded that
further studies will be required to verify whether taking folic acid supplements reduces the
risk of cardiovascular disease.

Adverse Effects Associated with This Food


Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter). Cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, contain goitrin,
thiocyanate, and isothiocyanate. These chemicals, known collectively as goitrogens, inhibit
the formation of thyroid hormones and cause the thyroid to enlarge in an attempt to pro-
duce more. Goitrogens are not hazardous for healthy people who eat moderate amounts of
cruciferous vegetables, but they may pose problems for people who have a thyroid condition
or are taking thyroid medication.
Intestinal gas. Bacteria that live naturally in the gut degrade the indigestible carbohydrates
(food fiber) in cabbage, producing gas that some people find distressing.