Superfood 101: Cabbage!

Cabbage is a member of the Brassicaceae family, commonly known as the mustard family. There are 107 genera in the family; the cabbage is in the genus Brassica L. The origin of the plant is quite complicated because of the number of genera. The earliest cultivation of cabbage took place in Northern China, approximately 4000 years ago. In Europe the plant was cultivated about 3000 years ago and became a world staple. In the wild it was a leafy plant like kale and was produced in the form of a head in 14th century England.
Today cabbage is one of the most popular vegetables in the United States with an average adult consumption of approximately seven pounds per year. The country grows about 2.2 billion pounds of cabbage annually. It is primarily used in the production of coleslaw, followed by the making of sauerkraut, and finally the head cabbage as a vegetable. Cabbage is a highly nutritional food with healing benefits that have been used for centuries.
Cabbage in the wild was originally a thick leafy vegetable that was cultivated into the current head form and is closely related to Brussels sprouts, collards, broccoli, and kale. It is round, made up of compressed layers of leaves; the inner leaves are protected from sunlight and have a lighter color. The outer leaves are deeper in color and identify the variety of cabbage. There are two basic color varieties, green and red, and they range in color from deep to light where the light green cabbage is often referred to as white cabbage. Red cabbage also varies in color –some varieties can be seen as deep purple and are referred to as black cabbage. Savoy cabbage, also known as sabauda, is a less compact cabbage with textured leaves and a lighter flavor than the tightly packed cabbages, and it has the same color variations. Chinese cabbage is in a different genus than common cabbage; it belongs to the genus Brassica rapa.
Cabbage is a versatile vegetable with many health benefits:
1. Packed with nutrients, cabbage has been healing many maladies for centuries. The vegetable is rich in vitamins C, B1, B2, B6, and K. It is an excellent source of minerals that include magnesium, calcium, iron, copper, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, and selenium. Also found in cabbage is dietary fiber, protein, pantothenic acid, and niacin. Vitamin C is essential for protecting the body’s defenses against deficiency diseases like scurvy, a weakened immune system, and flu. The fiber content ensures a healthy digestive system; this roughage keeps the lower digestive tract moving freely, omitting the incidence of constipation. The presence of sulfur in cabbage insures a healthy body free from infection and helps in healing wounds.
2. Cabbage is an excellent food to reduce the incidence of cancer due to its antioxidant properties. It limits the growth of free radicals because it contains lupeol, sulforaphane, and sinigrin, which stimulates enzyme activity and inhibits the development of tumors that can become malignant.
3. For ocular health cabbage is high in beta-carotene which diminishes the risk of macular degeneration. It also strengthens ocular function, reducing the incidents of other eye diseases.
4. Cabbage promotes brain health because of it vitamin K content. This vitamin boosts brain function and is necessary for the production of sphingolipids, which is the protective covering around the nerves known as myelin. Cabbage added to the diet reduces the risk of neural degeneration, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. For healthy skeletal and circulatory systems the minerals in cabbage protect the deterioration of bone tissue and reduce the risk of bone disease like osteoporosis. High in potassium, cabbage relaxes the blood vessels, insuring the ease of blood flow and eliminating the risk of high blood pressure and other vascular diseases.
Cabbage comes in three distinct varieties: green, red, and savoy, each with its own distinct flavor. Both red and green cauliflower have tightly packed leaves and savoy has a loosely packed head of ruffled leaves. There are many ways cabbage can be prepared but the most common is in slaw, made into sauerkraut, or added to recipes like stir fry. The plant is rich in vitamins, minerals, and other healthy substances which has made it a healing plant for centuries. It helps to prevent many debilitating diseases like cancer and osteoporosis.