Nutrients in Red Cabbage
Red cabbage’s primary characteristics — its red hue and bitter, peppery flavor — signify that you’re getting two types of cancer-preventing substances. The red pigment comes from plant-based chemicals called flavonoids, while the sharp flavor is the result of sulfur-based compounds. In addition to these important phytochemicals, cabbage contributes to your overall health with fiber and a range of vitamins and minerals.
One cup of chopped red cabbage (uncooked or steamed/simmered) has 28 calories, 1 gram of protein and no fat. You’ll get 2 grams of dietary fiber, which is 5 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 8 percent for women. Insoluble fiber from red cabbage helps prevent constipation and lowers the risk of developing diverticular disease.
The best-known sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, so it may be a surprise to learn that 1 cup of chopped red cabbage has 56 percent of the recommended daily intake of this important vitamin. As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights inflammation and protects cells from damage that leads to chronic health conditions, such as heart disease.
Your body needs vitamin C to make collagen, which is the connective tissue that gives structure, strength and support to muscles, skin, bones and other tissues throughout the body. Collagen is also essential for the process of healing wounds. Vitamin C also strengthens the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells that fight invading bacteria and infections.
Vitamin A and other carotenoids contribute to healthy eyes and vision, they have different roles. One cup of red cabbage contains 33 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, but the total is delivered in three different forms: beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Beta-carotene is converted into the form of vitamin A called retinol that’s used by cells in the eyes that detect light and convert it into nerve impulses. Lutein and zeaxanthin function as antioxidants that protect the retina and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration.
Proteins that participate in blood clotting depend on the presence of vitamin K to complete their part of process. Other vitamin-K-dependent proteins regulate bone mineralization. Long-term deficiency of vitamin K increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, atherosclerosis and cancer, according to research published in the April 2012 issue of Food and Nutrition Research. You’ll get 28 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K from 1 cup of chopped red cabbage.
Red cabbage belongs to the cruciferous, or Brassica, family that includes broccoli, turnips and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates that are responsible for their bitter flavor. Glucosinolates are digested into isothiocyanates, which reduce inflammation and fight bacteria. The red pigment comes from a flavonoid called cyanidin, that functions as an antioxidant.
Both cyanidin and the isothiocyanates prevent some types of cancer by stopping the growth of cancer cells, inhibiting enzymes that activate carcinogens and helping cells repair damage caused by carcinogens. In April 2012, Vanderbilt University Medical Center released research results showing that breast cancer survivors who ate more cruciferous vegetables reduced their risk of dying by 62 percent.
Cabbage packs a lot of nutrition into so few calories, making it a nutritionally dense addition to any diet. If you dislike the bitterness of cabbage but want the nutritional rewards, add a pinch of sugar to the cabbage while cooking to balance its pungency.