The Humble Cabbage: Health Benefits and Recipes

All hail the humble cabbage! Blanched, stir-fried, baked, sautéed, braised or eaten raw this versatile vegetable is a true jack of all trades. From kimchi to sauerkraut, from classic cabbage rolls to gobi acar and curtido — it’s no coincidence that cabbage features in most cultures cuisine spanning the globe.

Along with its culinary versatility, the health benefits of cabbage pack a pretty potent punch too. In May 2018, Harvard Health Publishing named red cabbage the vegetable of the month, while extensive studies have even shown that regularly eating cabbage acts like a vegetable vaccine of sorts, protecting against certain diseases. That’s serious accolade for this humble and widespread vegetable.

Intrigued? It’s time to bring to light the powers of this modest caped crusader hidden in the shadows. And ‘cause we’re all about sharing at 8fit, we’ll throw in three cabbage-forward recipes for good measure.

So what’s the big deal about cabbage?

Cabbage belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, more specifically the brassica stock along with mustard plants. Cruciferous vegetables have long been lauded for their nutritional density and healing properties. What makes cruciferous vegetables like cabbage different is they contain sulfur compounds. The sulfur and other chemical components work to “turn off” genes that are responsible for some cancer cell growth. In addition, they help tame your intestinal tract, reducing the risk of developing certain cancer strains — especially colorectal cancers.

As if that wasn’t enough, this cloaked veggie is teeming with nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin A and C folic acid and insoluble fiber. Be careful not to overcook it, as you risk depleting the health benefits of cabbage such as the water-soluble vitamin C and temperature-sensitive folic acid.

Did you know?
Just ½ a cup of cooked green cabbage contains almost 3 grams of dietary fiber and nearly 20 mg of vitamin C.
health benefits of cabbage

Top 3 Health benefits of cabbage

#1: Combats cancer

A case underscoring the health benefits of cabbage is evident in several recent studies that demonstrate a strong link between eating brassica vegetables and the increase of carcinogen-detoxifying enzymes in the intestines. In short, the regular consumption of cabbage and other cruciferous veggies, protect against potential cancers; especially bowel and colon cancer — even in those with a higher genetic risk.

Research conducted by the Francis Crick Institute for biomedical research, ascertained that anti-cancer compounds are produced in the gut when cruciferous vegetables are digested. They also found that switching the diet in mice with tumors to one high in cruciferous-based foods resulted in the arrested development of their tumors and the reduction of gut inflammation.

#2: Supports heart health

Oxidative stress (the imbalance of free-radicals and antioxidants in your body) is a contributing factor in the development of cardiovascular diseases. Growing evidence has shown the pharmacological properties in cruciferous veggies (yup, it’s cabbage and co. again) work to protect the heart from forms of oxidative stress.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also observed the link between foods rich in flavonoids and polyphenols, like cabbage, helped lower blood pressure as well as platelet plaque, leading to a lowered risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

#3: Aids digestion

Whether red, green, savoy or other, it’s no coincidence that many cultures have taken to fermenting cabbage, and thus creating probiotic-packed and gut-healing foods like kimchi or sauerkraut. As explained earlier, the nutritional wonders of cabbage health benefits are mind-blowing on their own, but fermenting this vegetable levels-up it’s nutritional potency even further. Your digestive system (a.k.a. your second brain) will thank you for feeding it with fermented cabbage, as it not only tastes terrifically tangy, but the enzymes produced in the fermentation process enable increased absorption of vitamins and minerals in the gut.

Feeling a little backed up?
Then the high fiber and water content in cabbage will support regular, and healthy bowel movements.

How to select and store cabbage

We’re pretty sure that after reading all the health benefits of cabbage, you’re about to throw on a jacket and rush to the local grocers to stock up on this miraculous veg. But, hold your horses — make sure to observe the following when selecting and storing your cabbage so you can reap the full benefits it holds:

  • Look for heads of cabbage that are not curled or split, insect-free and are tightly layered
  • Don’t wash cabbage before you store it (only just before preparing it)
  • Store your cabbage in a perforated bag
Did you know?
Kale and bok choi are both types of cabbage.

Healthy cabbage recipes

We’re done with the science side, let’s get our proverbial hands dirty and get cooking! We’ve selected our favorite 8fit cabbage-forward recipes so you can treat your taste buds and enrich your health in one fell swoop. You can find these nutritious and flavorful recipes and much more in the 8fit Pro app. When you sign up, you’ll discover balanced recipes created and curated by our team of expert in-house nutritionists to meet your lifestyle demands, nutritional needs and taste preferences.

Colorful cabbage pizza

Recipe Gluten-free, Low-carb Cabbage Pizza healthy

Who said pizza is just for cheat days! How about Netflix and chill (literally) with our healthy low-carb and gluten-free pizza? It’s rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and done in 35 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseeds (~⅔ oz)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp fresh basil (chopped)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ½ onion (medium sized) (~2 oz)
  • ½ zucchini (~3 ½ oz)
  • ½ cup mushrooms (sliced) (~1 ¼ oz)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp tomato paste (no added sugar) (~¾ oz)
  • ¼ cup diced canned tomatoes (no added salt or sugar) (~2 oz)
  • 3 oz mozzarella (part skim milk)
  • 1 whole egg (~1 ¾ oz)
  • ¼ cabbage head (small) (~5 oz)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Clean cabbage and cut into small pieces. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces as well. Add cabbage, egg, half of the mozzarella, flaxseeds, and pepper to a food processor and mix.
  3. Spread the mixture onto the baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven.
  4. Combine tomato paste and can diced tomatoes.
  5. Clean mushrooms and slice them. Wash zucchini and cut into thin slices as well. Peel the onion and chop it.
  6. Spread the tomato mixture on top of cabbage pizza base. Add mushrooms, zucchini, and onion. Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes.
  7. Serve with fresh basil.

Curried tofu, rice & cabbage

curried tofu with cabbage recipe

When days are grey and cold, nothing beats a hearty bowl of piping hot curry. Vegans and lactose intolerants delight in this creamy plant-based cabbage curry that is both low-cholesterol and lactose-free. You’ll be curled up on the couch with a bowl in just 35 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ red cabbage head (small) (~5 oz)
  • 1 tsp olive oil (extra virgin)
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk (canned) (~2 oz)
  • 1 ½ tsp curry powder (dry)
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • a pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup rice (dry) (~1 ½ oz)
  • 3 ½ oz tofu (raw, firm)

Directions:

  1. Put water in a pot and bring to a boil. Aim for about 2:1 water to rice. Add a bit of salt.
  2. Stir in rice and turn to medium heat. Cook for around 16 to 18 minutes (white rice), for around 30 to 35 minutes if you use brown rice. Meanwhile, you can continue with the next steps.
  3. Drain the tofu and dice.
  4. Heat the olive oil on medium-high heat in a pan. Cook the tofu for 3 minutes, stirring until lightly brown. Set aside.
  5. In the same pan, add the coconut milk and the curry powder, bring to a boil. You can add salt and pepper (optional).
  6. Reduce heat and let it simmer for 4 minutes.
  7. Add the tofu and cook for 1 last minute.
  8. In the meantime, cut cabbage into small pieces.
  9. Serve all together and enjoy!

Cabbage tortillas

veggie burrito with cabbage

Want to enjoy your cabbage on the go? No problem! Our cabbage tortillas are container-friendly and quick to prepare (20 minutes to be exact), making them perfect for you meal-prep fiends out there. This protein-packed meal will also lend you a post-lunch boost of energy to combat that afternoon slump.

Ingredients:

  • 4 olives (~⅓ oz)
  • ¼ cabbage head (small) (~5 oz)
  • ½ onion (medium sized) (~1 ¼ oz)
  • a tiny bit of rosemary (fresh)
  • a tiny bit of salt
  • ¼ cup kidney beans (canned and drained) (~2 ¼ oz)
  • ½ cup gruyere cheese (grated) (~2 oz)
  • 2 ½ Tbsp rice (dry) (~1 oz)
  • a tiny bit of chili pepper (dry)
  • ½ cup mushrooms (sliced) (~¾ oz)
  • 1 tomato (~3 ½ oz)

Directions:

  1. In a pot, bring water to boil and add a bit of salt, chili pepper, and a few sprigs of rosemary. For most rice, use a 2:1 ratio (2 cups water for 1 cup rice). Cook for around 16 to 18 minutes (white rice), for around 30 to 35 minutes if you use brown rice.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the onion and wash tomato. Dice both. Clean mushrooms and slice with olives.
  3. Cook vegetables lightly in a pan on medium heat for 5 minutes.
  4. Rinse and drain kidney beans. Mix vegetables with rice, the grated gruyere, and beans.
  5. Wash the cabbage and carefully remove leaves from the head. Place two big scoops of the vegetable/rice/gruyere/beans mixture onto a cabbage leaf and carefully roll the leaf. Repeat this step until there is no mixture left.
  6. Serve on a plate.

For more fun cabbage recipes, download 8fit and search the 8fit recipe book.