Shredded raw in coleslaw, braised for a Blaukraut side dish, or cooked in borscht, red cabbage is a nutritious, versatile cruciferous vegetable. It’s a member of the Brassica oleracea plant species, making it a cousin of kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
Its purple hue makes it stand out from its other family members, and it also gives it some unique nutrition. Anthocyanins are responsible for providing its color, and are a potentially powerful antioxidant that may offer a number of health benefits.
When raw, it is crunchy with a slightly peppery taste. When cooked, red cabbage becomes softer and adopts a much sweeter flavor.
Because of its rich nutrition profile and diversity, red cabbage (sometimes called purple cabbage) could play a role in keeping you healthy and be a worthwhile addition to your diet.
Red Cabbage Nutrition Facts
Cruciferous vegetables are very healthy in general. It would not be an overstatement to regard them as “superfoods.” Red cabbage, in particular, is very nutrient-dense. A serving size is just 80 grams (slightly under a cup), very low-calorie, and high in many valuable nutrients.
Here is what you’ll get in one cup (89 g) of raw red cabbage:
|Nutrient||Amount||% Daily Value (DV)|
|Carbohydrate||6.6 g||2% DV|
|Fiber||2 g||7% DV|
|Protein||1.3 g||3% DV|
|Vitamin A||993 IU||20% DV|
|Vitamin C||50.7 mg||85% DV|
|Vitamin K||34 mcg||42% DV|
|Thiamin||0.1 mg||4% DV|
|Niacin||0.4 mg||2% DV|
|Vitamin B6||0.2 mg||9% DV|
|Folate||16 mcg||4% DV|
|Calcium||40 mg||4% DV|
|Iron||0.7 mg||4% DV|
|Magnesium||14.2 mg||4% DV|
|Phosphorous||26.7 mg||3% DV|
|Potassium||216 mg||6% DV|
|Manganese||0.2 mg||11% DV|
Aside from being a good source of vitamins and minerals, red cabbage also provides anthocyanin antioxidants that may lead to lower levels of systemic inflammation and combat several chronic diseases.
Cruciferous vegetables are also great sources of compounds called indoles, which are associated with improved liver health and detoxification. Daily recommended intakes for these nutrients are not currently established.
Health Benefits of Red Cabbage
1. High in Antioxidants and Other Healthful Plant Compounds
Antioxidants and other phytochemicals are associated with plenty of beneficial health outcomes and may work to prevent disease. Red cabbage boasts an impressive make-up that can help prevent cell damage and encourage better health.
Red cabbage has a number of antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin K, carotenoids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and kaempferol. Each of these are generally higher in red cabbage than in green cabbage, while each is also associated with varying benefits. Some of these benefits include:
- A stronger immune system (vitamin C)
- Stronger bones (vitamin K)
- Good eye health (carotenoids that covert to vitamin A)
- Lower blood pressure (flavonoids and anthocyanins)
- Reduced LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol accumulation in arteries (kaempferol)
Sulforaphane is another plant compound found in cruciferous vegetables like red cabbage. It has been linked to heart-health benefits and an ability to fight certain cancers.
Cruciferous vegetables are also one of the best dietary sources of indole, which, as mentioned, helps promote gut health and can work to detoxify the liver.
2. Fights Inflammation
Low-grade chronic inflammation can contribute to a number of diseases. It is closely associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and much more.
Red cabbage may work to battle inflammation because of its potent nutritional makeup. One test-tube study using an artificial human gut model found that it was able to lower markers of gut inflammation by up to 40%.
Studies have also shown that sulforaphane can offer anti-inflammatory effects.
Interestingly, one study found that red cabbage skin could offer pain-relieving effects when applied topically. Adults with arthritis who wrapped their knees in cabbage leaves once per day reported significantly less pain after a four-week study.
3. Could Promote Heart Health
Red cabbage may promote heart health in numerous ways. The first is that it may contain more than 36 types of anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have been observed to reduce blood pressure and reduce heart disease risk factors. Observational studies have shown that diets high in anthocyanins can reduce the risk of heart attacks by up to 32%.
Kaempferol, another plant compound in red cabbage, can help oxidize unhealthy LDL cholesterol and work to prevent atherosclerosis.
4. May Promote Strong, Healthy Bones to Reduce the Risk of Osteoporosis
Vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, and manganese all contribute to bone health. These nutrients play a role in bone growth, as well as protecting bone cells from damage.
5. May Improve Liver Health
As one of the few good sources of dietary indole, cruciferous vegetables like red cabbage might play a valuable role in protecting your liver. Recent research has shown that higher levels of indole are associated with lower levels of liver disease. There is also evidence that indole may be able to treat and repair liver damage.
Indole may help liver health by lowering the level of toxins in the liver and limiting their effects. Part of this benefit may stem from the fact that it also helps promote healthy short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the intestine.
6. May Enhance Gut Health
Red cabbage may impact gut health in a number of beneficial ways. One is that it is an economical source of fiber that can help digestion, feed healthy gut bacteria, and promote regularity.
Research has shown that that cabbage can also lower gut inflammation, potentially through its ability to promote the growth of SCFAs. Higher levels of SCFAs are associated with improved liver health, and gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease, and colitis.
Red Cabbage Recipes
Red cabbage is a very versatile food that can be eaten raw; stuffed into dumplings; fermented and used as a topping; or thrown into coleslaws, soups, or salad. Here are a few ways you can fit this versatile health food into your diet.
1. Red Cabbage, Beet, and Beef Borscht (from Food & Wine)
Prep time: 40 minutes
Total time: 6 hours
- 2 lbs medium beets
- 2 lbs trimmed beef chuck, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- One 2 1/2-lb head of red cabbage, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 medium fennel bulbs—halved, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup sweet paprika
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, plus more for seasoning
- 2 tbsp honey
- 3 1/2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 3/4 cup minced chives
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cover the beets with foil and bake until tender, about one hour, in a shallow baking dish. When cooled, peel beets and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes.
- When beets are cooling, season the meat with salt and pepper and toss with flour just until lightly coated. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add half of the meat and cook over medium-high heat until browned all over. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Repeat with 1 tbsp oil and the remaining meat.
- Add the rest of the 1/4 cup oil to the casserole. Stir in the red cabbage, onions, fennel, garlic and paprika. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the vinegar and honey and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables start sticking to the casserole and browning lightly, about three minutes.
- Add the beets, browned meat, chicken broth, and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until the meat is very tender, about one hour and 15 minutes.
- Discard the thyme sprigs and season the borscht to taste with salt, pepper, vinegar, and honey.
2. Red Cabbage with Pears and Mulled Port (from Good Food)
Prep time: 25 minutes
Total time: 2 hours 25 minutes
- 1 large red cabbage, quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 200 ml port
- 1 large cinnamon stick
- 1 pinch ground cloves
- 2 star anise
- 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 4 pears, diced
- Put all the ingredients except the pears in a large pan and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook on a low heat for one hour.
- Stir in the pears, then cover and cook for another hour until the cabbage is quite tender. Add water, if needed, if cabbage appears dry. (If there is still liquid in the pan after one hour of cooking, turn the heat right up until it evaporates.)
- Season with a little salt and serve.
Tip: The cabbage can be prepared ahead and either chilled or frozen. Then reheat in the pan or in a microwave.
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