If you’re looking for an inexpensive vegetable that’s low in sugar, and high in nutrients, then grab some cabbage.
Cabbage is a good source of thiamin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. It is also a very good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, and manganese.
Cabbage is a biennial plant. That means it has a two-year lifecycle from the time you plant the seed until it dies. Spinach, fennel, and lettuce are all biennial plants, and like these plants, cabbage is harvested early. The first year is when the plant grows its roots, stem, and leaves. The following year is when it flowers and produces its flowers and fruit. Cabbage, and other biennial vegetables are picked in their first year when they still in their dense leafy state.
Cabbage comes in many varieties. You have curly-leafed cabbage, loose leaf, varying shades of green, and red cabbage. It’s not uncommon for a plant to have so many variations, especially considering this plant is grown around the world and dates back more than 3000 years.
Cabbage is a source of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids. These give colour to the cabbage, and are important for ocular health. This popular plant is a good source of antioxidants that fight inflammation and support the immune system.
Vitamin K1 is one of the most prevalent nutrients found in this leafy plant. Vitamin K1 is important for blood clotting. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that completes protein synthesis, and is needed to bind calcium to bones. It is common in green leafy plants. Gut bacteria converts K1 to vitamin K2, which is needed to instruct calcium where to go, and where to stay. Vitamin K2 is still a relatively new discovery and the exact factors for conversion are not fully understood, but we know that grass-fed cows are the best producers of this important vitamin. However, even unconverted, vitamin K1 in its natural state is still very much needed for human life. Vitamin K1 deficiency would result in uncontrollable bleeding and in some cases, death.
Cabbage is also a good source of vitamin C, which is important because it is vital for life. Vitamin C deficiency can lead to inflammation and prolonged deficiency can result in many life-threatening diseases. We also need vitamin C to produce collagen, which is one of the main structures for creating and repairing bones and skin. It helps you look and feel younger. The body also uses extremely high levels of vitamin C when stressed to try and minimize the damage. That’s why it is so important to maximize your vitamin C intake during stressful periods.
Fermentation is a great option for this veggie. Fermented cabbage is used to make popular recipes like sauerkraut and kimchi, and with fermentation comes an additional set of health benefits.
Let’s look at sauerkraut for a minute. It is finely shaved cabbage that has been fermented in lactic acid bacteria. This fermenting process makes this a great probiotic. It supports the gut by filling it with good bacteria that overpowers bad bacteria, healing the gastrointestinal tract. Make sure to choose unpasteurized sauerkraut because the pasteurization process kills the good bacteria. It is good to pair probiotic foods with prebiotic fibres so feed these good bacteria and to maximize your intestinal health.
Cabbage isn’t all sunshine though. The plant can have some major downfalls. It is prone to pests, and bacterial or fungal disease. Because of pests like cabbage flies, they are often heavily sprayed with pesticides so you’ll want to go with an organic cabbage whenever you can. You can protect the cabbage from pests with netting, but you can still run into rot problems. The plant grows best in cool, damp climates, which makes it more susceptible to mold and root rot.
Steaming cabbage is a health choice. By steaming the leaves you increase the bile acid in the plant. This lowers cholesterol, reduces fat absorption, and reduces your risk of both cancer and heart disease. This also holds true for collard greens, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and green bell peppers.