Natural Health Tips

Cabbage Has Detoxifying and Cancer-Protective Properties

Cabbage is a widely available, versatile vegetable that contains a whole variety of nutrients that help to remove harmful toxins from the body, defend against cancer and Alzheimer's, and promote optimal health.

Cabbage belongs to the Brassicaceae (mustard) family, which includes other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and kale. The only edible part of the cabbage is the leafy head. It can be eaten raw or cooked.

All types of cabbage are a good source of Vitamin C and fiber. It also contains manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. Red cabbage also contains anthocyanins, a phytochemical found in blueberries and beets. Its anthocyanins counteract the effects of a chemical called beta-amyloid protein, which can damage brain cells and lead to Alzheimer's.

The dark green leaves of cabbage, especially that of savoy cabbage, a variety which has a small, round head with crinkled leaves, is rich in iron, which helps to boost the transport of oxygen around the bloodstream. Its high Vitamin C content also helps the body to absorb this essential mineral.

Health Benefits

Cabbage is rich in antibacterial sulfur compounds, which make it valuable for chest infections and skin complaints like acne. It also contains mucilaginous substances similar to those produced by the mucous membrane of the gut and stomach for their own protection. The phytonutrients present in crucifers, such as cabbage, have been shown to have cleansing abilities. These compounds signal our genes to increase production of enzymes involved in detoxification, the cleansing process through which our bodies eliminate harmful compounds.

Cancers

Foods found in the crucifer family are rich in phytochemicals called glucosinolates, which are associated with protecting against cancer. cabbage, especially raw cabbage, is rich in the anti-cancer compounds indole-3-carbinole, isothiocyanates (a type of beneficial compound found in Brassica vegetables), and sulforaphane. These compounds help activate and stabilize the body's antioxidant and detoxification mechanisms, which, in turn, eliminate cancer-producing substances. Cabbage intake has been linked to a lower incidence of colon, lung, cervical and breast cancer.

Breast cancer

A study of Polish and Polish-born women in the US revealed that women who ate three or more servings or raw, lightly cooked, or fermented (sauerkraut) cabbage were seventy-two percent less likely to develop breast cancer as opposed to those women who only ate one and a half servings per week.

Ulcers

In a small study, participants who had stomach ulcers drank a liter of fresh cabbage juice daily for ten days. All ulcers had healed by the end of ten days.

Tips on Using Cabbage

  • Cabbage can be stir-fried, steamed, stuffed, added to soups or eaten raw.

  • Avoid buying precut cabbage, either halved or shredded, since once cabbage is cut, it begins to lose its valuable Vitamin C content.

  • Keeping cabbage cold will keep it fresh and help it retain its Vitamin C content.

References

  • Beecher C. Cancer preventive properties of varieties of Brassica oleracea: a review. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994;59:1166S-70S.

  • Qi M, Anderson AE, Chen DZ, sun S, Auborn KJ. Indole-3-carbinol prevents PTEN loss in cervical cancer in vivo. Mol Med. 2005;11(1-12):59-63.

  • Fowke JH, Chung FL, Jin F, Qi D, Cai Q, Conaway C, Cheng JR, Shu XO, Gao YT, Zheng W. Urinary isothiocyanate levels, brassica, and human breast cancer. Cancer Res. Jul 15;63(14):3980-6.

  • Pathak DR et al. Joint association of high cabbage/sauerkraut intake at 12-13 years of age and adulthood with reduced breast cancer risk in polish migrant women: results from the US component of the Polish women's health study. Abstract number 3697. Presented at the AACR 4th Annual Conference on Frontiers in cancer Prevention Research, October 30-November 2, 2005, Baltimore, Maryland.

  • Cheney G. Rapid healing of peptic ulcers in patients receiving fresh cabbage juice. Cal Med 70 (1949):10-14.