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The most underrated nutritional powerhouse

Cabbage is a member of the prestigious brassica family, albeit an underrated one.

The brassica family have many health-promoting properties, namely the compound sulforaphane, which studies indicate is protective against many cancers. If you are trying to improve the nutrient density of your diet, cruciferous vegetables need to be at the very top of your shopping list. Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many adverse health conditions and research shows that New Zealanders just don’t eat enough vegetables, in particular.

Many studies have suggested that increasing our consumption of plant foods, such as cabbage, can decrease the risk of overall mortality while promoting improved health outcomes such as better energy, assisting with weight management and of course providing many key vitamins and minerals.

Cabbage is a good source of sulphur which is important for our body’s own antioxidant production (glutathione), it also plays important roles in the health of our cardiovascular system, central nervous system and also assists muscle function. Cabbage contains vitamin C and is a very good source of manganese. In terms of antioxidants in the phytonutrient category, cabbage is impressive, even among cruciferous vegetables. Polyphenols are at the top of the list for phytonutrient antioxidants in cabbage, which evidence suggests play a role preventative role in various diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as cancer, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

One group of researchers has described polyphenols as the primary factor in cabbage’s overall antioxidant capacity. Brassica vegetables such as cabbage, when eaten in conjunction with animal protein, have been shown to help reduce the formation of carcinogens that can form with meat through high temperature cooking.

Cabbage is wonderfully versatile and can be used raw or cooked in a number of ways. Cabbage can be cut into slices of varying thickness, grated by hand or shredded in a food processor. Cabbage can vary in colour from green to red and purple, and the leaves can be smooth or crinkled. It is suitable to combine with many flavours from a delicious zesty coleslaw to being stir-fried with garlic, ginger and chilli (if tolerated), or with raw carrots, toasted nuts, currants dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. Or make sauerkraut, a tangy fermented dish that goes with just about everything and is wonderfully nourishing for your gut health.

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