The cabbage is a green, leafy plant that forms part of the Brassicaceae family. Other members of this family include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower and kale. The leafy portion of the cabbage cluster is generally the only portion of the plant that is eaten, either raw, cooked or preserved.
Cabbage is used in many popular dishes, coleslaw being the most common, which is thinly sliced strips of cabbage that is mixed with carrots or alone and includes added mayonnaise for flavor. It can also be used in soups and stews and has a very strong aroma.
There are various types of cabbage and it is estimated that there is at least a hundred different types growing around the world. Green cabbage is the most common type of cabbage, however you also get savory cabbage, napa cabbage, bok choy and red cabbage.
Green cabbage is pale green in color and has a crunchy texture. Savory cabbage has greeny-yellow leaves that have a more crinkled texture than green cabbage. Napa cabbage is plate green with white stems and crinkled leaves. Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that has dark green leaves held loosely together and white stems, and has an almost celery type taste. Red cabbage is generally red or dark purple, however it has a similar taste to that of green cabbage, with coarser leaves.
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamins K and C: 1 cup (150 grams) of shredded, boiled cabbage contains 91% of the RDA for vitamin K and 50% for vitamin C. Cabbage is also a very good source of dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B6 and folate, and a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, tryptophan, protein and magnesium.
A case control study published in the journal Cancer Research confirmed that women who eat more Brassica family vegetables have a much lower risk of breast cancer. In this study of over 300 women in Shanghai, China (where Brassica vegetables such as Chinese cabbage are frequently consumed), the women’s urinary levels of isothiocyanates (a type of beneficial compound found in Brassica vegetables) directly correlated with their breast cancer risk. Those women with the highest isothicyanate levels (i.e., those women consuming the most Brassica vegetables) had a 45% lower risk for breast cancer compared to those with the lowest levels of isothiocyanates.
Cabbage’s role as a staple vegetable in Polish cuisine may be why the breast cancer risk of Polish women triples after they immigrate to the U.S., rising to match that of U.S.-born women.