The Health Benefits of Purple Cabbage

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Purple cabbage might not make it to your plate regularly, but it's a good idea to turn the cruciferous vegetable into a staple in your diet, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or diabetes.
Image Credit: Cavan Images/Cavan/GettyImages

Purple cabbage might not make it to your plate regularly, but it's a good idea to turn the cruciferous vegetable into a staple in your diet, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or diabetes. Also called red cabbage, purple cabbage is rich in phytochemicals that fight off disease.

But you may still be wondering, "Well, what's purple cabbage good for?" The short answer is: cancer prevention, reduced risk of heart disease and heart attack and protection against Type 2 diabetes. Purple cabbage is also a good source of several vitamins, like vitamin C, which helps boost your immune system.

Anthocyanins in Purple Cabbage

Purple cabbage gets its color from antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins. Harvard Health Publishing points out that these compounds are responsible for any red-orange to blue-violet colors found in fruits and vegetables. But they're not just pretty; anthocyanins have several health benefits.

According a review that was published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition in October 2018, a high intake of anthocyanins may help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and death from heart disease, in general.

A review in a January 2014 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the total risk of developing heart disease and reported that dietary intake of anthocyanins (along with other phytochemicals) can decrease the risk of heart disease.r

But anthocyanins don't just protect your heart. Researchers from a study that was published in Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine in January 2018 pointed out that anthocyanins play a vital role in the prevention of Type 2 diabetes. According to the report, these compounds regulate carbohydrate metabolism and improve insulin secretion — two factors that help keep your blood sugar stable.

Something to keep in mind, however, is that cooking methods can change the nutritional profile of purple cabbage. According to an October 2014 report in Food Chemistry, steaming, microwave heating, boiling and stir-frying can all destroy some of the anthocyanins and other nutrients in the cabbage. The report notes that while all cooking methods resulted in some nutrient losses, steaming seemed to retain the most when compared to the others.

In other words, while there are some benefits of cabbage soup and other cooked cabbage recipes, you're better off eating your purple cabbage raw. But if you have to cook it, your best bet is to lightly steam it with a little bit of water.

Read more: Benefits and Side Effects of Cabbage Juice

Cruciferous Cancer Prevention

As it that wasn't enough, cruciferous vegetables like purple cabbage contain sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates that have been shown to fight cancer, whose death rate is set to double by 2030 unless lifestyle and environmental changes are implemented, according to a November 2018 study in Molecules.

According to a March 2013 report in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, glucosinolates break down into compounds called isothiocyanates, which are believed to help fight off cancer-causing substances. Isothiocyanates are formed during various parts of digestion, including during chewing and once the cabbage reaches the small intestine.

The report notes that these compounds have been linked to prevention of several different types of cancer, including colorectal, lung, prostate and breast cancers. The study from the November 2018 issue of Molecules backs up these findings, adding that isothiocyanates may also help fight off brain, blood, bone, gastric, liver, oral, skin and pancreatic cancers by regulating cancer cells and preventing tumor growth.

Read more: What Are Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Health Benefits?

Purple and Green Cabbage Nutrition

Aside from the phytochemicals, both purple and green cabbage nutrition is fairly impressive. While purple cabbage contains more anthocyanins and beta-carotene than its green counterpart, they're both rich in several vitamins and minerals and don't contribute a lot of calories to the diet. If you want to compare the two, 1 cup of chopped red cabbage contains:

  • 28 calories
  • 1.8 grams of protein
  • 0.1 grams of fat
  • 6.6 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1.9 grams of fiber
  • 40 milligrams of calcium
  • 216 milligrams of potassium
  • 51 milligrams of vitamin C
  • 50 micrograms of vitamin A
  • 596 micrograms of beta-carotene

Interestingly, green cabbage nutrition for the same serving size (1 cup chopped) looks like this:

  • 22 calories
  • 1.1 grams of protein
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 5.2 grams of carbohydrates
  • 2.2 grams of fiber
  • 36 milligrams of calcium
  • 151 milligrams of potassium
  • 33 milligrams of vitamin C
  • 4.5 micrograms of vitamin A
  • 37.4 micrograms of beta-carotene
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