Originating in northern and western Europe, cabbage has become a culinary staple from America to China. The many varieties of cabbage lend themselves to different applications, and the resulting dishes can be as different from each other as kimchee and coleslaw. Cabbage is a healthy food because it is low-calorie and high in vitamin C, but the healthfulness is lost if it is served drenched in high-calorie dressings and sauces.
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The different types of cabbage have slightly different nutrient profiles, but they all fall within the same general sphere. As a vegetable, cabbage is low in protein and composed mainly of carbohydrates, but the total carbohydrate content is still much lower than that of grains and can even be a part of a low-carb diet. Being a plant, cabbage does have a moderate amount of fiber and has a moderately high dose of calcium and vitamin C. Vitamin C can be lost during cooking, so cabbage should be cooked quickly over moderate heat.
Common and Red Cabbage
The familiar light-green and red heads appear to be two colors of the same cabbage, but they are completely separate varieties. Common cabbage has just over 5 g of carbohydratess per 100 g, and just over 2 g of fiber. That same small serving also contains 47 mg of calcium and 51 mg of vitamin C. Red cabbage is slightly higher in carbs at about 7 g per 100 g, with about the same fiber and calcium content as common cabbage, but more vitamin C at 57 g. Both cabbages are commonly made into sauerkraut, coleslaw and soup, or boiled and eaten plain.
Savoy cabbage is a late-season variety, becoming available during late fall and early winter. The flat head and crinkly leaves lend themselves to coleslaw, but can also be used in other traditional cabbage recipes. Savoy cabbage contains about 6 g of carbohydrates and 3 g of fiber per 100 g, but has slightly less calcium and vitamin C than common and red cabbage at 35 g and 31 g, respectively.
Many people don't realize that Chinese cabbage is actually cabbage. Better known as bok-choy, the elongated head has thick, white stems and relatively small, crinkly tender leaves -- the appearance is more like a cross between Romaine lettuce and leeks. Bok-choy is used in stir-fry dishes and soups, but the leaves can also be used as lettuce wraps. Bok-choy has the fewest carbs of all the cabbages at about 2 g per 100 g serving. It also contains just under 2 g of fiber, plus a hefty 105 g of calcium and 45 g of vitamin C per serving.