Does Cabbage Burn Fat?

Although cabbage is a healthful low-calorie vegetable, many people have come to associate it with weight loss because of the popular "cabbage soup diet." Creative marketing has led people to believe that cabbage actually burns body fat. No foods, including cabbage, actually burn body fat. While this may come as a disappointment for dieters, cabbage is still a healthful addition to any weight loss diet.

Sliced red cabbage on a cutting board. Credit: HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images

Cabbage for Diets

Even though cabbage will not burn fat from your body, it is still ideal for your weight loss diet because it is so low in calories. A half cup of cabbage is only 17 calories. An entire head of cabbage that can be used to prepare a large salad is less than 300 calories. In his book "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth," Dr. Jonny Bowden, Ph.D. and clinical nutrition specialist, reports that one cup of cooked cabbage has 4 grams of dietary fiber, which is quite a lot considering it is such an insignificant source of calories. Dietary fiber is important because it helps you control your appetite and keeps your blood sugar levels stable.

Weight Loss

Since cabbage does not burn body fat, you may be confused about how exactly it can still make you lose fat. Weight loss and fat burn are actually matters of "simple math," according to the University of Illinois. In short, to lose weight, you have to burn a greater number of calories than you consume. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain, "substitution" is the key to losing weight with low-calorie vegetables such as cabbage. You will want to substitute cabbage for foods that are high in calories. For example, preparing a 100-calorie cabbage-based salad in lieu of a 400-calorie pasta dish would remove 300 calories from your diet. Ideally, you will want to remove 500 to 1,000 calories from your daily caloric intake to lose weight.

Nutritional Benefits

Dr. Bowden considers cabbage to be one of the most nutritious foods that you can eat. Cabbage is rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, beta-carotene and lutein, which supports your vision. It is also rich in antioxidant phytochemicals. Specially, cabbage is a concentrated source of antioxidant compounds called "anthocyanins"; these are the same compounds that make blueberries so healthful. Dr. Bowden explains that these flavonoids significantly reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are major factors in heart disease.

Bok Choy

Bok choy is a specific type of Chinese cabbage that can be a good addition to your weight loss diet. The American Council on Exercise recommends bok choy if you are trying to lose weight. According to Dr. Bowden, raw bok choy is about as close to a "no calorie" food as you can eat. One cup of raw bok choy is only 9 calories. If you cook it, one cup is just 20 calories. Like traditional cabbage, bok choy is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium.

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