Cooked and raw cabbage contains a type of carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, which resist breakdown by salivary and digestive enzymes. Once they reach the colon, they serve as food for gut bacteria. While this process creates gas, it's no cause for alarm and is actually very healthy.
Cabbage Produces Gas
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders reports that the gas produced by cabbage and certain other vegetables is normal. If it becomes a problem, digestive enzymes like lactase supplements can enhance the digestive process and allow people to eat gas-creating foods with less discomfort.
In explaining about eating gas-producing foods, Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist, Purna Kashyap, says that vegetables, such as cabbage, provide nourishment for the beneficial microbes living in the gut. When the bacteria feed on the carbohydrates in cabbage, gas is formed; yet the process also makes molecules that enhance immunity.
Kashyap said that people shouldn't stop eating these foods to reduce the gas they experience. Eating fiber foods leads to gas, but eliminating them from the diet would starve the gut microbes that are so essential for health.
People who experience gas from eating cabbage or other high-fiber foods may consider temporarily cutting back on them, suggests Mayo Clinic. After a break, gradually add the foods back into the diet.
To reduce or prevent gas formation, the Mayo Clinic also recommends eating and drinking slowly. Swallowing air results in gas, so making meals relaxed, leisurely affairs will help alleviate the problem. Other measures to help prevent gas include avoiding smoking, drinking carbonated beverages and chewing gum. Exercising more may also decrease the severity or incidence.
Harvard Health says that some people who experience gas and other intestinal symptoms may have irritable bowel syndrome. Those with this condition may benefit from following the fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (FODMAP) diet. The eating plan's aim involves decreasing the intake of high-FODMAP foods, which are high-gas producers, and increasing the intake of low-FODMAP foods, which are low-gas producers.
Since vegetables are linked to many health advantages, it's important not to stop eating them. People with irritable bowel syndrome have plenty of low-FODMAP vegetables from which to choose.
Ways to Eat Cabbage
Cabbage comes in different varieties. Some of the most common include green, red-purple, savoy and Chinese cabbage. Whichever kind you prefer, you may certainly eat it every day.
What is the best way to eat cabbage? In a study featured in Food Chemistry in October 2014, researchers tested how different cooking methods affect the nutrients in cabbage. They discovered that steaming retained more of the nutrients than boiling or stir-frying. Raw cabbage had the highest nutrient content.
When deciding on how to prepare cabbage, it's best to avoid frying. The Mayo Clinic warns that eating fried foods leads to health problems and raises the risk of early death.
While most people eat cabbage either raw in coleslaw or cooked, another option is fermented cabbage in the form of sauerkraut or kimchi. Fermented vegetables contain the beneficial bacteria that improve digestion and gut health, notes the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.
No Benefits in Cabbage Soup
The cabbage soup diet is a fad diet that involves eating nothing but the soup for several days. The eating plan is extremely low in calories, so it results in weight loss, but it has serious drawbacks, cautions the Mayo Clinic.
Eating copious amounts of cabbage may lead to flatulence, and some of the soup recipes might have too much salt. However, the main problem is that the cabbage soup diet is low in nutrients, including complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, which leads to weakness and tiredness. According to the Mayo Clinic, the diet may also result in muscle loss.
The University of Florida notes that cabbage soup makes a nutritious meal if it's part of a balanced diet. On the other hand, eating nothing but cabbage soup for several days is dangerous.
Another thing to consider is that, once the diet ends, the weight will return. Lasting weight management depends on a lifestyle of following a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Cabbage Nutrition Profile
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, a category that contains sulfur-rich chemicals called glucosinolates, says the National Cancer Institute. The chemicals are valued highly because they break down to form compounds with anti-cancer activity. Other cruciferous vegetables include kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, radishes and watercress.
Harvard Health states that cabbage is plentiful in vitamin C but low in calories. A half-cup serving contains 45 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin C. Cabbage is also rich in potassium and vitamin A, along with other minerals and vitamins. The pigment that gives red cabbage its color contains anthocyanins, compounds linked to cardiovascular health.
Cabbage Health Benefits
A tabulation of cabbage health benefits and side effects shows that the advantages far outweigh the only downside of gas creation. The wellness plus that scientists most often link to the vegetable is cancer-fighting properties. Animal studies show that the glucosinolates in cabbage break down to form compounds that suppress the development of cancer of the colon, breast, lung, liver, stomach and bladder, says the National Cancer Institute.
Animal and test-tube research reveals the mechanism in cabbage compounds that underlie the anti-cancer benefit. These include antibacterial and antiviral properties, as well as anti-inflammatory effects, inactivation of carcinogens and protection from DNA damage. In addition, the compounds make it harder for tumors to form blood vessels and for tumor cells to migrate.
A study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine in April-June 2018 displays cabbage benefits for skin irritations. The study involved mice rather than humans, but it merits notice because of what it portends. An evaluation of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of cabbage extract on a skin condition showed they reduced swelling, redness and skin thickening.
Protection from cardiovascular disease may be another benefit of cabbage. A research paper featured in Nutrients in May 2018 reviewed observational epidemiological studies to see if eating certain kinds of vegetables was linked to a lower risk of diseases. Their findings showed that cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and green leafy vegetables might have robust cardiovascular health advantages.
Cabbage may also help heal ulcers. A study published in Medicinal Chemistry Research in December 2014 investigated the effects of garlic extract and cabbage extract on gastric ulcers in rats. Although the study didn't involve human subjects, it's worth mentioning because of the promising findings. Both extracts improved the ulcers, which led the authors to conclude it could be a useful treatment for acute gastric ulcers.
- International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders: "Tips on Controlling Gas"
- Mayo Clinic: "Belching, Intestinal Gas and Bloating: Tips for Reducing Them"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Try a FODMAPs Diet to Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome"
- University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture: "Cruciferous Vegetables Are in Season in Tennessee"
- Food Chemistry: "Domestic Cooking Methods Affect the Nutritional Quality of Red Cabbage"
- Mayo Clinic: "Mayo Clinic Minute: Why Eating Too Many Fried Foods Could Lead to Early Death"
- National Cancer Institute: "Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Vegetable of the Month: Red Cabbage"
- Mayo Clinic: "What Is the Cabbage Soup Diet? Can It Help Me Lose Weight?"
- University of Florida: "Cabbage Soup Diet No Lucky Charm for Weight Loss, Says UF Expert"
- Pharmacognosy Magazine: "Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Brassica Oleracea Var. Capitata L. (Cabbage) Methanol Extract in Mice With Contact Dermatitis"
- Nutrients: "Cardiovascular Health Benefits of Specific Vegetable Types: A Narrative Review"
- Medicinal Chemistry Research: "Effect of Garlic and Cabbage on Healing of Gastric Ulcer in Experimental Rats"
- Mayo Clinic Individualized Medicine Blog: "Purna Kashyap, MBBS, on a Healthy Microbiome"