“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
A poem called “The Walrus and the Carpenter” recited by Tweedledum and Tweedledee in the book “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll in 1871. Some interpretations suggest the walrus is supposed to be a caricature of the Buddha while the carpenter symbolized Jesus Christ. Others think they were political. From Wikipedia. Interesting!
Now I know why this poem came to mind when I decided to find out more about the lowly cabbage and if it added any healthy benefits to our diets. Frankly, I have never thought much about cabbages; however, it seems that cabbage is beginning to be used more in recipes as research continues to unravel its benefits.
So the time has come.
Cabbage evolved along the Mediterranean coast from the wild mustard plant. The Greeks and Romans used them for medicinal purposes. Cabbage is part of the royal family of vegetables – Brassica, that also includes broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and chard. This group is also referred to as cruciferous vegetables. The most common is green, but other kinds include red or purple in color. Savoy is type of green but with a pale green ruffled leaf. But it is much more than just a pretty plant.
Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamins C and K. It also is good sources of vitamin B6, folate, fiber, magnesium, and potassium-all this in a package of very low calories. One cup of cooked cabbage is only 34 calories with about 4 grams of fiber. It can be boiled in some chicken broth or lightly sautéed in extra virgin olive oil.
In terms of price per edible cup, a report by the Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has shown cabbage to be the second most economical cooked vegetable. Only potatoes came out slightly less expensive.
Perhaps more important than its list of vitamins and minerals, its claim as a superstar involves its potential as a potent cancer fighter. This ability is reflected in its array of compounds known as phytochemicals.
One specific “phyto” (for short) in cabbage is named indole-3-carbinol. It raises the levels of what is considered to be a protective or benign metabolite of estrogen compared to two others that are more apt to be carcinogenic increasing the risk of breast cancer in women or even men (they have estrogen, too) and can get breast cancer.
The second “phyto” is sulphorophane that is a member of the orthothiocynate group. It increases compounds known as phase-3 enzymes that fight free radical damage of cell membranes and DNA. To date and according to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), sulphorophane is considered one of the most powerful disruptors of the carcinogenesis process.
If you consume red cabbage, you may reap the benefits of another group of “phyots” called anthocyanins, a pigment also found in blue and purple fruits and vegetables like berries and red grapes. They are found within another group called flavonoids that act as antioxidants to fight free radicals. They are also considered to be anti-inflammatory compounds.
It is still under debate as to whether phytochemical supplements are safe or effective. There have been some reports that some antioxidant supplements alone or in combination may increase the risk of some cancers. To be on the safe side, get your “phytos” from whole foods and always inform your doctor of all prescription and over-the-counter supplements you consume. Some diet recommendations suggest we consume 3/4 cup of cruciferous vegetables on a daily basis. This amount is equivalent to approximately 5 cups per week. Bon apetit!!