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What's New and Beneficial About Cabbage

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  • Did you know that cabbage was one of two vegetable types (the other type was root vegetables) found to be a mainstay for prevention of type 2 diabetes in a recent study of over 57,000 adults in the country of Denmark? In this very large-scale study, adults who closely followed the Healthy Nordik Food Index were found to have the lowest incidence of type 2 diabetes. Importantly, this key health benefit was linked to six food intake categories: (1) fish, (2) rye bread, (3) oatmeal, (4) apples and pears, (5) root vegetables, and (6) cabbage!
  • Researchers have now identified nearly 20 different flavonoids and 15 different phenols in cabbage, all of which have demonstrated antioxidant activity. This impressive list of antioxidant phytonutrients in cabbage is one key reason why an increasing number of studies link cabbage intake to decreased risk of several cardiovascular diseases. You can read more about these individual antioxidants in our Health Benefits section.
  • 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 in terms of price per edible cup. Only potatoes came out slightly less expensive. The relatively low economic cost of cabbage in comparison with most other vegetables makes this cruciferous vegetable a nutritional bargain, especially considering the 3 excellent, 6 very good, and 11 good rankings that it achieves in our WHFoods rating system.
  • There are literally hundreds of varieties of cabbage grown worldwide. But of special interest in recent research studies have been cabbage varieties that fall into the red-purple category. It is the anthocyanin antioxidants (and in particular, a subcategory of anthocyanins called cyanidins) that have been the focus of these research studies. Impressively, the anthocyanins in red cabbage are a major factor in the ability of this cruciferous vegetable to provide cardiovascular protection, including protection of red blood cells. Blood levels of beta-carotene, lutein, and total blood antioxidant capacity have been found to improve along with red cabbage intake, while oxidized LDL has been found to decrease. (This reduction in oxidized LDL is a good thing, since LDL—an abbreviation which stands for low-density lipoprotein—becomes a risk factor for blood vessel problems if excessively present in its oxidized form.
  • Cabbage turns out to be an especially good source of sinigrin. Sinigrin is one of cabbage's sulfur-containing glucosinolates that has received special attention in cancer prevention research. The sinigrin in cabbage can be also converted into allyl-isothiocyanate, or AITC. This isothiocyanate compound has shown unique cancer preventive properties with respect to bladder cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. It's also worth noting here that a second glucosinolate found in cabbage—glucobrassicin—can be converted into two cancer-protective compounds. These two compounds are indole-3-carbinol (or I3C, an isothiocyanate) and diindolylmethane (or DIM). DIM is an interesting sulfur-containing compound that can be produced in the stomach from I3C if the stomach juices are sufficiently acidic. Like AITC and I3C, DIM has been shown to have cancer-preventive properties for the specific cancer types listed above.

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