6 Health Benefits of Cabbage, According to Nutritionists

From improving your gut health to boosting your immune system.

Cabbage may not be the most exciting vegetable, but that doesn't mean you should stick your nose up at this cruciferous veggie. In fact, it may be a boon to your diet (and help you get out of a vegetable rut).

The vegetable—which grows in red, green, and white forms—is a member of the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, among others. But while it comes with loads of health benefits, it's crucial that you prepare it the right way to reap them, Maxine Smith, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic's Center for Human Nutrition, told Health.

"You want to avoid long cooking methods and boiling," Smith said, because those can rob the food of its nutrients. Instead, stick to quicker-cooking methods, like stir-frying or chopping up the veggie and eating it fresh in a salad or slaw.

If you need a bigger nudge to grab some cabbage during your next grocery run, registered dietitians weighed in on all the health benefits of cabbage and why you should incorporate it into your diet.

It's Rich in Vitamin C

Oranges aren't the only way for you to get your vitamin C—cabbage can also provide a huge amount of the nutrient if you need to add more to your diet. "Cabbage is high in the antioxidant vitamin C," Keri Gans, a New York-based registered dietician and nutritionist, told Health.

Making sure you get enough vitamin C each day is important since our bodies don't make the vitamin naturally (so we must get it from food). Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from the plant-based foods you eat, makes collagen to help wounds heal, and bolsters your immune system to help protect you from disease.

"The cabbage family has been associated with having immune benefits, so it helps our cells attack invaders such as viruses," Smith said.

It's a Good Source of Fiber

If you want to get more fiber in your diet, cabbage can help. According to the USDA, two cups of raw cabbage pack nearly 5 grams of fiber. FYI: The recommended daily intake is 21 to 38 grams for older children, teenagers, and adults.

"Cabbage is a good source of fiber [and] fiber may help alleviate constipation, balance blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol levels and improve digestive health," Gans said.

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It Can Help Improve Bone Health

Cabbage contains a nutrient hugely important to both bone health and healthy blood clotting functions in the body: vitamin K, Gans explained. There are about 68 micrograms of vitamin K in just one cup of raw cabbage. For reference, the ODS recommends 120 micrograms each day for adult men and 90 micrograms per day for women.

While vitamin K deficiencies are rare, some people with certain medical conditions—such as cystic fibrosis, celiac disease, and ulcerative colitis—may be more at risk for inadequate levels of vitamin K. Too little of the vitamin can lead to reduced bone health, an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, and in rare circumstances, bleeding problems.

It's an Affordable, Low-Calorie Option

If you're looking to lose weight, one thing that can help immensely is replacing calorie-dense foods with ones that don't pack as much of a caloric punch—and cabbage is a great option for that. "Cabbage is very low in calories. One cup of cooked cabbage is only 34 calories, making it an excellent option for weight management," Gans said.

While lots of healthy, nutrient-packed foods can be on the pricier side, cabbage is a relatively inexpensive food.

It's Good for Your Heart

You might not immediately think of cabbage as a heart-healthy food, but you may want to add it to your diet if you're trying to be more conscious of the health of your ticker. "Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits, therefore recommended for those individuals who are at risk for heart disease," Gans said.

According to a 2021 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, older women (age 74 and up) who ate more cruciferous veggies—like cabbage, but also Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli—were 46% less likely to have something known as abdominal aortic calcification, which can be a predictor of future cardiovascular events. The study concluded that eating more cruciferous veggies can protect against that buildup of calcium and ultimately benefit heart health.

It May Help Fight Cancer

Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, contain compounds called glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing chemicals (they're responsible for the bitter taste lots of cruciferous veggies have).

During food prep, chewing, and digestion, those glucosinolates are then broken down into certain compounds that have been examined for their anti-cancer benefits. "The glucosinolate content in cabbage gives it its reputation as having anti-cancer benefits. [It] has been related to decreased risk for various types of cancer," Smith said.

That's good news, of course, but it doesn't necessarily mean that loading up on cabbage will entirely ward off cancer. Experts say much more research needs to be done on the cancer-fighting benefits of cruciferous veggies. But they're still a very healthy addition to any diet, so incorporating them into your meals is never a bad idea.

A Quick Review

Cabbage is not only affordable and low in calories, but it offers a variety of health benefits. It provides a good deal of vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin K, which means it may support your immune system, digestive health, and bone health. There's also some evidence that eating cabbage might help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

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  1. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin C.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Cabbage, raw.

  3. MedlinePlus. Fiber.

  4. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin K.

  5. United States Department of Agriculture. National Retail Report - Specialty Crops.

  6. Blekkenhorst LC, Sim M, Radavelli-Bagatini S, et al. Cruciferous vegetable intake is inversely associated with extensive abdominal aortic calcification in elderly women: a cross-sectional study. Br J Nutr. 2021;125(3):337-345. doi:10.1017/S0007114520002706

  7. National Cancer Institute. Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention.

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