When it comes to fall and winter produce, we tend to gravitate towards colorful vegetables with earthy and rich flavors — pumpkins, squash, sweet potatoes, rainbow carrots, purple beets, and the like. While these favorites of ours are, without a doubt, loaded with many health benefits, other — less exciting — crops also have lots to offer.
That’s the case of the modest cabbage. This cruciferous vegetable is too often relegated to coleslaw and sauerkraut which is a shame if you ask us. Both dishes are amazing in their own right (don’t get us wrong!), but cabbage simply has the potential to be so much more. Not only is it one of the cheapest vegetables out there, it provides the most nutrients and antioxidants for your buck compared to other produce. It’s also incredibly tasty when you know how to prepare it.
Cabbage is in season right now, so it’s the perfect time to get familiar with this undervalued vegetable. Here’s an overview of the many types of cabbages you can find followed by their impressive health benefits:
1. Green Cabbage
The LEAF Project/Flickr
When we think of cabbage, this is the variety that usually comes to mind. Green cabbage is the main ingredient in our beloved slaws and it’s also the most commonly found type of cabbage year-round. You should pick heads that feel tightly packed and heavy for their size. When you prepare it, discard any wilted leaves on the outer lawyer. This type of cabbage can be eaten raw or cooked but be aware that it tastes sweeter the longer it cooks. Slice it thinly to incorporate it in salads or slaws or add it to soups, stir-fries, and stews. You can also use it to make cabbage rolls.
We recommend using green cabbage to make this Russian-Inspired Cabbage and Mushroom Rye Bread Sandwich, this Polish Cabbage and Potatoes dish, and this delicious Cabbage Kotfa.
2. Red Cabbage
Red cabbage is similar to green cabbage in terms of size and texture, but its dark-reddish purple leaves have a deeper, almost earthy flavor. You should choose a firm head that feels heavy relative to its weight. This type of cabbage goes great in salads and slaw to which it gives a beautiful pop of color. Be aware that red cabbage can turn blue once its cooked. Simply add an acidic component, like lemon juice, to your dish to mitigate the reaction.
Add some to your next leafy green salad or try making this Homemade Sauerkraut. You can also try this Rodkal: Danish Marinated Cabbage, this Tempeh a L’Orange With Red Cabbage and Potato Dumplings, and these Red Cabbage Sushi Burritos.
3. Savoy Cabbage
This cabbage, named after the Savoy region of France, is shaped like the common green cabbage but its leaves tend to be darker in color and deeply crinkled (which is part of its charm). Savoy cabbage should be picked when its head feels compact and heavy, although it naturally has a little more “give” because of its wrinkled leaves. They have a mild flavor compared to red and green cabbage and their leaves are also a lot more tender, even eaten raw.
Include Savoy cabbage in your diet by making this Spicy Cabbage Hotpot, these Wheat Berries and Mushroom-Filled Savoy Cabbage Boats, or these Cheesy Savoy Cabbage Chips.
4. Napa Cabbage
Napa cabbage, also called “Chinese cabbage”, is recognizable by its oblong shape and crisp stems. Its pale green to yellowish leaves have a pleasant, mild flavor and slightly sweet taste once cooked. This type of cabbage can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in stir-fries and Asian-inspired dishes. It’s also one of the main ingredients in kimchi, a famous fermented Korean side dish that boasts many benefits for your digestive system.
We recommend trying this Okonomiyaki, this Sesame Crunch Salad, and this Chinese Cabbage Salad With Tofu and Spicy Peanut Dressing.
These tiny cabbages may not be a kid’s favorite, but they’re actually a delight when you know how to prepare them. For best results pick Brussels sprouts that are free of dark spots and buy them on the stalk if available. When you’re ready to use them, simply trim the ends and discard any wilted or spotted outer leaves.
Not sure what you can do with Brussels sprouts? Check out these 5 Ways to Get Anyone to Love Brussels Sprouts and give this Brussels Sprouts Stir Fry, this Kimchi and Brussels Sprouts Stir-Fry, and this Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Grilled Pear Pizza a try! You can also check out these 15 Brussels Sprouts Recipes That Will Make Even Haters Fall in Love.
Now that you know a bit more about the different varieties of cabbages out there, it’s time you get acquainted with the amazing health benefits you can derive from consuming them on a regular basis.
Although cabbages are composed of 90 percent water, they contain many vitamins and minerals that are essential to the proper functioning of our bodies and our immune system. Cabbages are rich in vitamin C, B-vitamins, potassium, manganese, folate, copper, magnesium, selenium, iron, and fiber. Not only does including cabbages in your diet ensures you get your fill of nutrients, it can also protect you against many ailments and diseases. Here are a few of the benefits you can reap from adding cabbage into your meals:
Cabbages are a superfood when it comes to preventing and treating many different forms of cancer. That’s thanks to the glucosinolates they contain. These bioactive compounds are powerful antioxidants that act on cancer cells at different levels to inhibit their growth and eliminate them. This ability to reverse, suppress, and prevent tumors makes cabbage a chemopreventive food that you should definitely add to your diet.
Want to decrease your risk of getting bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer? Then have these Sweet Potato, Red Cabbage, and Kelp Noodles or this Roasted Purple Cabbage With Green Goddess Dressing for dinner tonight.
Not only is cabbage rich in fiber which helps “things move along” but it also contains special compounds that can help treat ulcers and other digestive issues. Isothiocyanates, a type of antioxidant derived from the glucosinolates found in cabbage, play an important role in the regulation of the bacteria in your digestive tract. They promote a healthy gut flora, which is essential to proper digestion. Fermented cabbages such as kimchi and sauerkraut are also beneficial in providing the optimal amount of healthy bacteria needed by your digestive system.
Cabbage contains anthocyanins which are antioxidants that have the power to decrease cholesterol, total low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and total oxidized LDL levels in our blood. High levels of these lipoproteins are related to an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis, or the build-up of plaque or cholesterol in the artery walls. Cabbage’s beneficial effect on our arteries also extends to preventing myocardial damage and reducing infarct (tissue death) size. How amazing is that?
All types of cabbages, from the plain old green to the beautiful red cabbage, contain massive amounts of antioxidants. The main ones being glucosinates, anthocyanins, polyphenols, and flavonoids. These bioactive compounds are all powerful free radicals scavengers. As you may know, free radicals are responsible for oxidative stress, the process during which inflammation appears. If you want to avoid the negative effects of oxidative stress in your body, which ranges from inflammation in your joints, aged skin, to a host of chronic diseases, then you should try to consume cabbage regularly.
Start by making these Stuffed Cabbage Rolls in Tomato Sauce and this Mushroom Stuffed Cabbage and Radicchio With Mustard Sauce for lunch or dinner and read on for more delicious inflammation-fighting cabbage filled recipe ideas.
When it comes to preparing cabbage, the options abound whether you like it raw or cooked. You can enjoy it in slaw like this Asian Slaw Salad with Miso Ginger Dressing, this Easy Sesame Brussels Sprouts Slaw, and this Kale, Purple Cabbage, and Carrot Slaw With Tangy Shallot or in salads like this Chinese Cabbage Salad With Tofu and Spicy Peanut Dressing and this Sesame Cabbage Salad With Coconut Crusted Tofu.
It also makes a great addition to soups. Try out this Purple Magic Soup, this Purple Veggie Borscht, and this Himalayan Noodle Soup. These soups are filled with healthy cabbage and will delight your taste buds!
You can include cabbage in curry dishes and stir-fries as well. We recommend giving this Savory Shiitake, Tofu, and Cabbage Stir-Fry, this Home-Style Andean Cabbage Curry, and this Butternut and Cabbage Mild Curry a try.
Cabbage leaves can also be stuffed to make a delicious and comforting fall meal like these Brown Rice and Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, this Polish Golabki: Stuffed Cabbage, and these Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.
Last but not least, we suggest taking a look at these 10 Ways to Give Cabbage a Try and Cook With It Tonight and these Global Ways to Cook With Cabbage. You can also check out how to Bring Out the Best in Cabbage With These 15 Recipes!
If you want to find more delicious fall-inspired cabbage recipes, you can also download our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: Lentil Stuffed Cabbage Rolls