Health Benefits of Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is a nutrient-rich, cruciferous, or Brassica vegetable that’s related to cauliflower and kale. It’s sometimes called purple cabbage since its leaves are a dark purple-reddish color. Red cabbage typically is a little smaller and denser than green cabbage, and has a more peppery taste.

This variety of cabbage gets its purple-reddish color from the flavonoid anthocyanin and the acidity level of the soil where it’s grown. Like most colorful vegetables, it’s highly nutritious, low in fat and calories, and has numerous health benefits.   

Health Benefits

Like other cruciferous vegetables, red cabbage contains various nutrients that your body needs. Research also suggests that diets high in cruciferous vegetables like red cabbage may help protect against some types of cancer. 

Red cabbage may also help with weight loss since it’s low in calories, has a high water content, and is a good source of dietary fiber and other nutrients such as antioxidants. These factors help you feel full without consuming too many calories, making red cabbage a healthy addition to your diet.  

In addition, red cabbage can provide other health benefits like:

Bone Health

Red cabbage contains a variety of nutrients that are important for bone health. While most people know that vitamin D and calcium are critical to their bone health, other nutrients essential to your bones include vitamin K and magnesium. 

Unfortunately, people who eat a typical American diet may not get the amount of these nutrients that they need. Red cabbage is a good source of vitamin K and provides small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and zinc, which can help build and maintain healthy bones.   

Digestive Health

Red cabbage is high in fiber, making it easier to digest foods and keep your digestive system healthy.

The high fiber content can keep food moving through your digestive system and reduce constipation. The soluble fiber in red cabbage can help the beneficial bacteria in your gut. It may help maintain a healthy balance of prebiotics in your digestive system, although more research is needed.

Fermented red cabbage may also help promote the balance of gut microbes and probiotics in your digestive system. This can help strengthen your intestines.

Heart Health

The anthocyanins in red cabbage may benefit your heart. Diets high in anthocyanins, like those found in red cabbage, are linked with lower blood pressure. They’re also linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Nutrition

Like all cabbage varieties, red cabbage is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, and is a low-calorie source of dietary fiber. Red cabbage is also high in antioxidants, especially anthocyanins. These nutrients in red cabbage help keep the body healthy and may help reduce the risk of health conditions such as cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease

Red cabbage also contains other vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin A
  • Folate
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin E
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamin

Nutrients per Serving

A one-cup (89g) serving of raw, chopped red cabbage contains:

  • Calories: 22
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0.1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Sugar: 2.8 grams
  • Vitamin K: 67.6 micrograms or 85% of the daily value
  • Vitamin C: 32.6 milligrams or 54% of the daily value
  • Folate: 38.3 micrograms or 10% of the daily value

Portion Sizes

Red cabbage is high in water and dietary fiber, which can help you feel full without consuming lots of calories. For this reason, it’s an excellent food to add to your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. It can be added to dishes like salads and coleslaw, used as a side dish, or the base ingredient of a main dish.

How to Prepare Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is easy to incorporate into your diet. This versatile vegetable can be added to soups, stews, salads, and coleslaw. It’s delicious raw, steamed, sauteed, and fermented. It retains the most nutrients when it’s eaten raw, but is still highly nutritious when cooked. The flavor also becomes a little more subdued as a result of the cooking process.

When selecting a red cabbage, be sure to pick one that’s heavy and firm. The outer leaves shouldn’t be too damaged, and the color should be vibrant or bright. When prepping your red cabbage, you’ll likely want to remove the first few outer leaves. Be sure to wash the red cabbage thoroughly. Many recipes will have you add vinegar or apple cider vinegar during the cooking process to help lock in the purple-reddish color. 

Here are some ways to use red cabbage in recipes:

  • Chop up raw red cabbage and add to salads or coleslaw
  • Lightly steam it and serve as an easy side dish
  • Add red cabbage to a potato hash to add additional color and nutrients
  • Steam red cabbage and add to dumpling fillings
  • Braise or simmer red cabbage with apples and spices for a delicious side dish
  • Add red cabbage to soups or stews 
  • Roast it with bacon
  • Ferment red cabbage to make kimchi or sauerkraut
  • Top tacos with a red cabbage slaw
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology: “Brassica vegetables and cancer prevention. Epidemiology and mechanisms”

Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics: “Review article: Prebiotics in the gastrointestinal tract”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Flavonoid intake and cardiovascular disease mortality: a prospective study in postmenopausal women”

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women”

Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School: “Fermented foods can add depth to your diet”

NIH National Cancer Institute: “Brassica vegetable”

NutritionData: “Cabbage, Raw Nutrition Facts & Calories”

The Open Orthopaedics Journal: “Essential nutrients for bone health and a review of the availability in the average North American diet”

World Journal of Gastroenterology: “Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: a meta analysis”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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