Low-Carb Cabbage Is Full of Healthy Nutrients

Going head-to-head red cabbage beats green cabbage every time

red cabbage
Red cabbage has many of the same benefits as regular cabbage, and more besides!. Photo: Karen Struthers

Red cabbage is a variety of cabbage with additional pigments which change color according to the acidity or alkalinity of the soil it is grown, or the acidity of the liquid cooking with it. Red cabbage has more nutritional value than green cabbage and is considered a low-carb food.

To retain its red color when you cook red cabbage, cook it with vinegar, lemon juice, or another acidic ingredient. If you do not, it will tend to turn blue.

Homemade pH indicators can be made with red cabbage juice.

Carbohydrate and Fiber Counts for Red Cabbage

One of the cheapest vegetables around, low-carb cabbage can be prepared many different ways: stuffed, with corned beef, as the star in cole slaw or sauteed. 

Preparation of red cabbageCarbs, fiber and calorie counts
½ cup of chopped raw red cabbage2 grams of net carbs, 1 gram of fiber, 14 calories
½ cup of shredded raw red cabbage2 grams of net carbs, 1 gram of fiber, 11 calories
½ cup of cooked shredded red cabbage3 grams of net carbs, 2 grams of fiber, 22 calories
1 small head of cabbage (4-inch diameter)30 grams of net carbs, 12 grams of fiber, 176 calories

Glycemic Index for Red Cabbage

The glycemic index of a food is an indicator of how much and how fast a food raises your blood sugar. As with most non-starchy vegetables, there is no scientific study of the glycemic index of red cabbage.

Estimated Glycemic Load of Red Cabbage

The glycemic load of a food is related to the glycemic index but takes serving size into account. A glycemic load of one is the equivalent of eating 1 gram of glucose. Since there is no scientific study on the glycemic index of red cabbage, the glycemic load is an estimate.

Estimated glycemic load of red cabbage
½ cup of chopped raw red cabbage: 1
½ cup of shredded raw red cabbage: 1
½ cup of shredded cooked red cabbage: 1
1 small head of cabbage (4-inch diameter): 15

Health Benefits of Red Cabbage

Red cabbage is a very good source of fiber. It is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, a very good source of vitamin A, and a good source of vitamin B6 and manganese.

Red cabbage has higher quantities of phytonutrients than green cabbage, particularly polyphenols including anthocyanins, which are responsible for the red color.  Also, red cabbage has double the iron than green cabbage.

Red cabbage has 10 times more vitamin A than green cabbage. Both types of cabbage contain vitamin A in the form of the carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that can also be converted into the vitamin A you need for vision and to keep your skin and immune system healthy. Lutein and zeaxanthin function as antioxidants in the eyes. According to research studies, lutein and zeaxanthin may help prevent early stage age-related macular degeneration from progressing to the late stage.

In addition, cabbage is one of the cruciferous vegetables, which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.

As few as 3 to 5 servings per week of these vegetables, which includes green cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens, can help protect from several types of cancer including prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancers. There is some evidence that this may be accomplished in part by activating certain enzymes in the liver which bind to carcinogens.

Sources:

Scripsema N, Hu D-N, Rosen R. Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and meso-Zeaxanthin in the Clinical Management of Eye Disease. J Ophthalmol. 2015

Leroux, MarcusFoster-Powell, Kaye, Holt, Susanna and Brand-Miller, Janette. "International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 76, No. 1, 5-56, (2002).

Steinkellner H, Rabot S, Freywald C, et al. Effects of cruciferous vegetables and their constituents on drug metabolizing enzymes involved in the bioactivation of DNA-reactive dietary carcinogens. Mutation research Sep 1;480-481:285-97 (2001)

Stoewsand GS. Bioactive organosulfur phytochemicals in Brassica oleracea vegetables-- a review. Food Chemical Toxicology. (6):537-43 (1995).

United States Department of Agriculture. "Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) of Selected Foods - 2007. November 2007

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.

Voorrips LE, Goldbohm RA, et al. Vegetable and fruit consumption and risks of colon and rectal cancer in a prospective cohort study: The Netherlands Cohort Study on Diet and Cancer. American Journal of Epidemiology. (11):1081-92 (2000).

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