Cabbage was never one of my favorite foods. Sauerkraut and Kimchi, both cabbage-based side dishes, were too sour for my palette, and raw cabbage made me a contender for a new source of natural energy. Then I studied Ayurveda and was introduced to how and when to eat cabbage. More importantly, I learned WHY cabbage should be a part of my diet, particularly during late winter and spring.
Stocked With Good Stuff
For starters, cabbage is a nutritional powerhouse. It is rich in antioxidant vitamins and a compound called indole-3-carbinol, Indole-3-carbinol is said to both inhibit and cleanse carcinogens.1 It is known to reduce the risk of lung, colon, breast, ovarian, stomach and bladder cancers. In addition, it is high in dietary fiber and low in calories. All in all, it makes for a great weight loss aid, supported by minerals like iron and sulphur that support the cleansing of the digestive system. Cabbage builds muscle, cleanses the blood and strengthens the eyes. In fact, it was used by the Greeks and Romans to relieve eye inflammation. It boosts the immune system, lowers serum cholesterol levels, and is a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, vitamins A and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, potassium, tryptophan, protein and magnesium. The juice of fresh raw cabbage has been proven to heal stomach ulcers and treat fungal infections.2
Different Strokes for Different Folks
In Ayurveda, cabbage is known to have dry, cold, clear and sweet qualities. This makes it better for Pittas and Kaphas, particularly during late winter and spring when our bodies are in need of cleansing. In its raw form, cabbage can be difficult to digest and strongly provoking to Vata. When fermented with vinegar, it can be very Pitta-vitiating. It is also goitrogenic, which means it can lower thyroid function in people who have hypothyroidism.
The good news is there are all sorts of cabbage and a variety of ways to prepare it. A member of the cruciferous (or brassica) family, the vegetable is closely related to broccoli, cauliflower, kale and turnips. Green, red, savoy, chinese (also called wombok or napa) and Bok Choy are some of the varieties available. Cooking cabbage breaks down the goitrogens, making it digestible for people with hypothyroid conditions in moderation. Cooked cabbage paired with vinegar and spices is manageable by most Vatas; quick steaming is the preferred method of cooking. For Pittas, who tend to have the strongest digestive fires, it is best consumed without vinegar. That said, eating raw cabbage at noon or in the middle of the day when our digestion is the strongest is a good practice for everyone.3
The Color Purple
No, we’re not talking about a Whoopi Goldberg movie. We’re talking about red cabbage, which is actually purple. Towards the end of the holiday season, the oranges of Thanksgiving give way to the deeper reds of mulled wine, dark brown gravies, and the purples found in red cabbage. Cravings for these darker colors represent your body’s natural desire to build rakta, the red part of your blood. Cabbage’s red color indicates its abundance of anticancer and antioxidant flavonoids. These phytonutrients increase the activity of the liver’s detox enzymes, prevent tumor growth, and scavenge free radicals. Interestingly, red cabbage has 6-8 times more Vitamin C than green cabbage, just when we need it most.
If you’re interested in giving this powerhouse vegetable a try, sample one of the following recipes!
Steamed Cabbage Salad (Pitta Churna herbs include organic coriander, organic fennel, organic cumin, organic sugarcane, organic cardamom, organic ginger, organic turmeric, organic cinnamon, himalayan salt)
Cabbage Soup (best for Vatas and Kaphas/worse for Pitta!)
Red Cabbage & Vinegar (best for Vata/worst for Pitta!)
Cabbage Soup with Corn, Lima Beans & Dill (better for Kapha and Vata/worse for Pitta!)
Potato Cabbage Subji (better for Pitta and Kapha/worse for Vata!)
Red Cabbage Salad (better for Kapha/worse for Vata and Pitta)
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.