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Health Benefits of Red Cabbage

The health benefits of red cabbage are no secret. In ancient times, Greeks and Egyptians used cabbage extract as a remedy for treating digestion problems, mushroom poisoning and reducing wine intoxication while in this age, experts have proven how consumption of red cabbage is associated with several health benefits.

Red cabbage is filled with nutritional richness which doesn’t only add taste and flavor to our meals but also help us stay healthy. Red cabbage is enriched with minerals, vitamins and other phytochemicals. In addition, red cabbage is a rich source of dietary fiber which help in improving digestion and preventing constipation and other gastrointestinal diseases.

Red Cabbage as a Rich Source of Vitamins

Vitamin A: Red cabbage is loaded with vitamin A which is absorbed in the body in the forms of lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. Vitamin A is particularly crucial for the maintenance of optimal eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin help the eye by functioning as antioxidants, protecting the retina and preventing macular-degeneration. Moreover, beta-carotene is converted into retinol which helps in light detection and conversion into nerve impulses.

Vitamin C: The vitamin C content of red cabbage is also high which gives it anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties [1]. It fulfills the body’s requirement of vitamin C which is needed for synthesis of collagen. Collagen synthesis is essential for the formation of connective tissues and to strengthen skin, muscles and bones. Collagen is also a core requirement for speedy wound healing. Furthermore, the role of vitamin C is also crucial in the strengthening of the immune system by triggering the synthesis of white blood cells that fight different bacterial and viral infections.

Vitamin K: This vitamin in the red cabbage helps in the regulation of blood clotting and bone mineralization (which is vital for bone strength). A study published in the journal Nutrition mentions that consuming optimal amounts of vitamin K foods and supplements help in improving bone density and reducing incidence rates of fractures in patients who suffer from osteoporosis. This further signifies the crucial role of red cabbage for maintaining good bone health. [2]

Red Cabbage as a Rich Source of Flavonoids

What sets red cabbage apart from other cruciferous vegetables is the presence of the color pigments which further adds to the health benefits of this vegetable.

Generally known as flavonoids, these color pigments are of several types with each carrying different health benefits. The flavonoids which are specifically present in red cabbage are known as anthocyanins. According to the experts at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service, 36 types of anthocyanins are present in red cabbage, including the recently identified eight types of anthocyanins which were not previously detected in cabbage. [3] Anthocyanins’ benefits include improved heart health, prevention of cancers and better brain function.

Studies show the health benefits of these flavonoids continue to multiply for improving human health. Owing to their antioxidant effects, the color pigments present in red cabbage reduce oxidative stress in the body by counteracting health deteriorating effects of free radicals present in the system. Thereby, regularly consuming red cabbage helps in reducing disease risks which primarily result from increased oxidative stress. The deleterious effects of these free radicals cause significant cellular damage which disrupts the functioning of several regulatory pathways, subsequently giving rise to several degenerative diseases including autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative diseases, arthritis, cardiac diseases and cancers. With increased amounts free radicals in the body, the process of aging also speeds up.

These harmful effects can be significantly reduced by consuming red cabbage which contain ample supplies of antioxidants. These antioxidants work as ‘free radical’ scavengers’ to help repair the damage caused in the body.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science (IJBS), free radicals cause damage to the cell membranes, DNA molecules, lipids, proteins and lipoproteins which reside in the human body. [4] They tend to increase the risk of cancers by causing damage in DNA and by activating oncogenes. In this context, free radicals particularly cause hydrolysis of DNA bases which is considered as a crucial hallmark of ‘chemical carcinogenesis. The normal growth of cells is disrupted as a result of genetic mutation and altered cell replication process.

The oxidative stress in the neural cells also leads to the production of β-amyloid molecules which are the hallmark of dementia. In addition to this, oxidative stress in the brain cells also increase the risk of depression, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and cognitive impairment.

The inflammation in the respiratory tract due to oxidative stress leads to pulmonary conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis due to oxidative stress leads to chronic inflammation in joints.

A study published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Sciences and Nutrition found that anthocyanin exhibits several health benefits by regulating many cell signaling pathways which control cell proliferation, cell cycles, protein synthesis, programmed cell death and biochemical metabolism. [5]

Cancer Prevention: Eating anthocyanin-rich foods such as red cabbage can inhibit the initiation and progression of several cancer types such as colon cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer, intestinal cancer and leukemia.

Prevention of Obesity and Diabetes: Studies have shown that eating foods with high concentrations of anthocyanin lead to reduced concentrations of obesity and diabetes biomarker, C-reactive protein (CRP). It also reduces liver and serum lipid profiles, improves liver function and regulates glucose metabolism to prevent weight gain and risks of diabetes.

Cognitive function improvement: Eating red cabbage can improve cognitive functions by improving memory and motor skills and preventing neurodegenerative diseases. These diseases are primarily caused by the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells which can be prevented by anthocyanin present in red cabbage.

Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: As red cabbage is rich with anthocyanin, it helps in regulation of plasma lipid levels and the metabolism of lipoproteins that in turn help in reducing plaque buildup in arteries and risk of atherosclerosis.

Therefore, it is important to include red cabbage in your meals in the form of salads or soups to stay healthy.

REFERENCE LIST

  1. Antioxidant properties of raw and processed cabbages: International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition: Vol 55, No 3. (2017). com. Retrieved 2 March 2017, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09637480410001725148
  2. com. Retrieved 2 March 2017, from http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(01)00709-2/abstract
  3. When It Comes to Red Cabbage, More Is Better : USDA ARS. (2017). usda.gov. Retrieved 2 March 2017, from https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2008/when-it-comes-to-red-cabbage-more-is-better/
  4. Free Radicals, Antioxidants in Diseases and Health: International Journal of Biomedical Science (2017). Retrieved 2 March 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614697/pdf/IJBS-4-89.pdf
  5. Health benefits of anthocyanins and molecular mechanisms: Update from recent decade: Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: Vol 57, No 8. (2017). com. Retrieved 2 March 2017, from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2015.1030064
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