According to ancient Roman healers, breast cancer could be cured by rubbing on pastes made from cabbage. Not long ago, modern scientists would have considered this practice as folklore, but now they are not so sure. Jon Michnovicz, president of the Foundation for Preventive Oncology in New York City says: “Studies have shown that if you make cabbage into a paste and rub it on the backs of laboratory animals, you can prevent the development of tumors. But the best way to absorb the healing properties of cabbage is to eat it, of course. Cabbage can fight off breast, lung, and prostate cancer. It also contains a wealth of nutrients that can protect you against heart disease, birth defects, digestive problems, and lowers the risk of cataracts. One study found that eating four servings of cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, per week, reduced the risk of dying from any cause by 26 percent. Cabbage, like other cruciferous vegetables, contains several compounds that can help prevent cancers, according to studies. Researchers reviewed almost 100 studies that showed the relationship between brassica vegetables, such as cabbage, and cancer. They found that in 70 percent of the studies cabbage consumption was related to a lower risk of cancer. Scientists found that there are two compounds in cabbage in that make it a cancer preventing food. The first one, indole-3-carbinol, or I3C, is especially effective against breast cancer, according to research. The compound act as an antiestrogen, which means that it removes harmful estrogens that have been linked to breast cancer. “There was no doubt that if we gave women pure I3C, it would work,” says Dr. Michnovicz. But for the average person, eating cabbage or another cruciferous vegetable, such as broccoli, would have the same effect. The second compound in cabbage, named sulforaphane, proved to protect against breast cancer, by inhibiting carcinogens and aid in DNA repair. Women in Poland eat three times as much cabbage as women in the United States – 30 pounds a year compared to 10 pounds in the US. Women in Poland also use to eat more raw cabbage, sauerkraut, and short-cooked cabbage as a side dish, instead of boiled or slow-cooked cabbage. Compounds in cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables are also protective against lung cancer. A study of Chinese women in Singapore, a city with a high level of air pollution, found that non- smokers who ate cruciferous vegetables reduced their risk of lung cancer by 30 percent. Smokers who ate cruciferous vegetables reduced their risk of lung cancer by 69 percent!
Cabbage also protect against prostate cancer. A study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle found that men who ate three or more servings of cruciferous vegetables each week lowered their risk of prostate cancer by 44 percent. Cabbage is a cook’s best friend. It’s versatile, inexpensive, readily available, and easy to prepare. The only thing is the unpleasant smell. But there is a remedy against it. Next time you want to cook cabbage, add a celery stalk or a whole English walnut (in the shell) to the pot. This will neutralize the smell. Or cook the cabbage quicker, stir-frying it in a wok or skillet, rather than boiling it for a long time. To preserve the beneficial compounds in cabbage, experts recommend eating cabbage raw. If you must cook your cabbage, steam it lightly, (5 minutes or less), to retain the phytonutrients and maximize their availability. Don’t microwave cabbage, because it decreases amount of sulforaphane. Don’t boil cabbage either. In one study, 90 percent of the glucosinolates were found in the cooking water. (Glucosinolates turn into isothiocyanates -one of which is sulforaphane.) Don’t buy halved or shredded cabbage, because it loses its vitamin C content quickly, when cut. When you get your cabbage home, place the whole head (in a plastic bag) in the fridge. To promote the production of the most glucosinolates, slice or chop cabbage and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cooking.
Antioxidant protection. You have read about antioxidants in presiding articles, like vitamin C and E and beta-carotene. They do an excellent job by protecting you and neutralizing free radicals, which damage healthy tissues throughout the body, causing heart disease, cancer, and other serious conditions. All cruciferous vegetables are loaded with these antioxidant compounds. Researchers found that half-cup of red cabbage contains more antioxidants than a cup of green tea, which has long been considered to be a super antioxidant source. Two cabbages, bok choy and savoy, are also excellent sources of beta-carotene, a nutrient that other cabbages don’t have in abundance. High blood levels of beta-carotene are related to less cases of heart attacks, certain types of cancer, and cataracts. These cabbages are also excellent sources of vitamin C, which has proved to boost immunity, as well as reduce blood pressure and heart disease. A half-cup serving of raw bok choy provides 16 milligrams of vitamin C, 27 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for this vitamin, while the same amount of raw savoy cabbage supplies 11 milligrams, or 18 percent of the DV. These same cabbages are also decent sources of the B vitamin folate. Half-cup of either of those providing about 35 milligrams, or 9 percent of the DV. Your body need folate for normal tissue growth. Studies have proved that folate also may protect against certain forms of cancer, including cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers, heart disease and birth defects. Research shows that women are at high risk for folate deficiency, especially if they take birth control pills.