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8 Impressive Benefits of Purple Cabbage

Health + Wellness
Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

Purple cabbage, also referred to as red cabbage, belongs to the Brassica group of plants. This group includes nutrient-dense vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale.


It tastes similar to green cabbage. However, the purple variety is richer in beneficial plant compounds that have been linked to health benefits, such as stronger bones and a healthier heart.

Purple cabbage is also thought to lower inflammation and protect against certain types of cancers. Moreover, it's an incredibly versatile vegetable that can be enjoyed raw, cooked, or fermented and added to a variety of dishes.

Here are 8 impressive health benefits of purple cabbage, all backed by science.

1. Rich in Nutrients

Despite being low in calories, purple cabbage contains an impressive amount of nutrients.

One cup (89 grams) of chopped, raw, purple cabbage contains the following nutrients (1):

  • Calories: 28
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Vitamin C: 56% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin K: 28% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 11% of the DV
  • Vitamin A: 6% of the DV
  • Potassium: 5% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 5% of the DV
  • Riboflavin: 5% of the DV

Purple cabbage also provides small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc.

Summary

Purple cabbage is low in calories yet a good source of fiber and vitamins A, C, K, and B6. It also contains small amounts of other vitamins and minerals.

2. Boasts Powerful Plant Compounds

Purple cabbage is a great source of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds that help protect against cellular damage.

Its antioxidants include vitamin C, carotenoids, and flavonoid antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and kaempferol. In fact, it often contains higher amounts of these than green cabbage (2).

For instance, research suggests that the antioxidant levels in purple cabbage are around 4.5 times higher than those found in green cabbage varieties (1, 3, 4Trusted Source).

What's more, purple cabbage is one of the foods that offers the highest levels of antioxidants per unit cost (4Trusted Source).

It's also a good source of sulforaphane, a sulfur-rich compound linked to powerful heart health benefits and cancer-fighting properties (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Summary

Purple cabbage is a great source of beneficial plant compounds and offers one of the highest amounts of health-promoting antioxidants per unit cost.

3. Helps Fight Inflammation

Purple cabbage may help fight inflammation, which is thought to contribute to many diseases.

One test-tube study using an artificial model of the human gut found that certain varieties of purple cabbage reduced markers of gut inflammation by 22–40% (7Trusted Source).

Animal studies report that sulforaphane, the beneficial sulfur compound found in many cruciferous vegetables, may be to thank for its anti-inflammatory effects (8Trusted Source).

Interestingly, applying cabbage leaves to the skin also appears to reduce inflammation.

For instance, adults with arthritis who wrapped their knees in cabbage leaves once a day reported feeling significantly less pain by the end of the four-week study period. However, the cabbage wraps reduced pain less effectively than a topical pain gel (9Trusted Source).

Moreover, cabbage leaves appear to reduce breast pain, swelling, and inflammation due to increased milk supply and blood flow during the early postpartum period (10Trusted Source).

Summary

Purple cabbage may help fight inflammation and reduce accompanying symptoms, such as pain, swelling, and discomfort.

4. May Promote Heart Health

Purple cabbage may also benefit your heart.

This may be due to its content of anthocyanins, which are flavonoid antioxidants that give purple cabbage its characteristic color (11Trusted Source).

One large study found that women who regularly eat large amounts of anthocyanin-rich foods may benefit from an 11–32% lower risk of heart attacks, compared with those who eat fewer of these foods (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

Higher anthocyanin intakes may also be linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).

Purple cabbage contains more than 36 types of anthocyanins, making it an excellent source of this heart-healthy compound (16Trusted Source).

Summary

Purple cabbage is a rich source of anthocyanins, which are beneficial plant compounds that may reduce your risk of heart disease.

5. May Strengthen Your Bones

Purple cabbage contains several bone-benefiting nutrients, including vitamins C and K, as well as smaller amounts of calcium, manganese, and zinc (17Trusted Source).

For instance, 1 cup (89 grams) of raw purple cabbage contains around 56% of the DV for vitamin C, which plays a role in bone formation and helps protect your bone cells from damage (1, 18Trusted Source).

Purple cabbage is also rich in vitamin K1, offering a little over a quarter of the DV per cup (89 grams) (1).

Vitamin K1 is mostly found in plant foods, such as leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables. This distinguishes it from vitamin K2, which is found in animal products and fermented foods.

There's evidence that both forms of vitamin K play a role in maintaining strong and healthy bones, although more research is needed to pinpoint the specific effects of each (19).

Summary

Purple cabbage is rich in vitamins C and K1, both of which are essential for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Purple cabbage also contains smaller amounts of bone-benefitting nutrients, such as calcium, manganese, and zinc.

6. May Protect Against Certain Cancers

Purple cabbage may help protect against certain types of cancers, though more research in humans is needed.

Experts believe this may be because it contains sulforaphane and anthocyanins — two compounds researched for their cancer-fighting properties.

Research links high intakes of cruciferous vegetables, including cabbage, to an 18% lower risk of colon cancer. Diets rich in cruciferous vegetables have also been linked to a lower risk of breast cancer (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).

Moreover, there's evidence to suggest that the sulforaphane found in purple cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables may help kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing and spreading (22Trusted Source).

Cell and animal studies suggest that anthocyanins may have similar anti-cancer effects. Anthocyanins are found in red, purple, and blue-colored fruits and vegetables, including purple cabbage (23Trusted Source).

However, more human research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.

Summary

Purple cabbage contains beneficial compounds, such as sulforaphane and anthocyanins, which may help protect your body against certain types of cancers. However, more research is needed to investigate these effects.

7. May Enhance Gut Health

Purple cabbage may improve the function of your gut.

There's evidence that cabbage may lower inflammation in the gut and reduce intestinal mucositis — a condition in which lesions develop in the gut, often as a side effect of cancer treatment (7Trusted Source, 24, 25).

Cabbage is also a good source of fiber, which keeps your gut healthy and helps it digest foods more easily.

Insoluble fiber makes up around 70% of the fiber in cabbage. It adds bulk to stools and helps food move through your gut more easily, reducing the risk of constipation (26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).

The remaining 30% is soluble fiber, which provides food for the beneficial bacteria living in your gut. In turn, these friendly bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), such as acetate, butyrate, and propionate, which feed the cells of your gut (28Trusted Source).

Research shows that SCFAs may also reduce inflammation and other symptoms of gut disorders, such as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and ulcerative colitis (28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source).

There's also some evidence that drinking around 1 quart (946 ml) of cabbage juice per day may help heal gut ulcers in 7–10 days. However, the studies showing this are outdated, so more recent studies are needed to investigate this effect (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).

Summary

Purple cabbage may help boost your gut health by reducing inflammation, preventing gut lesions, and treating ulcers. However, more research is needed to investigate these effects.

8. Easy to Add to Your Diet

Purple cabbage is an incredibly versatile vegetable. You can eat it raw or cooked, and it works well added to a variety of dishes.

For instance, it can be steamed and used to make dumpling fillings, or braised with red wine, vinegar, apples, carrots, and beets for a flavorful side dish.

Purple cabbage can also be roasted or sautéed with meats or beans, or it can be shredded and used as a nutrient-rich garnish for soups, salads, and warm dishes.

It also offers an antioxidant-rich and visually appealing alternative to green cabbage in coleslaw or sauerkraut, or it can be fermented to make kimchi.

Summary

Purple cabbage is a simple and tasty addition to many dishes. It can be eaten raw, cooked, or fermented, which adds to its versatility.

The Bottom Line

Purple cabbage is a nutrient-rich vegetable linked to a variety of health benefits.

These include reduced inflammation, a healthier heart, stronger bones, improved gut function, and perhaps even a lower risk of certain cancers.

This vegetable is also incredibly versatile and one of the most cost-efficient ways to add beneficial antioxidants to your diet.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.

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Sherry H-Y. Chou is an Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Neurology, and Neurosurgery, University of Pittsburgh.

Aarti Sarwal is an Associate Professor, Neurology, Wake Forest University.

Neha S. Dangayach is an Assistant Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Disclosure statement: Sherry H-Y. Chou receives funding from The University of Pittsburgh Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the National Institute of Health, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Dean's Faculty Advancement Award. Sherry H-Y. Chou is a member of Board of Directors for the Neurocritical Care Society. Neha S. Dangayach receives funding from the Bee Foundation, the Friedman Brain Institute, the Neurocritical Care Society, InCHIP-UConn Center for mHealth and Social Media Seed Grant. She is faculty for emcrit.org and for AiSinai. Aarti Sarwal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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