Local Superfood Series Entry #2 - Cabbage

How incredible is it that cabbage can be harvested during every season of the year here in West Coast BC? Cabbages are of the Brassica family, also called a Cruciferous vegetable. They are impressively hardy plants and do quite well in cooler temperatures; even tolerating mild frost. This is the last and smallest cabbage from our summer garden; it is of the Deadon variety. I’m regretting not starting fall cabbages earlier in the summer but all is well because we should have some beautiful green January King cabbages ready to pick in the early New Year!

If you’re wondering why cabbage deserves to be considered a local superfood, there is a gamut of reasons why. Like I just mentioned cabbage is one many superfoods that fall under the Brassica family; alongside broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, kale, collards and cauliflower. The plants contain impressive amounts of sulfur-containing antioxidants called glucosinolates.

One of the breakdown chemicals of glucosinolates is called I-3-C or Indole-3-Carbinol. I-3-C is a potent detoxification and cancer-fighting agent, primarily detoxification of harmful estrogens in the body. Woman or man we are all exposed to too many synthetic and cancer-promoting estrogens from our food and our environment. When our bodies’ detoxification pathways aren’t working optimally and we overburden our livers with toxins, we become more likely to develop compromised immune systems, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases and in some cases cancer.

Eating these vegetables daily provides you with healthy fibrous carbohydrates and your daily dose of vitamins A, K, C, Potassium and many of your B-Vitamin’s. The red colour of this cabbage reflects its high concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, which are a form of protective antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients that when eaten often can have therapeutic benefits to human health.

You can’t talk about the health benefits of eating cruciferous vegetables without mentioning their effect on thyroid. Plants of the Brassica family, amongst many other common foods such as soybeans, peanuts, flax seeds and sweet potatoes contain a constituent called goitrogens. These molecules have the ability to disrupt the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone to active thyroid hormone by blocking the uptake of iodine in the thyroid gland.

Having said that, to aid in the digestion of the sulfur-rich fibrous vegetables I recommend lightly steaming or roasting 50% of the cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables you eat. Eating too much raw food can bog down the digestive system, some people just aren’t blessed with a strong digestive fire. When you lightly cook these vegetables it inactivates the goitrogens present in these foods and you still get all the nutritional benefit of eating them and you can rest assured knowing they aren’t slowing down your production of thyroid hormone.