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Consider the cabbage: a nutritional powerhouse

Updated: Jan 31

Late fall and winter is the humble cabbage’s time to shine! You may have overlooked the pile of local cabbages, green and red, in the market, but this remarkable vegetable is packed with nutrition. Compare a local cabbage with other “fresh” veggies in the winter, which may have travelled for many days from distant places. The local cabbage is more nutrient-dense and less expensive. Cabbage is rich in polyphenols, which really support a healthy and diverse microbiome. In addition, these plant compounds have anti-inflammatory properties. An age-old but effective treatment to help heal stomach ulcers is to drink fresh cabbage juice, which is anti-inflammatory in the stomach. Cabbage contains sulfur-rich glucosinolates, which have antioxidant and anticancer properties. Compounds derived from cabbage and other members of the brassica family, like broccoli and cauliflower, are used in supplements to help break down estrogen and support breast and menstrual health. Red and purple cabbage contain 36 different anthocyanins, which are flavonoids that may reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Cabbage is affordable and versatile: you can eat it raw in salad or as a slaw. Try using cabbage leaves to replace bread or tortillas as a rollup if you want to reduce carbs in your diet. You can roast, steam, stir-fry, bake and even ferment cabbage, so it is endlessly adaptable.

Do you find eating cabbage makes you gassy? All vegetables in the brassica family contain raffinose, a natural plant sugar. Some gut bacteria can ferment this sugar, creating gas. The differences in our microbiomes explain why some people are more affected than others. Cooking the cabbage helps break this sugar down.

Here are two recipes we enjoy:

Roasted Cabbage: delicious with roast chicken or meat Take a whole green cabbage and remove any discoloured outer leaves. Cut the cabbage in half through the core. (Save one half for other recipes) Now cut half the cabbage into eight equal wedges. Put a splash of olive oil in a glass baking dish, or on a sheet tray, and lay your wedges on the pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add paprika, thyme or rosemary if desired. If you are roasting a chicken, it can go right on top of the cabbage! Your wedges will need about an hour in the oven at 350 degrees F to get tender and caramelized. Serve with another drizzle of olive oil or a dab of grass-fed butter. To jazz it up and make it spicy, drizzle a little hot honey over it, using a little chili oil or paste mixed into liquid honey. So easy and so tasty! Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls: faster and simpler! For this recipe you will need: 1 pound ground beef, lamb or turkey ½ cabbage, sliced thinly 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, diced 1 clove of garlic, minced 4 cups of frozen tomatoes, or 1-800ml can tomatoes including the juice ½-1 cup sauerkraut ½ cup brown rice, rinsed 1 tablespoon paprika Salt and pepper to taste Brown the ground meat in a large Dutch oven, or any heavy stew-pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook for five more minutes. Then add all the sliced cabbage and cook for another 10 minutes. Now add tomatoes, sauerkraut, rice and seasonings. Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat for two hours, stirring occasionally. If the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, add water to keep the mixture moist.

This recipe makes a big batch, freezes well and tastes wonderful when reheated.

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