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Volume 7 Issue 4
Jan/Feb 2002

Soothing My Soul Down Under

Circles of Light

Naturopathic Medicine

Extremely Versatile Cabbage


Extremely Versatile Cabbage
author photoby Paulette Millis

Cabbage is one of the most ancient of the more common vegetables. It has been in circulation for more than 4000 years. Centuries of cultivation have produced other forms of this brassica family: kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.

Cabbage comes in several varieties: red, green or white, with smooth or crinkled leaves, a round, oblong or conical head. Most of us buy this conical shape called Wakefield cabbage.

Most parts of the world grow and eat cabbage. Any soil or climate will produce this hardy vegetable in as little as 3 months growing time, and cabbage yields a greater amount of green vegetable per acre or plot than any other plant.

For centuries Germans have been pickling cabbage to make sauerkraut; pickling being a basic method of food preservation before modern technology. Our fondness for sauerkraut began when German settlers brought it with them from their homeland. Koreans also use a very powerful pickled cabbage dish called "kimchi."

Of course we cannot speak of cabbage without remembering that babies are found under cabbage leaves!


Cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and some vitamin B, minerals, calcium, and phosphorus. The green outer leaves have as much as 40% more calcium than the inner leaves. Cabbage is low in calories — 3 1/2 ounces raw = 24 calories and 3 1/2 ounces cooked and drained = 20 calories!

Cabbage is ideal roughage to aid digestion. It also contains sulfur and this and the roughage may cause intestinal distress for some people. Enzymes from the health food store may help this. Chinese cabbage has a high sodium content, lower sulfur content, and does not produce as much gas as red and white cabbage. Raw cabbage juice may be taken for vitamin C when citrus fruits are prohibited. Try combining the juice with celery or tomato juice for a milder taste.

If you are eating excessive amounts of raw cabbage you might NOT be getting the iodine you need, as there are elements in the cabbage that prevent proper utilization of iodine. This can throw off thyroid production in individuals with an existing low iodine intake. A kelp supplement could be helpful.

Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable and contains several phytochemicals:

Indoles–block cancer-causing substances before they can damage cells; • Phenolic acids–help resist cancer by inhibiting cell proliferation induced by carcinogens in target organs; inhibit platelet activity; decrease inflammation and act as anti-oxidants; • Sulforaphane–induce protective enzymes, suppress tumor growth. Studies of people who eat a diet high in cruciferous veggies show lower rates of cancer than those who don’t.

Cabbage contains choline which is used by the brain to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in memory function.

Cabbage is a good source of B-6, or pyridoxine, a vitamin responsible for a whole host of beneficial effects, from aid in digesting proteins and fats and alleviating nausea, to reducing muscle spasms. B-6 works as a natural diuretic and helps maintain a healthy immune system.

Raw cabbage contains vitamin U, reputed to play an important role in healing ulcers. Dr. Garnet Cheney, clinical professor at the University of California, found 4 to 5 days of drinking raw cabbage juice reduced most symptoms in his ulcer patients. Medical opinions vary on this.

On a lighter note, raw cabbage with vinegar has been recommended by some as a fine hangover cure!

Dr. Bernard Jensen tells us cabbage is effective in overcoming constipation and sauerkraut is even better! Try raw sauerkraut juice mixed with a little tomato juice for a good laxative. It is high in vitamin C and lactic acid.

Service women in the army in New Zealand insist on cabbage salads as cabbage is considered one of the best foods for keeping a clean, clear complexion.


Red or green cabbage is best when the heads are heavy for their size. Choose firm, compact heads free of rot and blemishes. White heads mean over-maturity. Refrigerate uncooked, unwashed and uncut cabbage in a plastic bag. Firm, hard cabbages will keep a week or more, soft ones a few days. Cooked, covered cabbage will keep 1 to 4 days. One pound of raw cabbage = 2 1/2 cups cooked or 3 servings. One pound of raw = 2 1/2 cups shredded raw or 4 servings. Cook cabbage soon after slicing to avoid loss of vitamin C. Do not overcook. Shredded cabbage cooks in 3 to 4 minutes in 1/2 inch of boiling water.

Cabbage is extremely versatile. Raw or cooked, use this healthy veggie often for salads, great winter or summer soups, casseroles or sauerkraut. Find several recipes you enjoy and use these in your menu regularly. I like to make several batches of the Cabbage Tomato Soup (below) for my freezer. On a busy day I add cooked beans (usually navy or lima) and serve with a salad and whole grain bread or crackers for a nutritionally complete meal.



Stock up the freezer with this hearty soup each fall!

  • 4 cups broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
  • 1 diced onion
  • 2 thinly sliced carrots
  • 1 28 oz. can tomatoes, chopped up
  • 1 cabbage, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • butter
  • optional: -cooked legumes (eg. lima, navy, garbanzo) chopped garlic cloves chopped green peppers

Place broth, onions, carrots, and tomatoes in a large pot and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, braise the cabbage in a large skillet in the butter for about five minutes over medium heat, coating evenly with the butter. Add to the soup mixture and simmer for 1-1/2 hours. Serve as is or add cooked beans and heat through. Whole grain bread, buns or crackers with this soup containing beans is a complete meal. This soup freezes well. To reheat use medium low heat being careful it doesn’t stick as it tends to be quite thick.


Easy, yummy, and freezes well!

  • 1 pound ground meat of choice — beef, turkey, chicken, wild meat
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
  • 14 ounces of canned tomatoes, crushed
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1 cup short grain brown rice, uncooked, washed and drained
  • 2 cups coarsely shredded cabbage
  • grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Saute meat, stirring to break up. Add onion, garlic and worcestershire sauce; cook until golden. Pour off all fat, stir in tomatoes, 1-1/2 cups of the tomato juice and the rice.

Place the cabbage in a large casserole. Pour meat mixture over cabbage and mix well. Cover and bake at 325 F for approximately 2 hours or until rice is tender. Check after 1 hour and add remainder of juice and a bit of water if necessary to keep casserole moist. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.


Quick and keeps well!

  • Finely chopped cabbage
  • Finely chopped kale (optional)
  • Finely chopped celery
  • 1 large grated carrot
  • 2 diced green onions
  • handful of raw sunflower seeds, raw or soaked overnight


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. tamari sauce or Brags vegetable seasoning
  • 1 tsp. liquid honey
  • dash of tabasco (optional)

Prepare vegetables and dressing separately. Add dressing to salad before serving.

Variation: for a creamy dressing: 1/2 cup healthy mayonnaise, 1/2 cup yogurt, pinch of curry or to taste, pinch of salt.


Easy to make!

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 5 cups of shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups of chopped tomatoes, peeled if desired
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion, or more if desired
  • 1 tsp. salt

Melt butter in large skillet. Stir in rest of ingredients. Cover, bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes, stirring often if necessary. Uncover and simmer a few minutes to reduce liquid. Serve.


4 — 6 servings

(This is a lighter dish than the usual creamed cabbage. You may add 1 cup cooked peas to the cabbage)

  • 1 medium cabbage about 2 pounds, trimmed and thinly shredded
  • boiling salted water
  • 2-4 tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup milk of your choice or light cream (try cashew milk for dairy free)
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • ground nutmeg to taste

Plunge the cabbage in a saucepan full of boiling salted water. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and press out excess moisture. Put the cabbage into a saucepan. Add the butter, depending on taste add milk or cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer covered over low heat stirring frequently for about 5 minutes or until the cabbage is heated through.


8 servings.

This soup can be made in advance and reheated.

  • 3 cups potatoes, chopped
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1 medium cabbage about 2 pounds, trimmed and chopped
  • 6 whole crushed peppercorns
  • 6 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. marjoram
  • 2 mashed garlic cloves
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 2 carrots quartered
  • 2 stalks celery sliced
  • 2 peeled turnips, chopped (optional)
  • 1-2 cups cook red or white beans
  • salt

Place all ingredients in a soup kettle and simmer for about 2 hours. Season to taste with salt. Serve with whole grain bread or crackers.

*taken from Nutrition, Cooking and Healing by Paulette Millis, RNC.

**adapted from The Unabridged Vegetable Cookbook by Nika Hazelton

References: Foods That Heal, Dr. Bernard Jensen; The Unabridged Vegetable Cookbook, Nika Hazelton; Anti-Aging Bible and The Vitamin Bible, Earl Mindell; Powerfood, Stephanie Beling, M.D.

The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.

Paulette Millis lives and works in Saskatoon as a nutritional consultant. Her cookbook, Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, is available in health food stores or by calling (306) 244-8890.


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