Cabbage, the humble vegetable is quite popular around the world due to its versatility that makes its way into cooked dishes, salads and coleslaws. It adds a different flavour and texture to a variety of dishes. But apart from the taste that it offers, cabbage is touted as one of those veggies that can help prevent chronic diseases including cancer.
Cabbage belongs to the Brassica genus of plants. They are an excellent source of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, magnesium, manganese and several carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene) .
Cabbage has an array of health benefits such as lowering blood pressure, improving digestion, reducing inflammation, keeping the heart healthy, strengthening the immune system, preventing cancer, and so on. This cruciferous vegetable contains a group of substances known as glucosinolates which are sulfur-containing compounds. They are broken down in the body to form biologically active compounds like isothiocyanates, indoles, nitriles and thiocyanates that are known to exhibit anti-cancer effects .
According to studies, indoles and isothiocyanates have been found to stop the development of various types of cancer including bladder, colon, breast, liver, lung and stomach cancer , . Research studies have shown that cabbage contains sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing compound that has the potent ability to inhibit a dangerous enzyme called histone deacetylase (HDAC). This enzyme is responsible for the progression of cancer cells .
As per another study, red cabbage possesses a powerful antioxidant called anthocyanin, (a compound that gives fruits and vegetables their colours) which has been shown to slow down the multiplying of cancerous cells . A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition showed that cabbage juice can help prevent the development of breast cancer cells . Consuming cruciferous vegetables during the adolescent period has been linked to a 72 per cent reduced risk of breast cancer .
Cabbage may help slow down the growth of prostate cancer cells and reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. Sulforaphane activates a tumour suppressing enzyme called phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN). This enzyme has been found to terminate tumours . Another study also found that cruciferous vegetables such as kale, cabbage and broccoli can prevent the risk of colon cancer due to the presence of sulforaphane .
Cabbage may also protect against lung cancer due to the presence of isothiocyanates and carotenoids, according to a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute .