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Cabbage and Cancer Treatment: Research, Benefit, Nutrition, and Side Effects


Cabbage is one of the cruciferous vegetables that have high nutrition for health. Cruciferous vegetables contain many nutrients such as vitamin C, E, and K, folate, fiber and some carotenes (beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin). Cruciferous vegetables are part of the Brassica genus, some examples include arugula, bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, cabbage, watercress, and wasabi. Cabbage has benefits for preventing cancer, reducing the risk of heart disease, and protecting the body against radiation. Cabbage has various types such as purple cabbage, green cabbage, and red cabbage. Several studies show the benefits of cabbage in the field of cancer prevention and cancer treatment. Cabbage can be cancer prevention because it has nutrients such as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, and glucosinolate.

The nutrition found in cabbage

Cabbage has various nutrients such as calories, carbohydrates, protein, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, folate, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B1, protein, iron, fiber, phosphorus, selenium, copper, and zinc. Cabbage also contains antioxidants choline, beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein, flavonoids, kaempferol, quercetin, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, and apigenin.

Red cabbage and purple cabbage have better nutrition than green cabbage. Purple cabbage has higher nutrition and is considered to reduce inflammation and protect against certain types of cancer. Purple cabbage also offers higher levels of antioxidants to help protect against cell damage and is also a good source of sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane is a sulfur-rich compound and is associated with cancer-fighting properties and provides heart health benefits. Purple cabbage also has vitamin C, carotenoids, flavanoid antioxidants such as anthocyanins and kaempferol up to 4.5 times higher than green cabbage.

How to Select and Store Cabbage

Choose cabbage that has shiny leaves, fresh, free from stains and bruises. Avoid buying cabbage that has been cut because halved cabbage often loses valuable vitamin C content.

Choose also cabbage that is free of contamination such as pesticides and heavy metals, certified organic cabbage will be better. Store cabbage in the refrigerator, if necessary cover the cabbage tightly with a plastic wrap to slow the degradation of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and carotenoids.

Cabbage and cancer treatment

Green leafy vegetables such as cabbage and others have long been known as a source of vitamins and minerals that help maintain heart health, intestinal health, and protect cells from damage. Of the various cabbage varieties grown throughout the world, red and purple cabbage varieties are an interesting ingredient in recent research.

Red and purple cabbage have antioxidant anthocyanins, specifically Cyanidins which are the focus of research. Anthocyanins in red cabbage are the main factor in providing cardiovascular protection.

Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables according to the American Institute for Cancer Research are among the list of foods that fight cancer. Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage contain phytochemicals, which are biologically active plant compounds. Phytochemicals in soy are called isoflavones, whereas in cabbage are referred to as glucosinolate.

Crucible vegetables contain chemicals that contain sulfur known as glucosinolate. This ingredient gives a spicy aroma and bitter taste from cruciferous vegetables. When the process of chewing and digestion, glucosinolate is broken down into biologically active compounds that are often studied for their anticancer effects such as indole, nitrite, thiocyanate, and isothiocyanate (1). Indole-3-Carbinol (an indole) and sulforaphane (an isothiocyanate).

Isothiocyanate compounds in cabbage can prevent various types of cancers such as bladder cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer. Isothiocyanate (I3C) compounds in cabbage made from glucobrassicin can be converted into the stomach under healthy acidic conditions into diindolylmethane (DIM) as a valuable cancer-preventing compound. The following are glucosinolate and isothiocyanate compounds present in cabbage for cancer prevention.

Glucosinolate Derived
glucoraphanin sulforaphane SFN
glucotropaeolin benzyl-isothiocyanate BITC
glucobrassicin indole-3-carbinol* I3C
sinigrin allyl-isothiocyanate AITC

The second glucosinolate found in cabbage, glucobrassisin can be converted into cancer-protective compounds namely indole 3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolylmethane (DIM). Indole-3- Carbinol compounds in cabbage and some other vegetables such as kale can prevent colon cancer. These chemicals are produced by the body when we digest cabbage, these chemicals are modified by stomach acid while continuing its journey through the digestive system and protect against inflammation in the intestine and from intestinal cancer.

The indole-3-carbinol compound changes the way cells behave in the intestinal lining to help ensure renewal in the intestinal lining remains controlled. The absence of this compound causes the stem cells in the intestine to be divided uncontrollably which in turn causes colon cancer.

Research shows this compound can protect mice from cancer even when mice start developing tumors. This compound also helps protect cells from DNA damage, helps deactivate carcinogens, has antiviral and antibacterial effects, has anti-inflammatory effects, induces cell death (apoptosis), inhibits tumor blood formation and tumor cell migration. All of these effects have different results when examined in humans.

Cabbage also has a 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM) compound proven in research at Georgetown University in mice that can make short-term survival longer when exposed to radiation. The research also shows hope for using it as a shield to protect healthy tissue during future cancer treatments. Mice treated with DIM have higher red blood cells and white blood cells which are often reduced by radiation therapy.

Cabbage also has sulforaphane and anthocyanin compounds that are believed to fight cancer. There is evidence to suggest that sulforaphane compounds in purple cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables can kill cancer cells or prevent them from growing and spreading.

Research on sulforaphane compounds to delay or inhibit various types of cancer such as prostate cancer, pancreas, esophagus, and melanoma is still at the molecular level. This research shows that sulforaphane has the power to inhibit the dangerous enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), which is known to be involved in the development of cancer cells. Therefore foods containing sulforaphane such as cabbage become a strong part of cancer treatment.

The anthocyanin compounds in red cabbage also in animal studies have anti-cancer effects. This compound belongs to the general category of polyphenols known as flavonoids. Anthocyanin compounds are powerful antioxidants that give color to fruits and vegetables. This compound is proven to slow the proliferation of cancer cells, kill cancer cells that have formed, and stop the formation of new tumor growth.

Antioxidants are needed by the body to metabolize oxygen and prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a risk factor for cancer development. In half a cup of red cabbage provides about 30 milligrams of red pigment polyphenols or anthocyanins. Until now there has not been much research on the use of anthocyanin compounds in humans for cancer prevention or cancer treatment.

Another compound found in cabbage that is also useful for cancer prevention is sinigrin. Sinigrin compound is a glucosinolate that contains sulfur and has been widely studied for cancer prevention. Sinigrin compounds in cabbage can be converted to allyl-isothiocyanate (AITC) which has shown unique cancer prevention properties in connection with bladder cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer.

Another chemical found in cabbage according to research at the University of Missouri is apigenin which is also found in cabbage, parsley, and celery. According to studies in mice, apigenin can reduce tumor size and has the potential to be used as a non-toxic treatment for cancer in the future.

Cabbage also contains fiber which can play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. Therefore cabbage can reduce the risk of inflammation-related conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Cabbage also has anti-inflammatory nutrients, lack of these nutrients can disrupt the regulation of the inflammatory system and can experience chronic inflammatory problems. The problem of chronic inflammation combined with oxidative stress causes chronic inflammation which is a risk factor for the development of cancer.

Several studies related the benefits of cabbage for cancer treatment

Some of the studies below more or less reveal the benefits of cabbage on cancer treatment and prevention that have been carried out by several studies around the world. Research into the risk of developing prostate cancer by consuming cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage has been carried out by cohort studies in the Netherlands, the United States, and Europe finding little or no correlation between daily cross-vegetable intake and prostate cancer risk. Whereas case-control studies at the University of Hawaii and the University of Toronto found a lower risk of prostate cancer in people who ate more cruciferous vegetables.

Other studies related to the consumption of cruciferous vegetables with colorectal cancer conducted in the Netherlands found a reduction in the risk of colon cancer in women who have a high intake of cruciferous vegetables. Whereas cohort studies in the United States and the Netherlands did not find an association between vegetables and the risk of colorectal cancer.

Several studies on the relationship of cross-linked vegetables with lung cancer have varied results and most have reported having a slight association. According to data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Follow-up Study consuming crossed vegetables can reduce the risk of lung cancer is lower.

Research on cross-linked vegetables with breast cancer also has varied results, some of which do not show an association between vegetable intake and breast cancer risk. Whereas one case-control study found that consuming cruciferous vegetables could lower the risk of developing breast cancer.

Other studies reveal the benefits of cruciferous vegetables for cancer treatment such as studies of indole-3-Carbinol which are more effective than placebo in reducing the growth of abnormal cells on the surface of the cervix. Some control studies also show an association between vegetable intake and risk of colorectal cancer.

Another benefit of cabbage

In addition to preventing cancer, cabbage is also useful to help fight inflammation such as intestinal inflammation. Cabbage contains sulfur compounds that have anti-inflammatory effects. You can apply cabbage leaves to the skin to reduce inflammation. Cabbage leaves are also used to relieve pain due to arthritis, which is by wrapping the knee once a day for 4 weeks. Cabbage leaves can also reduce inflammation, pain, and breast swelling due to increased milk supply and blood flow during the early postpartum period.

In addition to reducing inflammation in the intestine and reducing intestinal mucositis, cabbage is also beneficial for maintaining intestinal health because it is a good source of fiber. Cabbage has 70% insoluble fiber from all the fiber in cabbage, which helps food move more easily through your intestines and reduce constipation. The soluble fiber in cabbage is useful for providing food for beneficial bacteria that live in the intestine.

Cabbage is also useful for maintaining heart health because it contains several compounds such as anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are found in purple cabbage which is an antioxidant flavonoid that gives a distinctive color to purple cabbage and has been shown to suppress inflammation that can cause cardiovascular disease.

Purple cabbage has at least 36 types of anthocyanins, the higher the intake of anthocyanins is associated with the risk of low blood pressure and lower heart disease. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition links the intake of flavonoid-rich foods with a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Increased intake of red cabbage causes increased levels of beta-carotene, lutein, and total blood antioxidants in the blood. In addition, total cholesterol and total LDL oxidation were also found to decrease. Oxidized LDL is a risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis, so reducing oxidized LDL is a very important finding.

Purple cabbage also contains various nutrients that are useful for bones such as vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, manganese, and zinc. Vitamin K in purple cabbage is vitamin K1 which is also commonly found in plant foods such as leafy green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables. Vitamin K plays a role in maintaining healthy and strong bones. Purple cabbage is also rich in vitamin C, in 1 cup or 89 grams of purple cabbage contains 56% DV for vitamin C. Vitamin C plays a role in bone formation and helps protect bone cells from damage.

Side effects and safety cabbage

Consuming cabbage every day is safe for most people, and reports rarely occur as a result of cabbage consumption. Consuming cabbage is also safe for pregnant women and when applied to the skin for a short time while breastfeeding. Cabbage leaves can be applied to the breast to relieve swelling and pain due to breastfeeding.

Eating cabbage when breastfeeding is not recommended because there is some evidence that breastfeeding babies can experience colic if the mother eats cabbage. Eating cabbage is also not safe when someone has an allergy to vegetables from the Brassicaceae / Cruciferae family, such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussel and cauliflower. If you currently have allergies, you should consult a doctor first before consuming cabbage.

Patients with the underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) are also not advised to consume cabbage. Cabbage can worsen the underactive thyroid gland, so you should avoid it. Cabbage also has an effect on diabetics, cabbage can affect blood sugar levels in diabetics.

We recommend that diabetics always monitor blood sugar carefully when consuming cabbage. You are also advised to stop taking cabbage when you are going to undergo a surgical procedure. Cabbage can interfere with blood sugar control during and after surgical procedures.

How to cook cabbage so that nutrients are not reduced

The recommended cooking method for cooking cabbage is to boil fast and steam quickly. This cooking method includes cabbage cooking guidelines so that nutrients are not lost such as the minimum heat exposure required, the minimum cooking duration required, and the minimum surface contact of food needed with cooking liquid. Boiling or steaming the cabbage will make it runny so the taste is not optimal. You should slice the cabbage into 1/8 inch slices and leave it for 5 minutes to increase its health benefits before cooking.

DISCLAIMER is committed to providing information on natural and alternative health but is not written by health care professionals. All material provided at is for informational purposes only and is not to be taken as medical advice or recommendation. Any health concern or condition should be addressed by a doctor or other appropriate health care professional. The information and opinions found on this website are written based on the best data available at the time of writing and are believed to be accurate according to the best discernment of the authors. Those who do not seek council from the appropriate health care authority assume the liability of any injury which may occur. Additionally, the opinions expressed at do not represent the views of each author or contributor to The publisher of this site is not responsible for any errors or omissions in any content herein.



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