The cabbage that we know today is very different from its Mediterranean ancestors, which look similar to kale and collard that do not form a head. Napa cabbage belongs to the Brassica family, which includes broccoli, radish, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Napa Cabbage also known as Chinese cabbage is an annual, cool season vegetable. The plant grows to an oblong shaped head consisting of tightly arranged crinkly, thick, light-green leaves with white prominent veins. The interior leaves and the heart are yellow to ivory colored. The ribs and stem ends are much thinner than the regular green cabbage. The water content is also higher, creating a crisper and more refreshing texture. Its flavor is sweet, crunchy, and celery flavored leaf and has slightly milder and a little sweeter taste.
Cabbage is best prepared as close to raw as possible to help preserve its nutrients. Coleslaw may be the most familiar cabbage preparation in American cuisine. This vegetable is also revered worldwide for the flavor and texture it lends to many kinds of hot soup.
Apart from their slightly milder and a little sweeter taste, Napa cabbage is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Consuming i cup of of Napa cabbage offers 47 µg of Vitamin B9, 0.105 mg of Copper, 0.81 mg of Iron, 0.221 mg of Manganese, 3.5 mg of Vitamin C, 32 mg of Calcium, 0.508 mg of Vitamin B3 and 0.04 mg of Vitamin B6.
In addition, cabbage is high in fiber and contains powerful antioxidants, including polyphenols and sulfur compounds.
Cabbage is especially high in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that may protect against heart disease, certain cancers and vision loss. Vitamin C is an important nutrient for your brain health, immune system, blood pressure and mitochondrial function. Vitamin C may also help reduce the risk for obesity by regulating your inflammatory response and inhibiting glucose metabolism.
Just like other cruciferous vegetables, cabbage also contains these powerful antioxidants:
- Choline — This nutrient may help improve memory, reduce the risk of neural tube defects in babies and lower inflammation.
- Beta-carotene — One study shows that beta-carotene may help reduce damage in lymphocyte DNA caused by smoking cigarettes.
- Lutein — The European Journal of Nutrition notes that lutein may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration by reducing light and oxygen damage and ameliorating age-related cell and tissue deterioration in the eyes.
- Quercetin — This flavonoid may help fight bacteria, particularly strains resistant to antibiotics.
Cabbage is also rich in vitamin K, which is important not only for promoting bone health but also for lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by limiting neuronal damage in the brain.
Cabbage is also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is crucial for a healthy digestive system. Dietary fiber passes through your digestive system mostly intact. As a result, it bulks and softens your stool, helping facilitate regular bowel movements.
Other nutrients in cabbage include vitamin B6, folate, manganese, thiamin (vitamin B1) and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), as well as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and potassium.
An animal study published in the journal Arquivos de Gastroenterologia found that cabbage may be effective in managing stomach ulcers due to its phytonutrient content. The researchers concluded that the aqueous extract of cabbage may be just as efficient as commercialized drugs when it comes to managing ulcers, but it acts “in a non-harmful manner and, to the contrary, providing adequate conditions for the tissue recuperation.”
Cabbage also contains indole-3-carbinol, a plant hormone that may help slow the growth of cancer cells. In fact, regular consumption of cabbage has been shown to help lower the risk of stomach cancer.
How to Buy
Pick a heavy cabbage with bright white ribs and crisp leaves. Avoid ones that look limp and tired.
How to Store
Store Napa cabbage whole wrapped in a tea towel in the refrigerator for up to a week. To prepare the entire head at once, cut it in half lengthwise, remove the core, and chop as desired. Or, separate and wash individual leaves as needed.
How to Cook
- Sweet, crunchy, tasty napa cabbage can be eaten raw, added to salads, sandwiches, and burgers.
- Napa cabbage can be used to prepare coleslaw.
- Napa cabbage is an ingredient in kimchi.
- Shredded Napa cabbage is steam cooked with rice wrapped inside plantain leaves and served with stews in Thailand and other East Asian countries.
- It is used like cabbage in stir fries with added onion, garlic, bell pepper and green chilies mixed with steamed rice and soy/chili/tomato sauce to prepare fried rice, rice noodles, chowmein…etc. in China and other East Asian region.
- Both bok choy and Napa are vegetables used generously in modern-day stir fries, soups, stuffing…etc.