Cabbage isn’t the most glamorous offering in the produce aisle, but this humble vegetable hides a wealth of important nutrients and disease-fighting superpowers. Studies show cabbage can help prevent cancer, reduce cholesterol, and heal ulcers.

Cabbage Patch — Why It’s Super

Brassica vegetables (the plant family that includes cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli, to name a few) are healthy eating power players! Cabbage in particular provides unique health benefits and comes in many varieties. Savoy, spring greens, green, red, and white cabbages are the most common types found in grocery stores. Cabbage is often considered a “health food” because of the infamous cabbage soup diet, a strict (and unsustainable!) plan where participants eat unlimited amounts of cabbage soup to lose as much as 10 to 15 pounds in a single week. Although cabbage may be good for weight loss because of its high water content, it has many other (more important) advantages, too. Here’s a quick look at its beneficial qualities:

Crunch Time — Your Action Plan

Red cabbage boasts more impressive health benefits than the green variety, so consider substituting more colorful bulbs for green cabbage in recipes. In general, vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables (think berries, dark greens, red peppers, carrots) are richer in antioxidants than paler produce. Take full advantage of this superfood by cooking it minimally or not at all. Heat breaks down the chemical compounds that give cabbage some of its nutritional superpowers, so get the most out of every bite by keeping the leaves crunchy. Subjecting cabbage to heat for long periods of time has been proven to break down glucosinolates. Try eating cabbage raw, steamed, or lightly sautéed instead to maximize health benefitsHydrolysis of glucosinolates to isothiocyanates after ingestion of raw or microwaved cabbage by human volunteers. Rouzaud G, Young SA, Duncan AJ. Macaulay Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2004 Jan; 13 (1): 125-31.. Cabbage is an economical winner, too. It’s inexpensive, stores well, and is available throughout the year from late summer through winter. The best bulbs are tightly packed, heavy, and vividly colored. A whole cabbage will keep in the refrigerator for one to two weeks, and five or six days when chopped. Although it may be tempting, don’t get too gung ho about including raw cabbage with every meal. Despite its nutritional advantages, too much cabbage can be a bad thing! Cabbage is a “goitrogen” that can lead to goiters — a condition where the thyroid gland becomes enlarged, often due to a hormonal imbalance or iodine deficiencyPsychological effects of cabbage with reference to its potential as a dietary cancer-inhibitor and its use in ancient medicine. Albert-Puleo M. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 1983 Dec; 9) 2-3):261-72.. A cabbage-heavy diet can contribute to the onset of goiters because cabbage inhibits the body’s ability to absorb iodine. (But don’t worry, this condition is pretty rare in developed countries, and it would take a lot of raw cabbage to start seeing negative effects.) Luckily, this drawback is largely neutralized when cabbage is cooked. Step away from the ‘slaw! Here are some fresh new cabbage recipes from around the web:

Breakfast: Red Berry, Cabbage and Almond Smoothie via The New York Times Breakfast: Braised Cabbage and Onion with Poached Egg via Culinate Lunch: Grilled Red and Green Cabbage Slaw via Epicurious Lunch: Asian Cabbage Salad via Sweet Peony Dinner: White Beans with Cabbage via The New York Times Dinner: Rice-Stuffed Cabbage via Martha Stewart What are your favorite ways to enjoy cabbage? Tell us in the comments below!