Fall and winter are seasons of some powerhouse vegetables. One of those is a humble head of cabbage.
Cabbage is one of the cruciferous vegetables, just like broccoli, kale, collards and Brussels sprouts. And like the company it keeps, cabbage is rich in nutrients.
Its an excellent source of vitamins K and C and a good source of folate, manganese, fiber and other vitamins and minerals. Its very low in calories, but its packed with health-supporting phytochemicals.
Some of those phytochemicals include sulfuric compounds that lend cabbage its reputation for being a powerhouse in the olfactory sense, too. The smell of cabbage, in fact, remains to this day a trigger for me of memories of my grandmother, an immigrant who used to pickle cabbage in large stoneware crocks in her Wisconsin basement.
Fermented cabbage leaves, used whole, as my grandmother did to make stuffed cabbage rolls or chopped into sauerkraut, are old European ways to eat cabbage.
Different varieties of cabbage are eaten all over the world. Around here, were most familiar with eating cabbage raw in slaw. Raw is good; raw cabbage retains the most vitamin C content.
Steaming cabbage or cooking it quickly in a microwave also minimizes nutrient loss. But its good for you any way you prepare it.
Look for more ways to work cabbage into your diet. Search the Web for inspiration. A few ideas:
• Baked cabbage with lentils or sautéed with tomatoes and garbanzo beans;
• Cooked South Indian style with curry and yogurt;
• Cabbage soup made with garlic, onions, potatoes and white beans;
• Sauteed cabbage, carrots and onions;
• Braised red cabbage with apples;
• Cabbage au gratin or cooked as a side dish with olive oil and black pepper.
Ordinary green, red or purple cabbage keeps well for up to two weeks if its kept whole and wrapped in the refrigerator. Savoy cabbage, the yellow-green, crinkly variety, is more delicate and should be eaten within a week of buying it.
One last word about cabbage, because I know someone will bring it up.
There are over-the-counter products such as Beano that can help prevent gas. Try it and see if it works for you.
Or go for a walk.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.