December 8, 2008
RECIPES FOR HEALTH
Cabbage, an Inexpensive Nutritional Powerhouse
By MARTHA ROSE SHULMAN
An article last month by Tara Parker-Pope about the challenges of
eating fresh food on a tight budget got me thinking about cabbage.
It is a very economical vegetable that is easy to find in any
supermarket and it gives you a huge nutritional bang for your buck.
This humble food has always been a mainstay for the poor and in cold
climates people of all classes have relied on it to feed themselves
through many a winter. (The vegetable is at its best during the fall
and winter months, when it is in season, and it stores well for
The family of vegetables that cabbage belongs to is called the
Cruciferae family or the Brassica family and related vegetables
include kale, broccoli, collards and Brussels sprouts. Johnny
Bowden, a nutritionist, calls cabbage "the most important
[vegetable] in the world from the point of view of nutritional
benefits and cancer-fighting ability." Cabbage possesses
phytochemicals including sulforaphane, which studies suggest
protects the body against cancer-causing free radicals, and indoles,
which help metabolize estrogens. It's also an excellent source of
vitamins K and C, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin
B6, folate, manganese and Omega 3 fatty acids.
The sulfuric compounds in cruciferous vegetables are the source of
many of their nutritional attributes, but they also lead to bad
smells if the vegetables are overcooked. When it's cooked properly,
cabbage develops a sweet, fragrant flavor and aroma.
Stewed Lentils with Cabbage
This humble and hearty combination makes a satisfying main dish,
especially on a cold night. Lentils are an excellent source of
folate and molybdenum and a very good source of dietary fiber,
protein and manganese. Any type of lentil will work in this recipe.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, half of it chopped, half sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound lentils (brown, green, or beluga), rinsed and picked over
3 1/2 cups water (more as needed)
1 dried red chile
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
6 ounces waxy potatoes, scrubbed and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
1 1/2 pounds green cabbage (1 medium head), cored and cut crosswise
in 3/4-inch wide ribbons
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Freshly grated Parmesan for serving (optional)
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan or
casserole over medium heat. Add the chopped half of the onion and
cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 2 of the
garlic cloves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a
minute. Add the lentils, water, chile, and bay leaf, and bring to a
simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer over low heat for 15
minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the potatoes and continue to simmer
gently for 30 minutes, until the lentils and potatoes are tender.
Add more salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
2. While the lentils are simmering, cook the cabbage with the
remaining onion and garlic in a wide lidded skillet. Heat the
remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the
sliced onion. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the garlic and stir together until the
garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the cabbage and turn the
heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring, until the cabbage begins to
wilt. Add 1/4 cup water, turn the heat down to medium, cover and
simmer 10 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender and sweet,
stirring from time to time. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to
3. Spread the cabbage over the bottom of the pan in an even layer.
Top with the lentils and potatoes. Sprinkle on the parsley, and
serve in wide soup bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan if desired.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
Advance preparation: You can make this dish up to a day ahead and
reheat on top of the stove.
Approximate Nutritional Information per Serving (based on 4
servings): 346 calories; total fat: 7.6g; saturated fat: 1.1g;
cholesterol: 0mg; sodium: 39mg; total carbohydrates: 54.0g; dietary
fiber: 23.1g; sugars: 8.3g; protein: 18.0g; vitamin A: 5%
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) based on a 2,000 calorie diet;
vitamin C 129% RDA; calcium 12% ; iron 30%