A member of the brassica family, descendants of wild mustard plant, cabbages have been a staple of our pop culture since a very popular toy fad in the 1980s. A little known fact about the famous cabbage is that they contain glucosinolate compounds, which recent research suggests may have beneficial properties for plants and humans.
The consumption of cabbage and other Brassica vegetables – such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale – has long been considered to contribute to a healthy diet. Studies[i],[ii]have found that some of those benefits may result from glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. The results from a group of studies looking at the health benefits of eating Brassica vegetables showed an association of eating more Brassica vegetables with reductions in risks of several types of cancer and a reduced risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack).
On the other hand, farmers have relied on Brassica crops – such as broccoli and cabbage – for their crop rotations, to help manage soil health and reduce disease pressure. The glucosinolate compounds contained in these crops may play a role in disease suppression. Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing compounds found naturally in Brassica species, such as broccoli and cabbage[iii]. When broken down by the enzyme myrosinase, also present
in Brassica plants, glucosinolates are converted into other compounds including isothiocyanates (ITCs). ITCs have been found to protect plants against some diseases and pests and to be useful in biofumigation when Brassica plants are incorporated into the soil as green manures.
Cabbages are one of the vegetables currently in season in Puerto Rico. Ready to incorporate more cabbage to your plate? Try this Chorizo-Stuffed Cabbage with Carrot and Tomato Sauce from the folks at Modern Farmer:
Impress your guests this holiday season with these flavorful cabbage bundles, stuffed with a spicy chorizo filling and braised in a sweet carrot tomato sauce.
[i]Traka, M. and Mithen, R. 2009. Glucosinolates, isothiocyanates and human health. Phytochem Rev 8: 269-282.
[ii]Johnson, I. 2002. Glucosinolates in the human diet. Bioavailability and implications for health. Phytochemistry Reviews 1: 183–188.
[iii]James, D., Devaraj, S., Bellur, P., Lakkanna, S., Vicini, J., and Boddupalli, S. 2012. Novel concepts of broccoli sulforaphanes and disease: Induction of phase II antioxidant and detoxification enzymes by enhanced-glucoraphanin broccoli. Nutrition Reviews 70 :654–665.