Is Cabbage Good For Diabetes?

Cabbage may seem like a simple vegetable, but it can make life easier for people with diabetes in numerous ways. Eating more cabbage and other vegetables with similar compositions can be more beneficial than you may realize. Here is an overview of how adding more cabbage to your diet can help you manage your diabetes, and we will also provide some helpful tips for getting started!

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Nutritional value of cabbage

Cabbage is low in calories and carbs and high in fiber. Cabbage can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes, but its high nutritional value makes it a healthy choice. This vegetable is loaded with nutrients, including vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, and folate, and it is also high in fiber.

Whatever your specific health situation is, getting plenty of these vitamins and other nutrients is an important part of any healthy diet.

 The nutritional value per 100 grams is:

Energy: 25 kcal

Protein: 1.28 grams

Total lipid (fat): 0.1 grams

Carbohydrate: 5.8 grams

  • Of which fiber: 2.5 grams

  • Natural sugar: 3.2 grams

  • Glycemic index: ranging from 0 to 15

  • Glycemic load: 1

How does cabbage help people with diabetes? 

Consuming cabbage can be beneficial for several reasons, some of which are specific to people with diabetes. Perhaps most notably, this vegetable can help you keep your blood sugar in check because it doesn’t cause the sharp, rapid spike in blood sugar levels that many other foods do, including some fruits, vegetables, and other generally healthy choices.

This is due to its exceptionally low GI (glycemic index) and GL (glycemic load). It also has several other benefits that can improve your overall health in areas that can be challenging for people with diabetes. These benefits help reduce your likelihood of developing certain other health conditions that you may be more susceptible to than the general population. 

Cabbage is a versatile vegetable that can fit into your diet in dozens of ways. This can be especially helpful for people with diabetes because it can provide more options for creating meals that are healthy, delicious, and safe to eat. This can be more satisfying for people that may struggle to find a wide enough variety of satisfying options. 

Health benefits of cabbage

Cabbage and other vegetables with similar compositions can have a wide variety of health benefits, especially when consumed raw. Many of these benefits are even more helpful for people with diabetes.

The majority of the antioxidants and nutrients abundant in cabbage can help keep your blood sugar under control, lower your risk of developing heart disease and certain types of cancers, and improve your overall health in several other ways. This is potentially due to its impact on oxidative stress and inflammation in the body.

Regulates blood sugar 

Cabbage is low in sugar compared to many other fruits and vegetables, and it also helps to regulate blood sugar in several ways. This vegetable is low in calories and packed with fiber. These two elements work together to keep your blood sugar levels at a more consistent level, as having food high in fiber helps slow down glucose absorption into the bloodstream.

Consequently, it is less likely to cause sugar spikes. 

Although all fruits and vegetables are generally considered healthy snacks and side options, some may contain high levels of natural sugar or starch that could cause rapid spikes in blood sugar.  Not only will cabbage not cause that, especially if consumed on its own, but it may also help to reduce your likelihood of experiencing blood sugar spikes related to other foods. 

Fights inflammation 

High levels of certain antioxidants found in cabbage can reduce chronic inflammation. Although not every type of inflammation is considered bad, inflammation that lingers for a significant amount of time (chronic inflammation) is frequently linked¹ to heart attacks, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and similar health conditions.

This can be even more beneficial for people with diabetes, as they are often at a higher risk for heart attacks and other health issues frequently linked to high levels of inflammation. 

Improves heart health 

Compounds called anthocyanins,² found in red cabbage, can lower your risk of developing heart disease and improve your overall heart health. These plant pigments, which also give cabbage it's distinct purple coloring, can directly and significantly help decrease your risk of a heart attack.

Studies have reported that average doses of anthocyanin interventions with patients clinically diagnosed with vascular diseases were associated with significant reductions in inflammatory status, ischemia, blood pressure, and lipid levels.

Contains anticancer properties

Cabbage is one of several types of vegetables linked to a reduced risk of certain types of cancers, such as breast cancer, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. Digesting cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables have been shown to produce various anti-cancer chemicals, most notably a chemical that is known as indole-3-carbinol.

So far, available research³ shows that indole-3-carbinol helps to suppress the proliferation of various cancer cell lines, including breast, colon, prostate, and endometrial cancer cells.

In some animal studies, it was also found to cause death in malignant cells and prevent metastasis to other parts of the body. Although cabbage can provide some amount of this benefit in any form, raw red cabbage tends to be more packed with higher levels of healthy nutrients like anthocyanins.

Other vegetables that are known to help prevent cancer, especially when consumed raw, include:

  • Broccoli

  • Kale

  • Cauliflower

  • Carrots

  • Tomatoes 

  • Brussels sprouts 

  • Bok choy

Reduces cholesterol

Cabbage can also help to reduce cholesterol levels by preventing excessive amounts of LDL (bad) cholesterol from being absorbed. A clinical trial⁴ has reported that subjects who consumed broccoli and cabbage for nine weeks showed a significant reduction in their LDL levels compared to the control group.

This vegetable's high soluble fiber content and plant sterols can help prevent the overall amount of cholesterol that can be absorbed into the blood while also increasing its excretion. 

Regular consumption of red cabbage was found to help control hyperlipidemia and associated oxidative stress due to the existence of antioxidants,  like vitamin C and flavonoids. These bioactives are also responsible for lowering hepatic gluconeogenesis, which is directly related to the process of making cholesterol and other fats and enhances the fecal excretion of bile acids.

This process can help prevent an accumulation of cholesterol in blood vessels, which can cause atherosclerosis,  heart disease, and strokes. This can be especially important for people with diabetes because diabetic individuals are at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol levels and heart disease. 

Improves digestion 

The high levels of fiber found in cabbage also have several benefits when it comes to improving your overall digestion. Cabbage and other foods high in fiber, particularly insoluble fiber, can reduce constipation by increasing stool frequency. Soluble fiber can also benefit digestion by increasing the concentration of various types of beneficial bacteria, as they feed on this type of fiber. 

These bacteria are vital for many functions in the body, including immunity and the bioavailability of certain types of nutrients, such as through vitamin B12 absorption and vitamin K2 production. 

Risks of eating too much cabbage 

Like any food, you should consume cabbage in moderation. Overconsumption may have some negative effects on your body. Some of these effects can include: 

  • Flatulence (gas caused by consuming too much indigestible sugar)  

  • Diarrhea or constipation (caused by consuming too much fiber or by having significant changes in the amount of consumed fiber) 

  • Thyroid issues (If you have hypothyroidism, cruciferous vegetables may interfere with thyroid hormone production, particularly if you have an iodine deficiency. Therefore, overconsumption of cruciferous vegetables in those with iodine deficiency has been potentially associated⁵ with the risk of thyroid cancer.)

  • Negative interactions with medications you may be taking (especially those that are changed or broken down by the liver) 

However, most people do not eat enough cabbage to cause these negative effects. 

Ways to eat more cabbage 

If you are looking for creative ways to consume more cabbage, you will be happy to learn that you can add it to a wide variety of dishes. Whether cabbage is the main ingredient in a particular dish or simply adds a finishing touch, this ingredient can increase your list of meal options that align with your nutritional needs and are unlikely to negatively affect your blood sugar. Some popular options for eating more cabbage include: 

  • Topping salads with shredded cabbage 

  • Adding chopped cabbage to a wide variety of stews and soups 

  • Eating cabbage that has been covered with various flavorings, such as garlic, olive oil, or black pepper 

  • Adding cabbage to green smoothies

The lowdown 

Cabbage can be an important addition to your diet when it comes to both managings your diabetes itself and decreasing your risk of developing secondary conditions frequently linked to diabetes, especially when it is part of an overall healthy diet.

This versatile vegetable contains antioxidants and nutrients that can provide several immediate and long-term benefits to people with diabetes. Its ability to be added to a wide variety of dishes makes it a helpful staple when compiling meal options that are both delicious and unlikely to result in any negative effects.

Whether you prefer to eat raw cabbage as a snack or cook it in one of the dozens of possible dinner dishes, this vegetable is a hidden gem for managing your diabetes and improving your overall health!

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