The cabbage family

The cabbage family

By M. Núñez, C. Navarro and Montse Tàpia

Rich in vitamins and minerals, the multiple varieties of cabbage share compounds that are highly protective for the body.

In winter, the kitchen must smell like cabbages. Not by chance its Latin name is Brassica oleracea. To this botanical family belongs the group of vegetables with the most potent properties known against cancer and other diseases: green, red cabbage and Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and romanesco cabbage. This family is completed with other plants from which the root - kohlrabi - or the stem - kohlrabi is consumed.

Bitter and healthy
All varieties of cabbage contain high doses of sulfur compounds called glucosinolates, which are responsible for their characteristic bitter taste and pungent smell. When the food is cooked or chewed, the flavor precursor substances mix with certain enzymes present in the plant fibers and become compounds with anti-cancer properties, such as indole-3-carbinol, diindolylmethane and sulfuraphane.

Better a gentle cooking
However, it must be borne in mind that cooking deactivates a part of the beneficial molecules. It is estimated that after five minutes of boiling, 20% of them have been lost. At 10 minutes, 40% and at half an hour, 75%. Its disappearance can be avoided by choosing other cooking methods: sautéing, microwave and, above all, steaming. An ideal preparation is to cut the cauliflower or cabbage into thin slices and steam them for 3 to 7 minutes.
Along with sulfur compounds, they also contain high concentrations of essential nutrients. 100 g of raw cabbage provide 120 mg of vitamin C. If cooked, 41 mg. They also offer B vitamins, vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, folic acid, selenium, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and different flavonoids in significant doses.

Gut friend
In a healthy diet, it is recommended that cabbages are present two or three times a week. Cabbage fiber not only promotes good digestion and fights constipation but also serves as food for the beneficial intestinal flora and thus improves the state of the mucosa, preventing it from becoming permeable to harmful bacteria and toxic substances that can circulate through the digestive system. They are also recommended to combat anemia, thanks to the combination of vitamin C, iron and chlorophyll in the green leafy varieties, which are also abundant in folic acid, essential for the development of the nervous system in the fetal stage.

A peculiar flavor
Despite all the advantages associated with consumption, some people cannot overcome the rejection caused by its bitter taste.
Some studies suggest that too frequent consumption may be contraindicated in people predisposed to suffer from goiter, because they contain enzymes that make it difficult to incorporate iodine into thyroid hormone. This risk is reduced if sufficient iodine intake is ensured - through sea salt and seaweed - and the cabbages are cooked for a minimum of 30 minutes, because the enzymes are deactivated, although a good part of the beneficial compounds also disappear.

M. Núñez and C. Navarro (health)
Montse Tàpia (kitchen)

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