There are claims that cabbage can be helpful in the management of type 2 diabetes symptoms due to its natural anti-diabetic properties.
It could also help prevent diabetes from developing in prediabetics. Claims that cabbage may be good for diabetes are similar to other claims that apple cider vinegar, okra, and other foods can reduce the effects of this disease.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects blood glucose levels and, according to an American Diabetes Association 2015 report, it remains the 7th leading cause of death.
In 2015, 30.3 million Americans had diabetes. 25% of them were over age 65. There is also 1.5 million new cases each year among adults 18-75. With these figures in mind, scientific researchers aim to find a cure or alternative ways to treat the disease.
Drugs tend to be the first thing prescribed to treat diabetes. However, naturopathic doctors, for example, believe in a holistic approach to treating many illnesses or health conditions.
They believe that proper nutrition, exercise, sufficient sleep daily, and stress management can prevent, reduce, or even reverse the effects of certain chronic conditions, including diabetes. Choosing natural remedies also helps avoid medication’s side effects.
This post aims to provide information on the link between cabbage and diabetes. It explains why researchers suggest that the vegetable can play a role in managing blood sugar in type 2 diabetics and pre-diabetics.
What is Cabbage?
Cabbage, also called the “humble cabbage,” is a leafy vegetable that is regarded as a superfood due to its nutrition content. It is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, collard, and mustard. Its leaves could be smooth or crinkled and peel off in layers.
This veggie grows in various colors and can be consumed raw, in slaws or soups, steamed, sauteed, juiced, or fermented, e.g., sauerkraut and kimchi.
More than that, it has a history of medicinal use by ancient natural healers who believed in its ability to “cure” certain conditions. Constipation, mushroom poisoning, and minor wounds were naturally treated with cabbage.
What are the Different Types of Cabbages?
All cabbages are not created equal. They come in different colors and sizes, and their nutrient content may vary. In the vegetable aisle of the farmer’s market or grocery store, you could find these varieties:
- Cannon Ball cabbage (green cabbage)
- Red cabbage
- Purple cabbage
- January King Cabbage
- Savoy cabbage
- Napa cabbage
- Chinese cabbage (choy sum)
- Brussel sprouts
- Bok Choy
- Winnigstadt cabbage
- Walking Stick cabbage
- Portugal cabbage
Cabbage Nutritional Facts
Cabbage is packed with nutrients. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and compounds that promote good health.
1 cup of raw cabbage has 22 calories, protein, carbs and vitamins and minerals with the following percentage Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI).
- Carbs: 4.1 grams
- Protein: 1 gram
- Vitamin K: 85%
- Vitamin B6: 6%
- Vitamin C: 54%
- Manganese: 7%
- Magnesium: 3%
- Calcium: 4%
- Potassium: 4%
- Folate: 10%
- Fiber: 2 grams
As you can see, the veggie is a rich source of vitamins K, C, and B6, folate, and dietary fiber. It is low in carbs and calories.
Iron, riboflavin, and vitamin A are also found in cabbage in addition to powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, especially polyphenols, glucosinolates, and sulforaphane.
These natural chemical compounds help fight against free radicals that could cause damage to the body.
Based on its nutritional facts alone, you may begin to see why this vegetable is dubbed a “superfood” that is good for diabetes.
Being low in carbs, a 1 cup serving, even 2-3 cups, do not have the potential to spike blood sugar.
Diabetes and What Causes It
Diabetes is a chronic disease affecting millions of American men, women, and children. People with type 2 diabetes experience bouts of high or low blood sugar.
Elevated sugar levels are mainly due to insulin insufficiency or insulin resistance. This means your body either does not release enough insulin into the bloodstream (insulin insufficiency) or is unable to use it the way it should (insulin resistance).
Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas and is used by the body to move sugar out of the bloodstream. This function is disrupted in cases of insulin insufficiency or where the body is unable to do so thus allowing sugar to build up in the blood.
While pre-diabetics are also affected by insulin resistance, their blood sugar does not rise high enough to diagnose them with type 2 diabetes.
Why Diabetics Must Manage Blood Glucose Daily
Fluctuating blood sugar levels is a primary reason why diabetics are required to monitor their blood glucose daily to ensure it is not too high or too low. High blood sugar causes a condition called hyperglycemia. On the other hand, hypoglycemia develops due to low blood sugar. These conditions can cause some uncomfortable symptoms.
Other diabetes symptoms may develop as a result of too low or too high blood glucose including some that are life-threatening. Their severity depends on how high or low the glucose level reaches.
- Excessive hunger or thirst
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Extreme fatigue
- Diabetic coma
- HHNS (Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome)
How Can Cabbage Help People with Type 2 Diabetes?
The preferable blood sugar reading for type 2 diabetics is a range of 70-140 mg/dL. Fluctuating blood sugar has the potential to lead to weight gain.
For example, high or low blood sugar may cause excessive hunger or thirst. You may quickly reach for unhealthy foods and beverages, e.g., soda, that are high in sugar and carbs, in order to regulate blood sugar quickly.
But weight gain can result from this practice and make diabetes symptoms worse. Diabetics are also at risk of heart disease.
Therefore, diabetics need to follow a healthy diet plan. They should choose foods low in carbs, e.g, cabbage, and avoid those with a high glycemic index, such a white bread or rice, which can quickly elevate blood sugar.
The Scientific Link Between Cabbage and Diabetes
In general, cabbage is seen as a natural medicine for diabetes due to its anti-diabetic properties. This is in addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals.
Scientific findings from studies and tests done on rats, in 2008, were published in the Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal. The tests were conducted on diabetic rats.
Red cabbage was fed to them for a total of 60 days. At the end of the experiment, their glucose levels dropped, they lost weight, and had improved kidney functions.
Scientists believe that the anti-hyperglycemic, antioxidant, and low-carb properties of the cabbage were responsible for the results. They also believed that the high-fiber content of cabbage helped in slowing sugar absorption in the body thus lowering the risk of blood sugar spikes.
Using Cabbage in Your Diet
Cabbage is a versatile superfood and can be prepared in so many ways to suit your preferred taste.
It can be eaten by itself raw or cooked or you can extract and drink the juice or use it as a base for soups.
You can enjoy using cabbage for diabetes by trying these delicious recipes compliments of Diabetic Gourmet Magazine.
And you won’t have to worry about your blood sugar rising.
Roasted Chicken Salad With Napa Cabbage
- 8 oz roasted sliced chicken white-meat
- 2 cup Napa cabbage
- 1 clove garlic shredded
- 1/2 cup halved snow peas
- 1/4 cup julienne baby carrot strips
- 1/4 cup low-fat salad dressing or low-fat vinaigrette
Directions: Cube or shred chicken. Heat chicken in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add carrots, snow peas, and garlic. Cover and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat then add cabbage, stir in dressing, and toss in a large bowl until fully mixed.
Servings: 2. Each serving contains 34 grams protein, 7 grams carbs, 4 grams sugar, 1 gram fiber, and about 285 calories.
Marinated Artichoke Coleslaw
- 1 cup shredded green cabbage
- 1 green onion thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (without seed or core)
- 3 ozs marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1 tablespoon nonfat mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon nonfat Italian dressing
Directions: Combine cabbage, artichoke hearts, green onion, bell pepper, mayonnaise, and dressing in a large salad bowl. Toss mixture gently. Serve immediately. Can be kept refrigerated for about 6 hours.
Servings: 2. Each serving contains 2 grams protein, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams carbs, and about only 32 calories.
Tips and Precautions When using Cabbage for Diabetes?
Cabbage seems to be a healthy food which can be safely consumed by diabetics and just about anyone wanting to eat healthily.
There is no known side effects or potential harm in eating cabbage in reasonable quantities.
Furthermore, the leafy veggie has other health benefits in addition to its ability to lower blood glucose.
Other Health Benefits of Cabbage
Not only can cabbage be used to regulate blood sugar, but it also provides other health benefits including these:
- Great for weight loss
- Natural body detoxifier
- Can improve headache
- Can reduce blood pressure
- Aids digestion
- Reduces inflammation
- Can protect healthy tissue against radiation therapy
- Reduces “bad” cholesterol levels
- Lowers the risk of heart disease
- Promotes healthy skin, hair, and nails
- Inhibits growth of cancer tumors
- Improves gastrointestinal problems, e.g., acid reflux, heartburn, and ulcers
- Its vitamins and antioxidants provide immune system support
- Contains cancer-fighting chemical, e.g., glucosinolates, sulforaphane, and polyphenols
What Does All of This Mean for Diabetics?
As of 2015, diabetes was the 7th leading cause of death in the US. Based on this fact, you may understand why research is ongoing to find a cure and ways to treat the disease without further compromising the health of diabetics.
Cabbage is considered a superfood and could help improve or prevent certain health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and borderline diabetes.
Claims suggesting that cabbage is diabetic friendly stem from studies done on rats where their diabetes symptoms improved after eating cabbage for 60 consecutive days.
Regardless, cabbage is low in carbs and has no known potential to cause harm when eaten in reasonable amounts.
Notwithstanding these findings, it is always important to check with your doctor before you decide you want to stop taking your pills cold turkey. However, by making these changes in your diet and habits, I am positive you can look forward to the day where you don’t need them anymore.