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cabbage
When a person thinks of carbs he typically thinks of grains like pastaand potatoes. But the best carbohydrates in any diet are actually fruits and vegetables (yes these foods really are carbohydrates!).They are especially important because they are so rich in vitamins,minerals, nutrients, phytochemicals and fiber, all essential for goodhealth. The good news is that vegetables are especially low in carbsfor those of you on the low carb meal plans. 

When you are on a low-carb diet you have to be especially carefulbecause even the most innocent of vegetables may have more carbs thanyou think and then with the economy being as it is, we also want to consider cost. One vegetable that meets all this criteria is cabbage.But before you crinkle your nose and reject it consider what it can dofor your health. (Later I’ll provide you with some great tasting recipes.)

The chemical property of cabbage (and other cruciferous plants likebroccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower) is their high concentrationof glucosinolates. When these glucosinolates break down intoisothiocynates they become well-known protectors (good bacteria in inthe gut) against the development of cancer. So by consuming these vegetables you may lower the risk of numerous types of cancer. Theyalso have broad antibiotic properties including nematocidal,antimicrobial, antifungal, antiprotozoal, and insecticidal activities meaning they are especially protective to our overall health.

This is because isothiacyanates increase the excretion of metabolicby-products of carcinogens (cancer causing agents) by more thanfourfold. Evidence of the inverse association between consumingcruciferous consumption and cancer exists among several types ofcancer, including: bladder cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

And at the risk of becoming even a little more technical here, this is why: by consuming cruciferous vegetables, the isothiocyanate compounds modulate the activities of enzymes involved in the metabolism of carcinogens, promoting phase 2 detoxification enzymes in the liver that detoxify carcinogenic compounds from the body, upregulate harmful detoxification enzymes and lastly prevent oxidative cell and DNA damage. As mentioned above they are chemoprotective against numeroustypes of cancer. In fact The National Cancer Institute, the NationalInstitutes of Health and the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans ( asof 2005) are now recommending closer to 9-11 fruits and vegetables foradults on a 2000 calorie diet. The general suggestion for cruciferousveggies is five servings a week.

In terms of weight loss and a healthy veggie choice, note that cabbagein particular has only 20 calories and 2 net carbs per cup! That’s apretty generous serving. You can even buy pre-cut cabbage, 16 ouncesfor about $1.89 or so. Cabbage is not just for the infamous corn beefand cabbage on St. Patty’s Day either. Here are some of my favoritecabbage recipes:

For cooler winter months make a soup using a MSG free chicken brothwith cabbage, onions, celery and parsley or chives. This is great asis or add some chicken (for protein) and/or Shirataki noodles. This makes for a nice evening comfort food dish.

You can also add more mixed vegetables with the cabbage soup and dothe same thing or even try adding in some different spices for variety.

If salads are your thing, try an Asian cabbage salad: top withprotein, snow peas and water chestnuts. Add chopped onions, a tinyamount of olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce to taste and maybe a bit ofstevia or Splenda for some sweetness. Shirataki noodles make this evenmore filling and if you need more crunch add some chopped almonds.

If you like the traditional cabbage coleslaw, add caraway and a scantamount of non-fat Fage yogurt if you miss the mayo. There are alwaysadditional recipes that include cabbage with vinegar, dill weed or caraway, and mustard.

If salads seem a little cool for this time of year briefly warm the cabbage in the microwave for a few seconds.

Written by Elaine, certified nutritionist and Greenlite health educator.

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