What are the health benefits of red cabbage? All cabbage is very good for you, but red cabbage is definitely top of the list for me. The deep purple pigment is one of the real keys here. It is delivered by a powerful group of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins, similar o what would be found in things such as blueberries and red wine.
Anthocyanins deliver reasonable anti-inflammatory activity, especially for the digestive tract and cardiovascular system. They help to reduce some of the chemicals that actually trigger inflammation in the first place. Within the cardiovascular system, flavonoids such as anthocyanins can help to protect the endothelium, the inner skin that lines the inside of blood vessels, from inflammatory damage. This is the damage that can set the stage for the whole cascade of events that lead to full blown heart disease with its calcified fatty plaques within the vessel walls.
The anti-inflammatory functions outlined above are the first line of defence for the cardiovascular system delivered by flavonoids. However, these compounds benefit the cardiovascular system in another way. They can influence blood pressure. Anthocyanins have been shown to stimulate the cells that line the inner surface of blood vessels, the endothelial cells, to secrete a chemical called nitric oxide. This is a substance that the endothelial cells naturally secrete anyway, but flavonoids increase their capacity to release this is substance. This is thought to be due to endothelial cells heightened potential to absorb flavonoids. When they are absorbed, they may cause metabolic distress, which in turn triggers an increased synthesis and release of Nitric Oxide. Once released, nitric oxide moves away from the endothelium, out into the muscular walls of the vessel. Once here they cause relaxation of the muscles. When these muscles relax, the vessel gets wider. Then simple physics kicks in. As the vessel gets bigger, the pressure within it drops. The take home message here, consumption of flavonoid rich foods can have a temporary lowering effect upon blood pressure. Ok, so these aren’t going to be replacing blood pressure medication any time soon, but they are the perfect example of key foods that you can eat more of to support your health in targeted ways.
These powerful compounds are found ubiquitously in cruciferous vegetables. When we consume glucosinolates, we convert them into a secondary group of compounds called isothiocyanates. These compounds have been dubbed anticancer compounds because of the effects they can have upon our cells and some of the metabolic stress that they can suffer. Isothiocyanate’s can deliver anti-inflammatory activities by reducing the conversion of arachidonic acid into series 2 prostaglandins that stimulate and exacerbate inflammation. They can also increase our cells production of their own in built antioxidant and house keeping enzymes – Super Oxide Dismutase, and Glutathione Peroxidase. They are also believed to protect genes agains damage that may instigate genetic changes that influence cell division. This may though be in part due to their influence on SOD and GP.