Life Extension Magazine®

Cabbage with fibers linked with gut health


The protein, anthocyanins, and insoluble fiber in the 15 varieties of cabbage help enhance cardiovascular and digestive health, and protect against cancer.

Scientifically reviewed by: Holli Ryan, RD, LD/N, in August 2023. Written by: Laurie Mathena.

Cabbage may resemble lettuce, but that’s where their similarities end. While lettuce contains more water, cabbage (a part of the cruciferous family of vegetables) has twice the amount of dietary fiber, plus more protein.

There are at least 15 different varieties of cabbage that range in color from green to red to purple, and their leaves can be either smooth or wrinkled. There are many reasons to include cabbage as part of a healthy diet. Consuming cabbage can contribute to one’s overall health.

Traditionally, in folk medicine, cabbage has been used to help treat a range of health problems, including constipation, headaches, and skin disorders.

More recent research has revealed that it contains compounds that can help protect against the dangers of cancer, radiation therapy, and heart disease.

Heart Health

Cabbage—especially red cabbage—contains a type of flavonoid called anthocyanins, which are the pigments that give cabbage its bright purple color. Eating foods higher in anthocyanins has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.1

Higher anthocyanin intake has also been associated with lower arterial stiffness and lower central blood pressure in women.2 Arterial stiffness contributes to cardiovascular diseases, and is associated with systolic hypertension, coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation—all leading causes of death.3

Cancer Prevention

Studies have shown that cabbage contains compounds that can help prevent numerous types of cancer, including breast, prostate, bladder, and colon cancers. This is due in part to the numerous anti-cancer activities of these compounds, which include stimulating the activity of enzymes that inhibit tumor growth.

Gut Health

Cabbage can help improve digestive health because it is a good source of insoluble fiber, which helps add bulk to stools and promotes regular bowel movements. It also contains soluble fiber, which can help increase good bacteria in the gut.

At less than 20 calories per half cup, cabbage makes an excellent addition to a healthy diet. It is perhaps best known as the main ingredient in coleslaw. It also tastes good sliced, brushed with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and roasted in the oven.


  1. Adv Nutr. 2011 Jan;2(1):1-7.
  2. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct; 96(4): 781-8.
  3. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2010 Oct;31(10):1267-76.