The Latest Superfood: Red Cabbage Sprouts

red cabbage sprouts

Story at-a-glance -

  • In one study, mice on a high-fat diet were given red cabbage sprouts, which helped optimize their cholesterol levels better than the control group
  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did a similar study on 25 different commercially available sprouts, finding that in comparison with the mature version, they were nutritionally far superior
  • When you eat just about any vegetable, from sweet potatoes to radishes to Brussels sprouts, their microgreen counterparts will net higher nutritional advantages, pretty much across the board
  • Purchasing sprouts can cost as much as $30 per pound, but growing your own is an easy way to remedy that

By Dr. Mercola

New science reveals that red cabbage sprouts contain 40 times more vitamin E and six times more vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, than the same veggie as a fully mature plant. That's a lot of colds prevented and inflammation decreased.

Microgreens represent a fairly new buzzword in the world of healthy nutrition. When you grow your own veggies and notice the tender, young plants emerging from the earth, you may be amazed to learn that not only is it OK to harvest them while they're still only a week or two old, but they also have superior health benefits.

The vitamins in full-grown veggies transfer to your body to boost your nutrition, but eating these mini greens can also help prevent weight gain, as well as reduce risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.

Red cabbage microgreens impart more polyphenols and glucosinolates and help optimize cholesterol levels and lower liver triglycerides, just as they did in the mice in a study conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland.

The animal study1 appearedin the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Science Daily reported:

"To test their hypothesis, the researchers used mice that were a model for obesity. These animals also tend to develop … other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. The team divided 60 of these mice into different diet groups.

They received food low in fat or high in fat, and with or without either red cabbage microgreens or mature red cabbage. Both the microgreens and mature cabbage diets reduced weight gain … in the mice on high-fat diets."2 

Are Nutrients in Other Microgreens Superior to Their Full-Grown Counterparts?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did a similar study3 but used 25 different commercially available sprouts instead of just one. Until just the last few years, the study said, there was no scientific data to show sprouts contained any nutritional differences from mature plants.

However, it was already known by 20104 that diminutive spinach, even at a few weeks old, contained more nutrients than the big version of the plant.

The USDA study noted what anyone who tries sprouts for the first time experiences when they put them on their plate: "Surprisingly intense flavors, vivid colors and crisp textures [which] can be served as an edible garnish or a new salad ingredient."

Besides red cabbage, the other 24 cotyledon (usually the first embryonic leaves of a seedling) researchers examined included cilantro, garnet amaranth and green daikon radish, which all showed higher concentrations of ascorbic acids, carotenoids, phylloquinone and tocopherols, each with extra added bonus of antioxidants.

Other veggies tested included peppercress, bull's blood beets and wasabi. Cilantro microgreens contained three times as much beta-carotene than mature cilantro and were highest in lutein and beta-carotene.5

Golden pea tendrils, grown with no light, as well as popcorn shoots, had a lower concentration of nutritional benefits when compared to the other microgreens, but in comparison with the mature leaves of most of the other vegetables, they were deemed "comparable."

When the Littlest Greens Pack a Bigger Punch

Scientists involved in the University of Maryland study admitted they were "astonished" by the results they got from their studies on red cabbage sprout nutrients.

Study author and assistant professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, Qin Wang, Ph.D., said, "When we first got the results we had to rush to double and triple check them."6

The real-world benefits can't be denied, however. One of the authors of the USDA study, researcher Gene Lester, Ph.D., added, "All of these nutrients are extremely important for skin, eyes and fighting cancer and have all sorts of benefits associated with them."7

Generally speaking, the incredible benefits you get when you eat just about any vegetable, from sweet potatoes to radishes to Brussels sprouts, their microgreen counterparts will net higher nutritional advantages, pretty much across the board. Here are some facts about what eating microgreens can do for you, from Care2:8

  • The protein quality of several vegetables improves when sprouted. They change during the "wetting and waiting" process for the sprouts to appear. Cold sore-kicking lysine is an example of an amino acid that becomes more potent in the sprouting process.
  • Vitamins like A, B-complex, C and E increase in power in sprouted foods, sometimes by 20 percent within just a few days of germination. In fact, mung bean sprouts increase in vitamin B1 by up to 285 percent, vitamin B2 by up to 515 percent and niacin by up to 256 percent.
  • Essential fatty acids also increase during the sprouting process.
  • Minerals bind to proteins, making them more bioavailable. Alkaline minerals such as calcium and magnesium help balance your body chemistry for both weight loss and better health overall.
  • A number of diseases, including cancer, are linked to excess acid in your body, but sprouts counteract acidity by alkalizing your body.

Get Microgreen Sprouts From Your Own Garden — or Kitchen

If you ever noticed microgreens in the produce section of a supermarket or restaurant, you may have raised your eyebrows at the price; they can cost $30 per pound, which often means people end up eating them in smaller amounts.9

There's a good way to remedy that, though: Grow your own! You won't believe how easy it is, not to mention quick, and you'll be doing your body a huge favor. In fact, whether you grow them in your backyard or on your kitchen windowsill, they're arguably one of the best values you can get in regard to "upping" your nutrition.

The Sprout Doctor Starter Kit I offer comes with sunflower shoots, broccoli sprouts and pea shoots, all of them organic. When grown in soil, you can harvest your sprouts in about a week. A pound of seeds will probably produce over 10 pounds of sprouts.

In one 10-by-10 tray, you can harvest up to 2 pounds of sunflower sprouts and store them in the fridge for about a week. Fresh is always better, however. Best of all, unlike a traditional garden, when you grow microgreens you can harvest your food in a week or two of starting the process!

Red Cabbage Sprouts: the Biggest Bang for Your Nutritional Buck

Red cabbage is rich in the amino acid L-glutamine, which can help heal the soft tissue that lines your intestines. This is particularly valuable for people with such disorders as leaky gut, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis.

Just like the green variety, red cabbage can be steamed, sautéed or fermented, the latter of which adds enzymes and beneficial bacteria for increased gut health. Red cabbage sprouts work well added to salads or smoothies. There are nutritional differences, the George Mateljan Foundation asserts:

"Like all unique and nourishing foods, there are differences in the nutrients they offer. For example, some red cabbages contain almost twice the vitamin C as some green cabbages.

Red cabbages are always richer in anthocyanins (flavonoid phytonutrients) that not only act as antioxidants but also function as supporters of the immune system. Green cabbages, on the other hand, have substantially more folate."10

Cabbage of either color contains healthy amounts of:

Fiber

Thiamin

Folate

Magnesium

Iron

Manganese

Calcium

Potassium

Riboflavin

Vitamin K

The vitamins, minerals and compounds found in red cabbage serve to help boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, protect against Alzheimer's, prevent ulcers, stave off premature aging, help you lose weight and ensure healthy bone development.

Its phytonutrients and other compounds are too numerous to list, but antioxidants like anthocyanins and indoles, the source of the purple color, are extremely valuable for your health. One of its most important benefits has to be its ability to prevent cancer. Organic Facts notes that all the antioxidants in red cabbage:

" … [M]ake it extremely important as a preventative measure. Antioxidants are substances that can neutralize free radicals, which are the harmful byproducts of cellular metabolism. These free radicals are responsible for various serious diseases, including cancer and heart disease …

The rich coloring is proof of just how powerful these vegetables are for your overall health. The indoles in red cabbage have been connected to reducing breast cancer in women in a number of studies. Vitamin A has also been connected with reducing the chances of lung cancer."11

Sprouting Health: Notes on Microgreens

It should be noted that all veggie sprouts should remain raw for consumption, as cooking them may drastically reduce or even eradicate the good nutrients you want to obtain. In regard to size, microgreens vary. Broccoli sprouts, for instance, are a little smaller than sunflower sprouts.

Broccoli sprouts also pass along an impressive number of super nutrients and may help detox such environmental pollutants as benzene, while providing a number of valuable enzymes that can even protect against chemical carcinogens. Of all the sprouted veggies, it's possible that watercress is the most nutrient-dense of them all, exceeding both broccoli and sunflower sprouts on nutrient-density tests. According to one 20-year-old review, sprouts as a whole:

"Contain an estimated 100 times more enzymes than fresh fruits and vegetables … Large quantities of inducers of enzymes that protect against carcinogens can be delivered in the diet by small quantities of young crucifer sprouts that contain as much inducer activity as 10 to 100 times larger quantities of mature vegetables."12

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