Cabbage: the Indian contender against International Kale

Kale was crowned as “ the vegetable of 2015”   and it does truly deserve the position due to its illustrious profile of nutrients with 150gm servings taking care of 98% of your vitamin A needs, 71% of vitamin C and 1180% of vitamin K. In addition to this, it is rich in valuable minerals, B vitamins , antioxidants and flavonoids. Kale chips are the most recent favourites among high-end urbanites in India.

But did you know, that our homegrown local cabbage is a very close cousin of kale offering similar health benefits along with certain other quaint qualities ….

Lets first discuss the commonalities between the two brothers.

Origins: Both belong to the brassica family or cruciferous vegetables which also includes broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi and collards.

Appearance:  Kale is leaf cabbage with green or purple leaves that do not form a head like that in a cabbage.

Texture : Both have somewhat crunchy or chewy texture that makes it suitable for eating raw as a salad. It softens when cooked.

Taste:  Both foods taste better and are much more digestible if you soak them in water for a few hours . One may even blanch them if required to be stored for later use

Seasonal availability: Kale grows best in very cold climates and hence is best eaten in winters. Cabbage is available all year around although the best season is from October to February.

Cost : Kale – Rs 700/kg

          Cabbage – Rs 30-40 /kg

Common Nutritional benefits

  • They contain glucosinolates which can be converted into isothiocyanates inside the body. These isothiocyanates provide protection against cancer by preventing growth and spread of cancer cells and causing their death.
  • Sulphur containing compounds in cruciferous vegetables known as sulforaphane have been found to protect against cancers such as esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic.

Health Benefits of Kale

  • The nutrients present in Kale support healthy skin, hair, and bones. The fiber content enhances digestion and contributes to cardiovascular health.
  • Kale has exceptional antioxidative properties that helps slow the progression of age-related diseases.
  • Kale contains an antioxidant known as alpha-lipoic acid which can help lower glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and prevent oxidative stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes. It may also decrease peripheral and autonomic neuropathy in these patients.
  • The chlorophyll in kale binds to carcinogens (cancer causing substances) and prevents the body from absorbing them

Health benefits of cabbage

  • Cabbage is rich in vitamin K which enhances bone health and is packed with vitamin C, which promotes collagen production and helps boost the immune system
  • Cabbage contains the antioxidants choline, beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin as well as the flavonoids kaempferol, quercetin, and apigenin. Red cabbage tends to contain more of these compounds than green cabbage
  • Cabbage has strong anti-inflammatory properties that make it beneficial for healing of ulcers and other inflammatory conditions.
  • The fiber and water content in cabbage also help to prevent constipation and maintain a healthy digestive tract.

Disadvantages of Kale

  • Kale is more susceptible to early spoilage as compared to cabbage. One needs to deep freeze the excess kale to retain its texture for later use
  • Kale becomes increasingly bitter and strongly flavored the longer it is kept and so is best eaten soon after buying.
  • Kale tastes slightly bitter and is hard to use in Indian cooking. In the west, it is largely eaten sauteed, steamed or boiled, dehydrated as chips, and, in salads and juices.
  • Kale is not a local food for India. Only the medium tall variety (known as karam saag) grows in Jammu & Kashmir. The fact that Kale has to travel several miles to reach our table makes it lose substantial nutritive value and also turns more expensive

Final verdict :

Don’t forget to Eat Kale when you are enjoying winters in European countries like England, Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy (dinosaur kale is the Italian variety), Scotland, Ireland and Sweden . While In India, eat the local traditional and seasonal foods.

We cannot overlook the colossally rich nutritional profile of Kale and hence its value in maintaining good health. But remember that it grows well only in certain areas (suitable temperature, time and soil) and hence is most beneficial for people residing there.

Creating a demand for Kale in all seasons and all regions is detrimental to health of the individual, economy and ecosystem.



Author: drpoojachhawcharia

Dr Pooja Chhawcharia is the Senior Nutritionist at eKincare with over 7 years of experience in Nutrition education, diet counseling and research. She is a Registered Dietician with the Indian Dietetic Association and Certified Diabetes Educator recognized by the International Diabetes federation . She is also interested in ancillary sciences such as Yoga and Naturopathy.

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