The Brassica family is a genus of plants made up of agricultural and horticultural crops. Some of the species that are commonly eaten are broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, Brussels sprouts, and kale. The different types of cabbage are also members of the Brassica family. Chinese cabbage, in particular, falls under Brassica rapa.

Looking for a healthy addition to your grocery list? Consider the Chinese cabbage benefits as well as the suggested easy cabbage recipes below.

Spotlight on Chinese cabbage

Chinese cabbage is locally known as wombok or Baguio pechay and as napa cabbage outside of Asia. It has broad, white ribs and tightly wrapped, pale green leaves that curl at the edges. When buying Chinese cabbage, the BBC recommends looking for those with fresh, firm heads that feel heavy for their size. Steer clear of those that look wilted or limp. Store it, unwashed, in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic or in the salad drawer.

Chinese cabbage benefits

Below are just some of the cabbage health benefits:

  • Chinese cabbage has just 16 calories per 100g, so it can leave you feeling full without making a big dent on your caloric intake. This comes in handy when you’re trying to watch your weight.
  • It has a host of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants that protect your body against free radicals, which can damage your cells. In particular, Vitamin C can help your immune system, and Vitamin K helps blood clot properly.  
  • It may have anti-inflammatory effects, as observed in a study of Chinese women who ate large amounts of cruciferous vegetables. Chronic inflammation is linked to heart disease and irritable bowel syndrome, among others.
  • It’s rich in insoluble fiber, which promotes regular bowel movements, as well as soluble fiber, which increases good bacteria in the gut. This means cabbage can help keep your digestive system in good working order.
  • It contains potassium, which can keep your blood pressure in check. This mineral helps lessen the sodium in your body and acts as a vasodilator, opening up blood vessels to ease the flow of blood.
  • It may reduce LDL (a.k.a. “bad”) cholesterol due to its soluble fiber (which binds with cholesterol and keeps it away from the blood stream) and phytosterols (plant compounds that keep cholesterol from being absorbed in the digestive tract).

In short, cabbage is a filling, low-calorie food that is full of vitamins, minerals, and other components that offer plenty of health benefits, making it a great, inexpensive addition to your diet.

A word of caution though: Cabbage, like soy and cassava, has been observed to have goitrogenic effects, which means it may interfere with the production of thyroid hormones. If you have a thyroid condition, it’s best to consult your doctor before consuming Chinese cabbage or other foods that may have goitrogens.

How to cook Chinese cabbage

Chinese cabbage is versatile, and can be used in salads, stews, soups, stir-fries, and even sauerkraut. When you’re ready to use it, cut off the base, rinse the leaves in running water to get any bugs or dirt out, then dry thoroughly. Depending on the dish you’re preparing, you can tear off the leaves individually, cut across, or slice into strips.

As with other foods though, not everyone likes the taste of Chinese cabbage. While it tastes mildly sweet to the average person, a compound present in the plant makes it register as bitter to some taste buds. If you’re not a fan, you can try incorporating Chinese cabbage into your dishes in small doses (as a lettuce substitute on tacos, for example). But even the cabbage-averse may become converts after a taste of any of these Chinese cabbage recipes:

  • A hearty soup mixed with ground beef
  • Overnight kimchi: Mix together Chinese cabbage, a tablespoon of sambal oelek, 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 4 sliced garlic cloves, and some salt, then chill overnight.
  • An easy and tasty stir-fry that takes minutes to make
  • A stuffed cabbage roll that is a fun, healthy take on lumpia
  • A side dish that can accompany just about any protein.  

You can find more easy cabbage recipes here. Happy—and healthy—cooking!