Have you tried purple cabbage?

Local markets are well stocked with the purple cabbage. Chances are you may have spotted it and dismissed it because of its unusual colour as many are used to the green one. However, here’s why you should consider it.

Purple cabbage, also referred to as red, is known for its nutrient-dense composition just like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale.


It is a kind of cabbage, also known as Blaukraut after preparation. Its leaves are coloured dark red/purple. However, the plant changes its colour according to the pH value of the soil, due to a pigment belonging to anthocyanins.


It tastes similar to green cabbage and nutritionists say the purple variation is richer in beneficial plant compounds that have been linked to health benefits, such as stronger bones and a healthier heart, to mention a few.


Emmy Ntamanga, a nutritionist consultant in Kigali, says first and foremost, purple cabbage is thought to lower inflammation and protect against certain types of cancers.

In addition to this, he says this type of vegetable is versatile as one can eat it raw, cooked, or fermented and added to a variety of dishes.

Dense in nutrients

Ntamanga says purple cabbage contains an impressive amount of nutrients such as vitamin A, B6, K, C among others, which are all vital to one’s health.

They provide small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc.

The nutritionist points out that purple cabbage is a great source of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds that help protect against cellular damage.

He says that its antioxidants include vitamin C, carotenoids, and flavonoid antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and kaempferol.

In fact, he says it often contains higher amounts of these than green cabbage.

Studies have shown that the antioxidant levels in red cabbage are around 4.5 times higher than those found in green cabbage varieties.

What’s more, Ntamanga says purple cabbage is one of the foods that offer the highest levels of antioxidants, therefore, essential for good health.

Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Cabinet Clinic in Remera, Kigali, says purple cabbage is also a good source of sulforaphane.

Sulforaphane is a sulphur-rich compound that forms when raw cabbage is cut or crushed, and it is linked to powerful heart health benefits and cancer-fighting properties.

Inflammation and other conditions

According to Kamanzi, this type of cabbage helps fight inflammation, which is thought to contribute to many diseases.

He says that sulforaphane, the beneficial sulphur compound found in many cruciferous vegetables, is known for its anti-inflammatory effects.

Interestingly, studies have shown that applying cabbage leaves to the skin also appears to reduce inflammation.

Moreover, Kamanzi says cabbage leaves appear to reduce breast pain, swelling, and inflammation due to increased milk supply and blood flow during the early postpartum period.

Besides, nutritionists say the purple cabbage contains several bone-benefiting nutrients, including vitamins C and K, as well as smaller amounts of calcium.

Ntamanga says vitamin C plays a role in bone formation and helps protect bone cells from damage.

He adds that purple cabbage is also rich in vitamin K1 which is mostly found in plant foods such as leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.

“This distinguishes it from vitamin K2, which is found in animal products and fermented foods. And both forms of vitamin K play a role in maintaining strong and healthy bones,” he says.

Kamanzi says purple cabbage helps protect against certain types of cancers.

He explains that this is because it contains sulforaphane and anthocyanins — two compounds researched for their cancer-fighting properties.

On the other hand, Ntamanga says this cabbage may as well assist in boosting one’s gut health, by reducing inflammation.

He says that it also prevents gut lesions and treats ulcers.

Kamanzi notes that when it comes to heart problems, purple cabbage is known to have benefits.

This, he says, is due to its content of anthocyanins, which are flavonoid antioxidants that give purple cabbage its characteristic colour.

Moreover, he says, higher anthocyanin intakes may also be linked to lower blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease.


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