Cabbage may not be one of the first things you reach for in the produce section—but if you’re avoiding it, you’re missing out on a whole lot of flavor and nutrition. There are many varieties of cabbage, but Napa cabbage—sometimes called Chinese cabbage—is milder and more tender than some of its cabbage counterparts. To top it off, its stellar nutrition profile makes it an excellent addition to any menu.
Napa Cabbage Nutrition Facts
Napa cabbage belongs to the brassica family of vegetables, which also includes Brussels sprouts, kale, and broccoli. The elongated plant grows into a head of tightly arranged, crinkly, light green leaves. Because it’s a cool weather crop, Napa cabbage grows best when the days are short and mild.
Napa cabbage offers a wide range of health benefits:
- Antioxidants: Napa cabbage is loaded with antioxidants, important nutrients that protect the body against free radicals, which are harmful byproducts produced by the body. Antioxidants can help neutralize free radicals and may protect against diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
- Folates: Napa cabbage is an excellent source of folic acid, one of the essential components of DNA.
- Vitamin C: The cabbage is rich in vitamin C, which can help the body fight infection and can also inhibit inflammation and free radicals.
- Vitamin K: Napa cabbage is rich in vitamin K, which can promote healthy, strong bones.
- Fiber: The vegetable is loaded with soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, which can help control diverticular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids, gallstones, hiatal hernia, high blood pressure, and stroke and may even reduce the risk of cancer.
- Low calories: Napa cabbage is extremely low in calories—one cup of raw shredded cabbage contains only 20 calories.
Shopping for Napa Cabbage
Look for fresh, crispy Napa cabbage with compact, tightly closed heads. Avoid heads that are yellowing or have ragged, brown edges. Napa cabbage can be stored in the refrigerator for several days—in a vegetable drawer set for high humidity—but it is best consumed when fresh and crispy for maximum health benefits.
How to Prepare Napa Cabbage
There are countless uses for Napa cabbage. A few of the more popular ways to incorporate the vegetable into your menu are listed below:
- Wraps: Large Napa cabbage leaves are an excellent alternative to a traditional flour or corn tortilla. They are lower in calories and higher in nutrients and provide a colorful, delicious “container” for a variety of fillings. Get creative—these wraps work with a variety of fillings: chicken salad, rice and beans, hummus and veggies, and much more.
- Slaw: Cut the cabbage leaves crosswise into shreds and then toss with green onions, cilantro, salt, pepper, lime juice, and yogurt for a tasty, nutritious coleslaw.
- Stir fry: Shredded Napa cabbage adds delicious flavor and texture to any stir fry dish.
- Asian chicken salad: Napa cabbage is an excellent base for an Asian chicken salad. Mix cabbage, cucumber, carrots, and chicken with a tangy soy dressing for a delicious meal.