12/01/2016 06:42 GMT | Updated 09/01/2017 05:12 GMT

Cabbage Against Cancer!

'Of cabbages and kings...' or so the poem goes. Cabbage really is fit for kings and for anyone else who wants to help prevent cancer, especially breast cancer. This you may think is a very odd thing to say but research has shown that this mid tasting vegetable has amazing properties over and above its quota of vitamins and minerals. You may remember as a child being served soggy limp cabbage floating in water (not very appealing) but don't be fooled by this. Cabbage is a real high flyer when it comes to cancer protection. This is because it contains many amazing plant (phyto) chemicals that are protective in many different ways. One very important example is indole-3- carbinol.

Protection From Oestrogen

It is because cabbage contains the chemical indole-3-carbinol that it is particularly valuable for the prevention of breast cancer. This is because most breast cancers grow on the female hormone oestrogen of which there are many types. The main ones are oestradiol, oestrone and oestriol. Oestradiol is the most potent and the most likely to be implicated in breast cancer. Oestriol is the weakest and the least likely to lead to breast cancer. An amazing thing that indole-3- carbinol can do is change oestradiol to the more benign form. This function appears to be unique in the food kingdom.

Slows Cell Division

Another way that indole-3- carbinol can help prevent breast cancer is by stopping the cells dividing as fast as usual. If this chemical is present when oestrogen tries to attach to breast receptors, it helps slow down their division. This is a remarkable feat for what might appear to be a humble little vegetable. You can see therefore, that cabbage is not humble at all and in ancient times, it was grown for its medicinal properties along with other cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.

Causes Cancer Cells to Self-Destruct

Cells live and die. When they are damaged they self -destruct which is called 'apoptosis'. The problem is that cancer cells resist apoptosis and just keep on growing. Cabbage can help with is also because another important property it has is the ability to cause cancer cells to self-destruct. This has been shown in animal experiments and cells in test tubes.

There are many types of cabbage, including red cabbage where the coloured pigments enhance its antioxidant properties. However all cabbage is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. This is very important because chronic inflammation is implicated in very many diseases including cancer, heart disease and even dementia. So include cabbage in your food as much as you can. It doesn't have to taste like what you had in school dinners. Here are some tasty alternatives.

Ways to Use Cabbage

• Make coleslaw with chipped raw cabbage, grated carrots and a very tiny amount of mayonnaise.

This takes just a few minutes in a food processor. Yogurt can be added to the mayonnaise.

• Mix cabbage with cooked potato to make the delicious Irish dish, colcannon

• Make sauerkraut or fermented cabbage. Learn how to do this online.

• Make the traditional Russian soup borscht. This combines the phytochemicals of cabbage with the

anti-cancer red pigments in beetroot.

• Add cabbage to vegetables soups, stews or pizzas.

• Simmer green cabbage with apples in some apple juice for a tangy treat.