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Organic Cabbage: Better Than its Non-Organic Counterpart?


Is organic cabbage better for you than non-organic cabbage? Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit research organization based in Washington D.C., analyzes pesticide residues in organically-grown and conventionally-grown produce. Based on their findings, EWG puts out lists that single out conventionally-grown produce with the highest and the lowest loads of pesticide residues, and time and again, non-organic cabbage pops up on the EWG's list of the cleanest non-organic produce. But before you conclude that buying organic cabbage is a waste of money, there's one more thing to consider—the nutritional value of organic vs non-organic cabbage. Here's what we know about the levels of various nutrients and other health-protecting compounds in organic vs conventional cabbage:

Vitamin C Content

One of the reasons why cabbage is so good for you is that it is an extremely good soure of vitamin C. According to data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), regular cabbage contains 37 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams and red cabbage contains even more of this health-boosting nutrient: a whopping 57 milligrams, which corresponds to 95 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin C [1].

But the color of that head of cabbage in your fridge is not the only thing that defines how much vitamin C it contains. Turns out, also the growing method (organic vs conventional) has an impact on the vitamin C content of cabbage. Indeed, according to a review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, vitamin C is 43% more abundant in organic cabbage than conventionally-grown cabbage [2].

Now, for those who need a little refresher, vitamin C is a multifaceted nutrient that has many functions in the human body, including keeping the immune system, bones, teeth and skin strong and healthy. In addition, there is some evidence suggesting that vitamin C may be good for asthma sufferers, and preliminary research indicates it may also help boost fat burning in some situations. However, more research needs to be done before conclusions can be made about the potential weight loss benefits of vitamin C.


Like all other healthy Brassica vegetables, cabbage contains glucosinolates. These sulfur-containing compounds are pre-cursors to biologically active isothiocyanates which have been shown to neutralize carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) and to inhibit cancer cell proliferation.

When it comes to glucosinolates, red cabbage trumps white cabbage. A study published in Acta Horticulturae found that the total level of glucosinolates in regular white cabbage ranged from 127 to 241 μmol/100 g FW, while the glucosinolate content of red cabbage ranged from 140 to 381 μmol/100 g FW [3].

In another study, published in 2008, researchers took a closer look at the glucosinolate content of red cabbage. More specifically, they investigated whether the glucosinolate profile of organically-grown red cabbage would be different from that of conventionally-grown red cabbage. What they found was that organic red cabbage contained significantly more glucobrassicin, but less gluconapin, than its conventionally-grown counterparts. The levels of glucoraphanin, yet another type of glucosinolate, were similar in organic and non-organic red cabbage. [4]

Other Beneficial Compounds

Researchers have also compared organic cabbage with non-organic cabbage by looking the levels of other health-protecting compounds, including carotenoids, zinc, magnesium, iron and phosphorus, most of which have been more abundant in organic cabbage than its conventional counterpart [2]. However, it is important to be aware that cabbage is not a particularly good source of the above-mentioned nutrients in general, so the findings of these studies are less relevant.

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