Nutritional and Antioxidant Value of Certain Cabbages

Two traditional cultivated vegetables highly consumed among Northern Portuguese regions were tested for their chemical composition, nutritional profile and antioxidant properties.  These vegetables are both in the crucifer family. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. In this study the “grelos’’ (rape) and ‘‘tronchuda’’ cabbage, were assessed for their nutritional value.  The study found numerous health benefits to eating these foods. They are packed with vitamin C, β-carotene, essential fatty acids, flavonoids, and are high in antioxidant properties.

Traditional crops and farming techniques are being replaced rapidly as a part of globalization. A few regional crops have a high tolerance to cold and can be cultivated in the winter in Portugal. Some surveys on plants have found certain food products to be more nutritious in the colder months. Certain plant products are known to decrease the risk of various diseases in humans, such as cancer and fat deposits in blood vessels. Recently these effects have been attributed to the antioxidant activity of the plant products explored in this experiment. Thus, this study was performed to highlight the contents and benefits of the ”tronchuda” cabbage and rape, thereby raising the value of locally grown vegetables.

* The leaves and flowers of both the plants were purchased from local markets. These were confirmed on analysis with the standard plant collection in that region. On confirmation, they were powdered and used for the study.
* The two plants were analyzed for their chemical properties: total sugar content, fatty acid content, and vitamins.
* Certain specialized tests were used to analyze the antioxidant properties of the plants.

* Tronchuda cabbage had a higher content of total sugars (9.35g per 100 g) than the rape cabbage, with 7.13g per 100g.
* The vitamin C content was significantly higher in the rape when compared with the tronchuda cabbage, but the levels of vitamin E were just the opposite.
* The flowers from the rape had higher antioxidant activity than those from tronchuda cabbage.
* Although the unsaturated fatty acids were similar in both plants, the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fatty acids was more in the rape.

Shortcomings/next steps
Though both the plants have high levels of vitamin C and E, manipulating them (as in freezing or cooking) could lower the levels drastically. Due to changing lifestyles and global changes in dietary patterns, the authors suggest further interdisciplinary studies involving various traditional foods. Progress in this field could be beneficial in the search for new plant products that could be useful in the prevention of age-related diseases.

Both of these cruciferous vegetables have loads of nutritional value. They both have almost equal content of moisture, sugar, vitamins, and fats. The fatty acid ratio between unsaturated and saturated fatty acids, high levels of vitamin C and E, other phenolics and flavonoid compounds make these two plants highly nutritious. Their antioxidant effects make them highly beneficial and reinforce their importance in local diets. One must, however, be educated on their altered nutritional quality when the vegetables are cooked or frozen. “These results also emphasize the role of wild and cultivated food plants in regional cuisine and as part of cultural heritage of a region.”

For More Information:
Nutritional Potential of Certain Traditional Greens
Food and Chemical Toxicology, (Unpublished) Accepted February 2011
By Cátia Batista; Lillian Barros; Instituto Politécnico de Bragança, Bragança, Portugal

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