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Cabbage Salad

cabbage salad

It’s the end of summer. It’s hot. Some days it seems as if you might break a sweat just by looking at the stove. While this month’s recipe is cool, crisp and healthy way to end the summer, it has the added advantage of using ingredients that are available year-round for a healthy addition to any winter meal.

Cabbage is a food powerhouse: it’s a cruciferous vegetable (need we say more?), a good source of fiber, and low in calories. Its origins trace back to the Mediterranean, where ancient Greeks and Romans observed that it had medicinal properties. They weren’t far off! Modern-day studies have discovered that cabbage and its cruciferous cousins are full of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, specifically isothiocyanates. Cabbage has also been associated with positive effects on blood sugar levels, digestive processes, and antibacterial activity. And, it’s inexpensive and easy to find in the supermarket. The round variety typically comes in three types: red, green, and Savoy.

One of the amazing things about cabbage isn’t just its nutritional value, but also its crunch factor. In The Science of Living Well, Beyond Cancer we tell you not to fad-diet, but to lifestyle-change. One of the most frequently reported cravings, when people transition to a more healthy diet, is related to the loss of “crunch” factor from potato chips or other fried foods. This salad is a magnificent response to those cravings. The structure of the cabbage lends itself to crunch because it’s high in cellulose, an indigestible fiber found only in plants. Ideally, buy your cabbage fresh and shred or chop it yourself rather than using prepackaged coleslaw mixes – cabbage will start to dry out quickly and lose nutrients. Chopping or shredding also breaks down the cell walls and helps form more of those beneficial isothiocyanate compounds.

If cabbage hasn’t been on your short list until now, you may still be skeptical. Raw cabbage has a bit of a bite to it, compared to salad greens. In this recipe, the bitterness is offset by shredded carrot and complex flavors of the dressing. If you REALLY can’t take the bite, adding a teaspoon of sugar to the dressing won’t compromise the overall health benefits. And if you’re looking for something with a little less kick than sriracha to add flavor, try the less-spicy red pepper flakes.

We added almonds for their nutritional benefits and for their crunch. Almonds have antioxidants (in the skin), protein, fiber, trace minerals, and are an especially good source of vitamin E (which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting effects). They provide a tasty, crunchy alternative to the fried noodles or raw ramen sometimes found in this type of salad. If you don’t have almond butter on hand – which can be expensive – you can leave it out or substitute peanut butter.

A dash of sesame oil adds richness and carries the complex flavors of the dressing. Originating from many Eastern cultures, sesame oil has inspired a perhaps surprising amount of research due to its intriguing micronutrient profile. Sesame oil contains lignans (molecules known for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antitumor activity) and vitamin E. It’s composed of largely heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids. You may have heard about the omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio in foods (including sesame oil), which has been debated…..but in this recipe, the amount is small, so, conclusion: it’s nothing to sweat about.

Feel free to add a subtle protein (e.g., flaked white fish or tofu) to make this dish a complete meal instead of a side salad. Tofu (fermented soybeans) is an excellent source of plant protein, and soy has a number of nutritional benefits: stay tuned for more info. Fish is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids. If you choose tofu, sauté it first with a little soy sauce or tamari.

Cabbage Salad

Salad:
• 3 c shredded cabbage
• 1 c shredded carrot
• 2 Tbsp red onion, finely chopped
Dressing:
• 1.5 Tbsp rice vinegar
• 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
• 1 Tbsp almond butter
• 1 tsp lime juice
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• ½ tsp sriracha or red pepper flakes
• ¼ tsp salt
Toppings (optional):
• 2 Tbsp chopped almonds
• Chopped cilantro

Toss the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, pour over salad, and toss. Add toppings and serve immediately. For a complete meal, add 8 oz of chopped cooked tofu or flaked white fish. Serves 4.