Crunchy, creamy, slightly sweet, and good for you too! What’s not to like? Coleslaw only seems to show up on our table during summer barbecues, where it is usually passed up for other side dishes such as potato salad or macaroni and cheese. But coleslaw is a dish that can be enjoyed at any time of year, and is a popular dish in other parts of the world, such as Germany and the Netherlands, where the dish originated. The term “coleslaw” comes from the Dutch word koolsla, meaning “cabbage salad.” Although it often appears as more often as a garnish with meals you eat in a restaurant, similar to the parsley nobody ever eats, coleslaw can actually be a tasty way of getting a range of nutritional benefits.
What exactly is coleslaw?
Coleslaw can be a combination of a wide variety of ingredients, each of which gives a coleslaw recipe its own distinct personality. Traditional recipes incorporate mayonnaise or buttermilk with vinegar and spices, and some include shredded carrots, jicama, raisins and other healthy ingredients. However, the main ingredient common to all coleslaw recipes, and what makes coleslaw such a healthy menu option, is raw, shredded cabbage.
If buying prepared coleslaw, you should try to avoid ingredients that reduce its health benefits. Much commercially prepared coleslaw has considerable amounts of added sugar and salt, and may contain unhealthy hydrogenated oils. Your best option is to make it yourself so you are sure to get the health benefits while avoiding unhealthy ingredients. It’s simple and easy to make!
Cabbage’s many health benefits
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable, in the same category as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables are renowned for their ability to protect against cancer. Experts recommend that you eat a minimum of one and a half cups of cruciferous vegetables two to three times a week in order to reap the greatest benefits from this cancer fighter. Cabbage, in particular, is an excellent source of a compound called sinigrin, which is particularly effective in helping to prevent cancer of the colon, prostate and bladder.
The health benefits of cabbage tend to be greater when it is eaten raw, which is an advantage that coleslaw has over other dishes that involve cooked cabbage. Cooking destroys the delicate myrosinase enzymes that provide cabbage with its cancer-fighting compounds.
In addition to its cancer-fighting ability, cabbage lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol, is a good source of fiber, and is high in vitamin C and vitamin K. It also provides you with calcium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B6, manganese and folate. It is also high in glutamine, an amino acid with anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to all these health benefits, cabbage is also low in calories, at only 50 calories per cup.
If you have a choice between picking green cabbage or red cabbage, go for the red. Red cabbage is even healthier than its green counterpart, containing more than four times the cancer-fighting polyphenols. One hundred grams of red cabbage contains about 197 mg of polyphenols, as opposed to 45 mg for green cabbage.
Cabbage can help heal stomach ulcers and is good for the entire digestive system in general. And while cabbage contains very little fat, the fat it does contain is the healthy omega-3 type in the form of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA).
A healthy coleslaw recipe
This healthy coleslaw recipe uses Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise, to make it not only more flavorful, but healthier too! Full fat Greek yogurt provides the same creamy consistency as mayonnaise, but you avoid the danger of eating hydrogenated oils, which are an ingredient in many commercial mayonnaises. (And fat is not bad for you, it’s the sugar and hydrogenated oil you need to look out for).
• 6 tablespoons Greek yogurt
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
• 1 teaspoon honey
• 1/2 teaspoon caraway seed, or celery seed (optional)
• Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
• 2 cups shredded red cabbage (1/4 of a small head)
• 2 cups shredded green cabbage (1/4 of a small head)
• 1 cup grated carrots (2 medium)
Combine all ingredients except for the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl and whisk together. Stir in the cabbage and carrots and serve.