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Inside the Humble Cabbage: Lots of Great Nutrition

By Blue Cross NC | June 7, 2019 | Healthy Lifestyle

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Cabbage may not be as “pretty” as some other produce, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts! In this case, it’s vitamin C — which has some pretty awesome health benefits you should know about.


People often associate vitamin C with fruit such as oranges and grapefruit. So it may surprise you to learn that cabbage is also a great source of this important nutrient. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, vitamin C has particular importance as an antioxidant, blocking some of the damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are made when your body breaks down food or if you’re exposed to tobacco smoke. Over time, the buildup of free radicals is largely responsible for the aging process — and may play a role in causing cancer, heart disease, and conditions such as arthritis.1

And for North Carolinians, this healthy vegetable is pretty easy to come by. That’s because our state’s farmers grow almost 70 million pounds of cabbage annually.2 What’s more, if you use red cabbage, it not only adds more color to your recipes, it adds more health benefits as well. According to Harvard Medical School, red cabbage contains substances called anthocyanins, which are responsible for the red-orange to blue-violet colors found in many fruits and vegetables. Population-based studies have linked a higher intake of anthocyanins and other so-called phytochemicals to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.3

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We recently reached out to Chef Vivian Howard (the innovative and award-winning host of PBS’ A Chef’s Life, and best-selling author of the book Deep Run Roots: Stories and Recipes from My Corner of the South). We were curious what Vivian might suggest as a new way to enjoy cabbage beyond the expected cole slaw and the like. She came through in a big way — using them as the noodles in a “pasta” with a spicy sauce of ground turkey.

Vivian said, “People don’t generally get excited about cabbage. But that’s because they haven’t spent time with me. I buy a head of cabbage every single time I go to the grocery store. It is so versatile and affordable — and it’s full of fiber and vitamins — so why not get excited?”

Charred Cabbage Noodles with Szechuan Spiced Turkey

Serves 2


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

½ head green cabbage

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons minced ginger root

1 pound ground turkey (the kind with fat)

¼ teaspoon red chili flakes or Szechuan peppercorns (ground)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce

½ cup fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/3 cup chicken stock or water, divided

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Cut the cabbage into 5 wedges taking care to keep the core intact so the leaves stay connected as a wedge.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat. Lay the cabbage in the pan in a single layer pressing down on each wedge so the cabbage browns rather than steams. Char the cabbage on one side. Flip and char on the opposite side. Transfer the cabbage to a plate to cool slightly and season with ¼ teaspoon salt.

While the cabbage chars, whisk together the hoisin sauce, chili flakes, sugar, soy sauce, citrus juices, and ¼ cup stock or water in a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the remaining stock. Set both bowls aside.

Using the same pan, lower the heat slightly and add the sesame oil, minced ginger and remaining olive oil to the skillet. Once the ginger starts to sizzle, add the turkey, followed by the garlic and the remaining salt. Brown the turkey well.

As the ground turkey browns, cut the core piece from each cabbage wedge. This will separate the cabbage into wide, flat “noodles” with charred edges.

Once the turkey is caramelized and cooked through, stir in the hoisin mixture scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cabbage leaves and let the liquid mixture reduce by 2/3.

Stir in the cornstarch-stock mixture. This will thicken the juice making it a sauce. Stir the contents of the skillet to coat the cabbage noodles with sauce. Serve soon!


One of the benefits of being a member of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC), is that seeing a Nutritional Counselor or Registered Dietitian is covered by most of our plans. That’s because we know that the healthier you eat, the healthier you can be.

Everyone can benefit from working with a Nutritional Counselor. For example, this counseling can help you:

  • manage diseases and chronic conditions (like high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes)
  • reach your ideal weight
  • relieve anxiety and depression
  • boost and maintain energy throughout the day
  • lessen aches, pain, and joint issues
  • address food allergies

Finding a Nutritional Counselor is easy. Blue Cross NC members can log into Blue Connect to look up your plan’s coverage, and then use the Find a Doctor tool to search for a “Dietitian” or “Nutritionist.” 

Enjoy making Vivian’s cabbage “noodles” with spiced turkey sauce. You’ll impress yourself and your friends with your inventiveness!