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Cabbage & Cholesterol

By Sandi Busch

High cholesterol levels respond well to a few simple changes in your diet. Reduce the amount of cholesterol, saturated fats and trans fats you consume. At the same time, increase your intake of plant sterols and soluble fiber, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. As a fat-free food that supplies both plant sterols and soluable fiber, cabbage fits the bill.

Soluble Fiber

Dietary fiber comes in two forms -- soluble and insoluble. Both forms provide important health benefits, but the soluble type is the only one that affects cholesterol. Soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol by interfering with its absorption. One cup of shredded, raw cabbage contains 1.8 grams of total fiber. About 40 percent of the total fiber is soluble fiber. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends consuming 10 to 25 grams of soluble fiber daily as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet. If you add 5 to 10 grams of soluble fiber daily, your cholesterol may go down by 3 to 5 percent.


Plants produce substances called sterols and stanols, which are collectively referred to as phytosterols. Because phytosterols are structurally similar to cholesterol, they're able to displace dietary cholesterol during digestion and the ousted cholesterol is excreted, according to New York University. Your body absorbs less than 10 percent of the phytosterols that stay in your system, compared to absorbing about 50 percent of cholesterol. The net result is lower cholesterol. Aim to consume 2 grams of plant sterols daily, which should lower your cholesterol by 5 to 15 percent, notes the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. You’ll get 8 milligrams of phytosterols from 1 cup of shredded cabbage.


Lignans belong to a group of plant-based chemicals called polyphenols. Bacteria in your intestine convert lignans into several substances that may act like estrogen or exert an anti-estrogenic influence, depending on individual health factors. Lignans may also help lower cholesterol, although research has produced mixed results, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. A review published in the April 2012 issue of the "Journal of Nutrition" found that lignans increased levels of good cholesterol and lowered triglycerides -- but had little effect on bad cholesterol. One cup of cabbage contains 0.6 milligrams of lignans, but intake recommendations have not been established, as of 2013.

Cooking Boosts the Effect

You may boost fiber’s cholesterol-lowering abilities by cooking your cabbage. When cabbage is steamed, its ability to bind with bile acids improves significantly, according to a study published in the June 2008 issue of “Nutrition Research.” When fiber connects with bile acids, it carries them out of your body. because bile acids contain cholesterol, this helps lower your levels. The good news is that 1/2 cup of cooked cabbage retains 1.4 grams of fiber and all the phytosterols. Just be aware that cooking reduces the absorption of other phytochemicals in cabbage called isothiocyanates, which help prevent cancer.

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