Can you eat napa cabbage raw?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat napa cabbage raw?”. We will further elaborate on the health benefits of napa cabbage and ways to store napa cabbage. 

Can you eat napa cabbage raw?

Yes, you can eat napa cabbage raw such as in a salad or slaw. Just dice the napa cabbage into thin ribbons and put in scallions, chili, carrots, or any other vegetables. In some foods, the outer greenish leaves are used for soups with soybean paste, whereas the yellowish inner leaves are used as vegetable outer rolls for grilled pork, beef, chicken, and seafood dishes (1).

Add sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and pepper over the mixture. Swirl all the ingredients together and serve chilled. The purpose is to cut all the ingredients into very thin strips so that all the vegetables can soak and blend well with the seasoning quickly. 

Be sure to eat this salad soon when served otherwise the napa cabbage will become mushy because of the seasonings.

What is napa cabbage?

Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage belongs to the brassica family (that includes cauliflower and Brussels sprouts). Napa cabbage has thick white stalks and wrinkled, pale-yellow or pale-green leaves with a feathery appearance. It has a sweet flavor and is full of vitamins and minerals. It is distinct from traditional green cabbage. Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa L. ssp. Pekinensis) is a cruciferous green leafy vegetable consumed primarily in Asian countries. In Korea, Chinese cabbage is the principal ingredient of kimchi, which is a salted and fermented dish including whole cabbage leaves (1).

The nutritional benefits of napa cabbage

According to the USDA, Napa cabbage is a green leafy vegetable that is extremely low in calories. A 100 g serving of fresh leaves provides only 13 calories. It contains 105 mg Calcium (Ca), 0.8 mg Iron (Fe), 252 mg Potassium (K), 45 mg Vitamin C and 4470 UI Vitamin A. 

Packed with antioxidants

Napa cabbage is loaded with numerous antioxidants that include isothiocyanates, thiocyanates, carotenes, indole-3-carbinol, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane and lutein. Furthermore, it provides a great amount of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber. 

It has been found that these compounds have the ability to protect against breast, colon, and prostate cancers and help lower the levels of low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol in the body. 

Antioxidants in Chinese cabbage have been extensively studied for their ability to prevent reactive oxygen species, which mediate aging and oxidative damage-inducing pathological disorders such as inflammation and atherosclerosis. In addition, several antioxidant phenolic compounds including flavonoids were investigated and identified in whole Chinese cabbage leaves. The phenolic acids and flavonoid profiles are characteristic for the particular part of Chinese cabbage leaves. In all determinations of antioxidant activities and antioxidant contents, the outer leaves had the highest levels, followed by the mid- and inner leaves (1).

Good source of folate

Napa cabbage is a good source of folate providing almost 20 percent of the required daily intake of folate. Folic acid is among the fundamental elements of DNA. This scarce and important vitamin that acts as a coenzyme in many single carbon transfer reactions in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and protein components (2). Adequate levels of folate in the diet of pregnant females may aid in preventing neurological diseases in infants, .reducing the risk of neural tube defects. In addition, it may be associated with the reduced risk of vascular disease and cancer (2).

Rich source of vitamin C

Napa cabbage is a rich source of vitamin C. A 100 gram serving of fresh napa cabbage provides about 45 per cent of the required daily intake of vitamin C. 

Regularly consuming foods that have a good amount of vitamin C supports the body in developing resistance against infectious diseases and scavenging harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals. In plasma, vitamin C in small amounts acts as a nonenzymatic antioxidant that protects proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) from free radicals and reactive oxygen species which are generated as by-products from normal metabolic processes, active immune cells, and exposure to pollutants and toxins (3). Therefore, it has the potential to prevent and treat malignant and degenerative diseases (2). 

Provides adequate vitamin K

Napa cabbage provides moderate amounts of vitamin K, supplying about 38 percent of the required daily intake of vitamin K. 

Vitamin K promotes osteoblastic activity in bone cells, thus plays a significant role in bone metabolism. Hence, adequate levels of vitamin K in the diet strengthen the bones and assist in slowing osteoporosis. 

Deficiency of vitamin K results in an increase in undercarboxylated osteocalcin which has low biological activity and is often detected in osteoporotic patients. As per the recent review, some studies suggest that supplementation with vitamin K may improve bone quality and reduce fracture risk in osteoporotic patients, possibly by enhancing Ca and vitamin D actions (4).

Furthermore, vitamin K has also been found to be effective in curing Alzheimer’s disease by limiting neuronal impairment in the brain.

Provides some amounts of vitamin A

Napa cabbage provides trace amounts of vitamin A. Yet, it also has flavonoid polyphenolic compounds that include carotenes, lutein, and xanthine which is converted to vitamin A in the human body. Carotenoids might be involved in the prevention of several diseases related to oxidative stress (2).

The fat-soluble vitamin A plays a role in the immune system, specifically in the regulation of innate and cell mediated immunity and humoral antibody responses. Vitamin A is also touted to enhance white blood function, enhance resistance to infection and carcinogens, and help to maintain skin and mucous membrane defenses which is the first line of dense infection prevention (3).

Contains essential vitamins

Napa cabbage also provides many important vitamins that include pyridoxine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, as well as thiamin. All these vitamins are crucial as our bodies need them from external sources to replenish.

Rich in minerals

Napa cabbage is a rich source of electrolytes and minerals that include magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese and iron. Potassium is the main element of cells and body fluids and aids in the regulation of heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is required as a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is important for the formation of erythrocytes. 

Potassium deficiency is related to a decreased muscle mass. In cases of chronic hypokalemia, the most altered function is that of all muscle types (smooth, cardiac and skeletal), with the most serious consequences exerted on cardiac muscle (4).

How to store napa cabbage?

Napa cabbage can be found at many grocery stores. Pick a plump head with brilliant white ribs and crispy leaves that are not droopy. Avoid those with yellow, dry, worm-infested, and old stocks.

To keep napa cabbage fresh, wrap the leaves in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator set at high relative humidity. Use it fresh to obtain most of its nutrients.

After harvest, cabbages are vulnerable to spoilage by fungal infection, weight loss, and color degradation (yellowing) due to aerobic respiration. There is vitamin C, glucosinolates, phenolics and weight loss. Thus, the shelf life of cabbages is low under normal atmospheric conditions. Studies show that modified atmosphere packaging conditions can significantly increase shelf life of Chinese cabbage and avoid nutrient loss (5).

Pests typically invade napa cabbage. Often, conventionally grown napa cabbage may have been exposed to insecticidal sprays. Thus, wash thoroughly in cold tap water then soak in saline water for approximately 30 mins. Rinse well in clean water before consuming.

Can you eat the white ribs of napa cabbage?

Yes, absolutely. The white ribs of napa cabbage can be consumed raw or even cooked.

Other FAQs about Cabbage that you may be interested in.

Can raw cabbage be frozen?

Can my dog eat green cabbage?

Can you steam bok choy?

Conclusion 

In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat napa cabbage raw?”. We have further elaborated on the health benefits of napa cabbage and ways to store napa cabbage. 

References 

  1. Seong, Gi-Un, In-Wook Hwang, and Shin-Kyo Chung. Antioxidant capacities and polyphenolics of Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa L. ssp. Pekinensis) leaves. Food Chem, 2016, 199, 612-618. 
  2. Jahangir, Muhammad, et al. Health‐affecting compounds in Brassicaceae. Comprehen Rev Food Sci Food Safe, 2009, 8, 31-43.  
  3. Alpert, Patricia T. The role of vitamins and minerals on the immune system. Home Health Care Manage Prac, 2017, 29, 199-202.
  4. Ilich, J. Osteosarcopenic adiposity syndrome update and the role of associated minerals and vitamins. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 2021, 80, 344-355. 
  5. Kang, Ji-Hoon, et al. Effect of storage in pallet-unit controlled atmosphere on the quality of Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa L. spp. pekinensis) used in kimchi manufacturing. LWT, 2019, 111, 436-442.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.