Is Cabbage Good During Pregnancy? The Benefits

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Written by Amy Kaczor RDN

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Cabbage is a crunchy nutritious vegetable high in fiber, iron, and more. However, is cabbage safe to eat during pregnancy?

Cabbage is a safe and nutritious vegetable for pregnant women, full of beneficial vitamins and minerals. However, make sure raw cabbage is thoroughly washed before consumption to reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

With all the variations from red versus green, cooked versus raw, and more, let’s discuss the recommendations for the consumption of cabbage during pregnancy. 

Is Cabbage Good for Pregnant Women? The Benefits

When it comes to a healthy pregnancy, cabbage is an excellent source of crucial vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron, and folic acid (source: American Pregnancy Association). 

Calcium works in the body in conjunction with vitamin D to prevent the weakening of bones, called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can lead to an increased risk of bone fractures.

Calcium becomes even more crucial to support muscles, bones, nerves, and circulation during pregnancy. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need 1000 milligrams of calcium daily (source: American Pregnancy Association). 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) FoodData Central database, a 100-gram serving of cabbage contains 170 milligrams of potassium. Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that works in all body tissues for normal cell function.

Potassium and sodium work together to ensure fluid balance throughout the body. Unfortunately, surveys consistently show that Americans do not consume enough potassium in their diet (source: National Institutes of Health). 

fresh raw green and red cabbage

Cabbage is a significant source of folate, also referred to as folic acid or vitamin B9. Folate is one of the essential vitamins for pregnant women as it helps prevent neural tube birth defects in the baby, including spina bifida, cleft palate, and heart abnormalities.

In addition, folate reduces the risk of miscarriage, anemia, and more. Therefore, all women of childbearing age, not just women who are presently pregnant, are recommended to consume folate (source: American Pregnancy Association).

Cabbage also contains iron, vital to increasing blood volume (source: American Pregnancy Association).

Additionally, adequate iron consumption during pregnancy prevents iron-deficiency anemia, in which there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body adequately. Anemia can result in feelings of fatigue, weakness, and dizziness (source: Mayo Clinic).

Red Cabbage During Pregnancy

Red cabbage, commonly referred to as purple cabbage, is often used in salads, coleslaw, etc. Due to beta-carotene in red cabbage, red cabbage has about ten times more vitamin A when compared to green cabbage (source: USDA). Vitamin A is essential for fetal organ development and eye health during pregnancy.

Vitamin A in cabbage leaves is not the same as retinol, which may be harmful in high amounts. For more on Vitamin A limits during pregnancy, read our dedicated article.

Red cabbage also contains anthocyanins which are the source of the beautiful reddish-purple color of the vegetable. Anthocyanins are chemicals that may aid in lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke (source: Harvard Medical School).

Green Cabbage When Pregnant

Green cabbage is a significant source of many vitamins and minerals. More specifically, cabbage is rich in antioxidants such as polyphenols and sulfur (source: Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention). Antioxidants are healthy compounds that fight oxidative stress in the body, specifically from harmful free radicals. 

Therefore, antioxidants reduce inflammation and stress in the body, reducing the risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. 

Can I Eat Raw Cabbage During Pregnancy? Is It Safe?

While cooked cabbage is an excellent option for pregnant women, raw cabbage can be a safety concern. Like all uncooked fruits and vegetables, raw cabbage is more likely to contain harmful pathogens, including bacteria or viruses (source: American Pregnancy Association). 

While unlikely to cause harm, to lower the risk of developing foodborne illness, wash fresh fruits and vegetables, including raw organic cabbage, before consuming. After rinsing, scrub the cabbage with a vegetable brush under running tap water (source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration).

We have a couple of recommendations for food prep here, plus a guide to washing veg if you’re going to eat it raw when you’re pregnant.

Finally, ensure that when chopping up raw cabbage, a separate knife and cutting board are used to cut raw meat, poultry, or seafood (source: American Pregnancy Association). 

Coleslaw can be different, safety-wise, so if that’s what you’re looking for – check out our coleslaw during pregnancy guide.

a bowl of homemade kimchi

Is Pickled or Fermented Cabbage Safe When Pregnant?

Due to the sour and tangy taste, pregnant women crave pickled or fermented cabbage, often as sauerkraut or kimchi. However, many wonder if pickled and fermented foods are safe to consume during pregnancy.

They are! Salt, a natural antimicrobial agent, is used during pickling and fermentation, along with an acid such as vinegar. Fermented foods, when pasteurized, are perfectly safe to consume when pregnant.

Pasteurization is the process of heating foods and beverages to kill dangerous bacteria. For example, fermented cabbage has a reduced risk of carrying foodborne illnesses than fresh cabbage (source: University of Minnesota). 

Check out these articles for more information on sauerkraut and kimchi safety during pregnancy!

Fermented cabbage and pickled cabbage are excellent sources of probiotics. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that promote a healthy gut microbiota or microbiome.

The gut microbiome is the community of bacteria present in the gastrointestinal tract that, when healthy and balanced, can improve the immune system, digestion, and much more!

If you’re having weird cravings, you might also want to read why sour cravings happen during pregnancy, and what it means if you’re craving salt, too.

Is Cabbage Soup OK During Pregnancy?

Cabbage soup is a delicious and comforting way to consume cabbage and other healthy vegetables during your pregnancy. In addition, the cabbage is cooked and is unlikely to cause any health issues in terms of safety. But what about the cabbage soup diet?

While unlikely to cause significant harm, pregnant women should not embark on the cabbage soup diet, in which an individual consumes cabbage soup for every meal for seven days. 

A common issue with this diet is the lack of variety in the foods consumed. While the ingredients of the soup often vary slightly, the main ingredient must always be cabbage.

fresh homemade vegan cabbage soup with carrot and potato served in bowl

Pregnant women need to consume a wide array of foods to get different vitamins and minerals to meet their needs. For example, cabbage does not consume much fiber, so only consuming cabbage soup for a significant period would not satisfy the daily fiber requirement. 

Additionally, this diet is deficient in calories, which are essential to nourish the mother and the developing unborn baby. This is not to say not to enjoy a bowl of cabbage soup during your pregnancy. However, the cabbage soup diet regime is not recommended.

I’m Craving Cabbage During Pregnancy: What Does It Mean?

Craving cabbage is a common occurrence for women during pregnancy and is completely normal. Let’s explore why this is!

Cabbage is very rich in essential nutrients, and if you are craving cabbage, there is a chance that you need some of the vital nutrients it contains. In addition to the vitamins and minerals previously mentioned, cabbage is a rich source of vitamin K, which functions in blood clotting and promoting healthy bones (source: National Institutes of Health).

When you are craving cabbage during pregnancy, take note of the vitamins and minerals you may be missing, including vitamin K. As long as you follow the safety tips in this article for consuming cabbage, feel free to satisfy that craving in moderate amounts.

I hope you found this article helpful in exploring the health benefits of consuming different types of cabbage during your pregnancy.