Cabbage comes in a variety of colors, from pale green to deep purple. But is one color healthier than another? Green and purple cabbage belong to the same plant species, Brassica oleracea, but contain different phytonutrients that may provide unique health benefits.
In this article, we’ll compare green and purple cabbage to determine which one is better for you.
Below is a comparison of the nutrient profiles of green and purple cabbage. Values are per 1 cup (89 grams) of chopped, raw cabbage (1).
|Nutrient||Green Cabbage||Purple Cabbage|
|Protein||1 gram||1 gram|
|Carbs||5 grams||7 grams|
|Fiber||2 grams||3 grams|
|Vitamin C||54% DV||85% DV|
|Vitamin K||76% DV||109% DV|
|Vitamin B6||6% DV||7% DV|
|Folate||7% DV||7% DV|
|Manganese||5% DV||10% DV|
|Potassium||8% DV||12% DV|
As you can see, both green and purple cabbage are low in calories and rich in vitamins C and K. Purple cabbage contains slightly more of most vitamins and minerals.
The different colors of green and purple cabbage reflect their distinct phytonutrient profiles. Phytonutrients are plant compounds that have health-promoting properties.
Here are the key phytonutrients in green and purple cabbage:
|Phytonutrient||Found In||Key Benefits|
|Sulforaphane||Green cabbage||Anti-inflammatory, cancer preventive|
|Anthocyanins||Purple cabbage||Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant|
|Kaempferol||Green cabbage||Anti-inflammatory, cancer preventive|
|Quercetin||Purple cabbage||Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant|
Green cabbage is particularly high in a compound called sulforaphane. It’s formed when an enzyme called myrosinase converts glucoraphanin in cabbage into sulforaphane during chewing or chopping.
Sulforaphane has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and potential anti-cancer activities in lab and animal studies (2).
Meanwhile, purple cabbage contains more anthocyanins. These plant pigments act as powerful antioxidants in your body to help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
Both types of cabbage also contain other beneficial plant compounds like kaempferol and quercetin.
Potential Health Benefits
Here is a comparison of some of the top science-backed health benefits of green versus purple cabbage:
|Potential Benefit||Found In|
|May promote heart health||Both green and purple|
|May support digestive health||Both green and purple|
|May have anti-cancer effects||Green more than purple|
|May reduce inflammation||Purple more than green|
|May support eye health||Purple more than green|
|May boost immunity||Both green and purple|
Studies show both types of cabbage may promote heart health by reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels (3, 4).
Their high fiber content also supports digestive health. However, their digestive benefits differ. Raw green cabbage may aid digestion by stimulating bile acid production, while cooked purple cabbage acts as a prebiotic that feeds beneficial gut bacteria (5, 6).
Sulforaphane in green cabbage has been more extensively studied for its anti-cancer effects. Test-tube and rat studies have found sulforaphane may block the growth and spread of various cancers (7).
Meanwhile, purple cabbage is higher in anthocyanins. Some research suggests eating anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables may protect against certain cancers (8).
The anthocyanins in purple cabbage also give it stronger antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacities than green cabbage.
In particular, getting more anthocyanins from fruits and vegetables is linked to better eye health, likely due to their ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress (9).
Both types are great sources of immune-supporting vitamins C and K. However, vitamin C degrades when cabbage is cooked, so raw cabbage provides the best immune boost (10).
Green and purple cabbage are very similar in nutrition, health benefits, and potential downsides.
The main precautions with eating too much cabbage are:
- Thyroid effects – Very high intakes of cruciferous vegetables may interfere with thyroid hormone function. This is not a concern for most people but may affect those with thyroid issues (11).
- Blood thinning – Large amounts of vitamin K from cabbage can interfere with blood thinning medications. People taking blood thinners should keep intake consistent (12).
- Digestive issues – Some people report digestive discomfort, bloating, or gas from eating lots of cabbage. Cooking cabbage reduces these issues.
Which Color Cabbage Is Healthier?
Both green and purple cabbage provide a nutritious, low-calorie addition to your diet. No studies directly compare the health effects of green versus purple cabbage.
However, based on their distinct phytonutrient profiles, you may benefit from eating more of one color cabbage for specific health purposes:
- Green cabbage provides more sulforaphane, which may support heart, liver, and anti-cancer benefits.
- Purple cabbage is higher in anthocyanins that better reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.
To maximize benefits, it’s best to eat both green and purple cabbage as part of an overall healthy diet.
The Bottom Line
Green and purple cabbage are highly nutritious vegetables with different phytonutrient profiles. While green cabbage contains more sulforaphane, purple cabbage provides more anti-inflammatory anthocyanins.
Including both types in your diet provides a wider range of health-protective compounds to reduce your risk of chronic illnesses.
Aim for 1–2 cups per week of green and purple cabbage – raw, cooked, or fermented into sauerkraut. Pair cabbage with healthy fats like olive oil to better absorb the fat-soluble phytonutrients.
At the end of the day, both green and purple cabbage are fantastic for your health.