Thursday, March 26, 2009

Can This Red Cabbage Recipe Prevent Alzheimer’s?

The Alzheimer’s association came out with a frightening report this week that you may have seen on the news. An astounding 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia and a new case is diagnosed every 70 seconds. That’s almost one half million new cases per year! And although I read far more about how they are trying to discover a magic drug to cure this terrible disease, I don’t see enough research trying to prevent it or linking it with nutritional deficiencies. The fact that the majority of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients also suffer from other serious degenerative disorders like hypertension, coronary heart disease and diabetes (often linked to poor diets and lack of exercise), suggests to me that this one is too. So a lifestyle that includes exercise and a healthy diet is not only beneficial for your heart health and blood sugar but should also help mitigate the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Research shows that there is an increase in the accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s which could lead to cell death from free radicals. A study published in Food Science and Technology showed polyphenols in red cabbage, particularly its anthocyanins, can protect brain cells against this damage. Scientists Heo and Lee concluded that “additional consumption of vegetables such as red cabbages may be beneficial to increase chemopreventive effects in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s”. So yes, maybe my red cabbage recipe can help prevent Alzheimer’s.

I developed this recipe one year when we planted a dozen red cabbage seedlings. A few months later we had a dozen, enormous, ripe red cabbages. I cooked these cabbages in every way possible but my favorite recipe was clearly Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage and Apples. It was inspired by the Pennsylvania Red Cabbage in my Better Homes New Cook Book. I liked the idea of mixing red cabbage with apples and the contrast of the brown sugar and vinegar. However, it used bacon drippings (I don’t eat bacon and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t be cooking with the saturated fat that dripped off of it); it used a bit too much sugar and added caraway seeds. So I took the things I liked about it and made it healthier. I encourage you to do the same. When you have a recipe you like but it’s got too many unhealthy ingredients, focus on the spices and ingredients that make it tasty and reduce the excess fat, sugar and salt. It’s fun to experiment and you might end up with a real gem!


Sweet And Sour Red Cabbage And Apples [serves 6]
1 medium head of red cabbage, cut in quarters, cored, and thinly sliced
3 apples, diced with skin
1/3 cup white or apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup unsweetened apple juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt (more or less to taste)
¼ teaspoon black pepper

In a large pot, combine thinly sliced cabbage, diced apples, vinegar, apple juice, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Once boiling, lower the heat, stir and cook covered for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the liquid is evaporated, and the cabbage is the desired texture.

Per serving: 108 calories, .2 g of fat, zero grams saturated fat, zero mg cholesterol, 2 g protein, 27.3 g carbohydrate, and 5 g of fiber.

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