It’s always amazed me that coleslaw doesn’t have more of a reputation as a health food. After all, its primary ingredient is cabbage, one of the great superstars of the vegetable kingdom, with its rich array of indoles, cancer-fighting plant chemicals that have a positive effect on hormonal metabolism.
Sadly, the healthy aspects of most slaws are overshadowed by drippy, low-quality, industrial-grade mayonnaise. The only ingredients in “real” mayo are egg yolk, mustard, a little salt, oil, vinegar, and lemon juice, and there’s absolutely nothing unhealthy about that. But conventional mass-market mayos use crummy, cheap seed oils and add a bunch of unpronounceable chemicals and sugar, which ruin any virtue the condiment naturally possesses.
As long as you stick to organic mayo, this slaw is a regular health bonanza, featuring horseradish (a member of the Brassica family that also includes broccoli), an apple, high-protein Greek yogurt (please, please don’t use the “low” or “no” fat kind), carrots, celery, antioxidant-rich cranberries, and, of course, the star of the show, cabbage (see “featured ingredient,” below). What’s not to like? Absolutely nothing. Enjoy! —Dr. Jonny
Featured Ingredient: Cabbage
In the world of vegetables, the Brassica family is true royalty. And the reigning king of the brood—which includes broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts—is the cabbage. It’s probably the most potent vegetable in the world from the point of view of nutritional benefits and cancer-fighting ability.
Cabbage first came to the attention of nutritional researchers after they observed that women living in Eastern European countries surrounding Poland and Russia were much less likely to develop breast cancer than American women. When their diets were analyzed, they revealed a very high intake of cabbage, and when the cabbage itself was analyzed, researchers zeroed in on plant chemicals known as indoles as being the most likely ingredient responsible for the lower cancer rates.
Years of research have now demonstrated that these indoles alter estrogen metabolism in a favorable way, one that is likely to reduce the risk of cancer. Other phytochemicals found in cabbage that pack an anticancer wallop include dithiolethiones, isothiocyanates, and—especially—sulforaphane, which increases the production of certain enzymes that can “disarm” damaging free radicals and help fight carcinogens.
Red or purple cabbage is also a source of anthocyanins, antioxidant-rich pigment molecules that make blueberries blue and red cabbage red. Their ability to fight free radicals makes them powerful weapons against cardiovascular disease. Anthocyanins are also known for their anti-inflammatory effects, which can help dampen allergic reactions and help protect against inflammation-related connective tissue and blood vessel wall damage.
Cabbage is a darn good source of everyday vitamins and minerals too. It contains calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, beta-carotene, and even a little of the eye-healthy carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. One cup of the cooked stuff gives you almost 4 grams of fiber (one cup raw gives you 2 grams). All this in one of the lowest-calorie foods on the planet.
Notes from The Clean Food Coach
If you need to save time, you can use 2 12-oz. bags of prepared slaw mix, such as 1 classic white cabbage and carrot plus 1 red cabbage or broccoli slaw in place of the other shredded vegetables. If you want more cranberry zing, swap out the maple syrup for a tablespoon or two of any cranberry sauce you’re using for the Thanksgiving meal.
- In bottom of a large serving bowl, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, and maple syrup, and whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth. Taste, and add more horseradish, if desired.
- Fold in the prepared apple. Add slaw mix, red cabbage, carrot, and celery. Season lightly with salt and cracked pepper, add cranberries, and toss gently until slaw is well coated. Garnish with chives, if using, and serve.