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Cabbage: Nature’s Laxative

There’s something about cabbage…

I found out why cabbage soup can help fight constipation and even cause diarrhea. It’s raffinose.

Raffinose is sometimes called a fiber but more often is characterized as a trisaccharide, oligosaccharide, or complex carbohydrate. It’s all four.

A typical bowl of cabbage soup has three grams of fiber. If you eat two bowls, that’s six grams, still not all that much, but can predictably cause loose stools or diarrhea in  many folks because of a particular type of fiber: raffinose.

The thing about raffinose is that it passes through the small intestine undigested because we lack the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. When raffinose hits the colon, bacteria start digesting it (aka fermentation), potentially leading to gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea. If your “dose” of raffinose is small enough, you won’t have any symptoms. To use cabbage soup as a constipation preventative or remedy, you have to experiment to see what dose works for you.

Raffinose is also found in beans and cruciferous vegetables like brussels sprouts and cauliflower

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Ever heard of Beano? The active ingredient is the enzyme alpha-galactosidase. It breaks down raffinose in the small intestine, to simple sugars we can absorb.

PPS: Raffinose is one of the oligosaccharides to avoid if you’re on a low FODMAPs diet.

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Recipe: Cabbage Soup

You can incorporate this cabbage soup into any diabetic diet, even ketogenic ones. This version isn’t a powerhouse in any one particular nutrient but provides a fair amount of zinc, protein, and vitamins A, B12, and C.

If you’re a constipated, a bowl or two of cabbage soup may get things moving. It’s the raffinose in cabbage.

paleo diet, Steve Parker MD, cabbage soup

Plan well in advance because this takes a while to cook

Ingredients:

  • water, 4 quarts (3.8 L)
  • parsley, fresh, to taste (3 or 4 sprigs)
  • stew meat (beef), raw, 8 oz (230 g)
  • pepper, to taste (1/4 tsp or 1.2 ml)
  • salt, to taste (1.5 tsp or 8.4 mL) (don’t use this much if on a low-sodium diet)
  • tomato sauce, canned, 4 fl oz (120  ml)
  • carrot, raw, large (4.5 oz or 130 g), peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch (1/2-cm) thick discs
  • cabbage, green, raw, 1/2 of a small one (whole one weighs about 2 lb or 900 g), rinsed, cored, then sliced into quarters or smaller
  • fresh lemon (optional)

Instructions:

Add raw meat to the water in a large pot and boil gently for 30 minutes. Then add tomato sauce, carrot, salt, pepper, parsley, and cabbage. Bring to boil over medium heat and them simmer for 45 minutes.

If it’s too bland for you, add a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Or as a last resort, add some beef bouillon cube or powder.

Servings:

Makes four servings of 2 cups each (475 ml).

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

  • 46% fat
  • 23% carbohydrate
  • 31% protein
  • 200 calories
  • 12 g carbohydrate
  • 3 g fiber
  • 9 g digestible carb
  • 1,200 mg sodium
  • 495 mg potassium
  • Prominent features: see first paragraph

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Nutritional analysis done at FitDay.com. You can analyze you’re own recipes there, too.

low-carb mediterranean diet

Front cover of book

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