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Savoy Cabbage Stew

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2011-01-02

Turning our attention to “food as medicine”

Cheers! New years present the perfect opportunity to revisit the concept of food as medicine. Whether you struggle with a health challenge that affects your immunity, strength, vigor or clarity, or you feel in tip-top shape, I invite you to join me in an exploration of the importance of seasonal vegetables, with an eye toward food as medicine. Here’s to the promotion of our collective well-being and longevity.

The importance of a nourishing diet

You may have noticed that many of the recipes we share focus more on the sweet, less on the savory. Not only do I have a sweet tooth, and know that you may too, but I delight in giving you tips to satisfy yours in healthful and gratifying ways. I like to demonstrate that treats can be both delicious and made with wholesome, minimally processed ingredients that can support so many of our goals.

In our journey towards improved or continued health, we can highlight the enjoyment of a variety of foods that nourish our bodies and taste buds. Diverse foods provide the essential nutrients our bodies need to thrive without the need for restrictive diets or negative associations. To us, health is about feeling your best and finding joy in the foods that make you happy, regardless of any notion of “good” or “bad” labels.

Yet even with the availability of more nutritious alternatives to traditional sweets, my resolution, every year, every week, even every day, is to increase my vegetable intake. Whether or not you’re coming along for the ride. I Invite you to read on for a recipe that goes beyond the leafy greens, to the lesser celebrated roots and shoots, fungi and bulbs — the orange, yellow, purple, red, brown, and green.

The US Department of Agriculture recommends between five to nine servings* of fruits and vegetables a day, with an emphasis on the vegetables. Higher vegetable intake is correlated with a lower risk of disease and aging. Food as medicine, anyone? I could go on about the science and benefits of vitamins, minerals, anti-inflammatory agents, phyto-chemicals, fiber, and more, but I’ll stop myself there. And I quote, “Lower risk of disease and aging.” Sign me up! Are you with me?!

As the Center for Disease Control’s slogan about fruits and vegetables says: “More matters”. This year, let’s do more in some areas and less in others. More vegetables, in all their wonderful forms. Even setting the concept of food as medicine aside, the good textures and flavors to be enjoyed by eating more vegetables are a worthy motivator and reason to ride. We might also find sweetness from the soil along the way. 

* The US Department of Agriculture defines aserving size as about one cup, depending on the fruit or vegetable.In other words, if you start your day with a smoothie, you’re well on your way!

Savoy: The queen of cabbage

Savoy cabbage originated in a region of Europe which borders Italy, France, and Switzerland. It’s quite an old variety, dating back to the mid 1500’s and has provided people with their winter greens for many centuries.

Though hardy as a storage vegetable, Savoy is tender and sweet, and lacks some of the sulphur-like odors that can waft from many other cabbage varieties. The ribs of the Savoy are flexible, making it ideal for stuffing, and it requires less cooking time to become light and tender than other varieties. 

For all these reasons, I chose to highlight Savoy in my Savoy Cabbage Stew with Superfood Mushroom Broth. Enjoy the recipe below!

The health benefits of cabbage

Cabbage is in the family of cruciferous vegetables, otherwise known as brassicas. Cabbage can deliver a range of health benefits due to its strong nutritional profile, which includes: 

  • Potent anti-cancer phytochemicals—more than any other family of vegetables. In fact, populations who eat more cruciferous vegetables are documented as having lower rates of cancers related to the colon, lungs, prostate, and breast.

  • Moreover, those phytochemicals also aid the body’s detoxification of excess unwanted hormones (like dirty estrogens) and toxic chemicals.

  • The amino acid glutamine. Glutamine has been proven to help in the regeneration of the cells in the gastrointestinal tract. For this reason, cabbage can be a great option for those suffering from leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome, or peptic ulcers.

  • The fibers found in cabbage, especially when steamed, provide great cholesterol regulating benefits. 

  •  Lastly, cabbage is considered a top anti-inflammatory food due to its abundance of phytonutrients, vitamin C and carotenoids.

As a reminder, it’s important to assess the unique needs of the individual when considering practical applications of food as medicine. For example, despite its many health benefits, Savoy cabbage should be eaten in moderation by those with thyroid disorders, but does not need to be eliminated.

How to get more cabbage in your diet

The Savoy cabbage tends to keep about one week in the refrigerator, while the other green and red varieties might hold-up for two weeks. They must be kept cold, in the crisper. Importantly, this cold-storage helps retain the vitamin C content of the cabbage.

Cut your cabbage in half or quarters, wash under cold water, and remove the core before slicing or shredding and adding to any number of dishes. Now that you know how to store it for safe-keeping, here are some of my favorite ways to get more cabbage in my diet:

  • Add raw cabbage to smoothies and juices

  • Mix sliced cabbage with mayonnaise and other shredded vegetables and spices for a simple coleslaw

  • Ferment cabbage for sauerkraut or kimchee

  • Saute sliced cabbage into any stir-fry

  • Add cabbage strips to winter soups or stews

  • Steam, boil, or roast cabbage for a hearty vegetable side dish

  • And don’t forget that the Savoy cabbage is ideal for stuffing I grew up with stuffed cabbage as a staple in our household and I foresee a kitchen experiment brewing!

Savoy Cabbage Stew


  • 6 cups mushroom broth (recipe below or opt for store-bought)

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or sesame oil

  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated

  • 4 cups Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup parsnips, sliced

  • 3 tablespoons coconut aminos or wheat-free tamari

  • sea salt to taste


  1. Place the sliced onions in a large heavy-bottomed pot and turn the heat to medium.

  2. Allow the onions to release a little of their juices and then add the coconut or sesame oil.

  3. Cook the onions for 15 minutes on a low-to-medium flame so that they brown but do not burn.

  4. Add the chopped garlic and grated ginger to the onions. Mix and cook for another two to three minutes.

  5. Add the cabbage and parsnips to the onion mixture. Stir and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

  6. Add the mushroom broth to the pot, along with the coconut aminos or wheat-free tamari. Stir and taste. Add sea salt to your liking.

Note: If you don’t eat mushrooms, any type of rich broth will work nicely here, including a good bone broth.

Superfood Mushroom Broth

I make my mushroom broth with fresh maitake mushrooms from my co-op, but I know that not everyone has access to these. Feel free to use whatever mushrooms you have available, whether fresh or dried (which are often more readily available at health food stores).


  • 6 cups water

  • 2 cups mixed mushrooms (or 1 cup dried)

  • 1 burdock root, sliced (not peeled)

  • 2 strips wakame seaweed

  • 1 small handful goji berries

  • 1-inch ginger root, sliced


  1. Combine all ingredients in a soup pot and bring to a boil.

  2. Lower heat and simmer for one hour, partially covered.

  3. Strain. Remove and use any of the ingredients from the broth that you’d like to include in your stew. I keep the maitake mushrooms, slice them up, and add them in the final step of the stew preparation.


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Boeing H, Bechthold A, Bub A, et al. Critical review: vegetables and fruit in the prevention of chronic diseases. Eur J Nutr. 2012;51(6):637-663. doi:10.1007/s00394-012-0380-y

Kasarello K, Köhling I, Kosowska A, et al. The Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Cabbage Leaves Explained by the Influence of bol-miRNA172a on FAN Expression. Front Pharmacol. 2022;13:846830. Published 2022 Mar 24. doi:10.3389/fphar.2022.846830

Mandrich L, Caputo E. Brassicaceae-Derived Anticancer Agents: Towards a Green Approach to Beat Cancer. Nutrients. 2020;12(3):868. Published 2020 Mar 24. doi:10.3390/nu12030868Ağagündüz D, Şahin TÖ, Yılmaz B, Ekenci KD, Duyar Özer Ş, Capasso R. Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Bioactive Metabolites: from Prevention to Novel Therapies of Colorectal Cancer. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2022;2022:1534083. Published 2022 Apr 11. doi:10.1155/2022/1534083

Andrea Nakayama

By: Andrea Nakayama, FxNA Founder & Functional Medicine Nutritionist

Functional Nutrition Alliance provides the comprehensive online Functional Nutrition training in the Science & Art of the Functional Nutrition practice. Learn to address the roots of your clients’ suffering with client education, diet & lifestyle modifications.


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