Napa cabbage benefits and side effects

Napa cabbage

Know in one minute about Napa cabbage

  • Rich sources of vitamins, protein, and fiber treat problems and nervous system disorders.
  • Fight against fungi and bacteria, useful for the preservation of food.
  • Contain high amounts of vitamin C, polyphenol, and flavonoids, protect the body against free radicals.
  • It helps to regulate heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Boosts immunity thus prevent anemia.


Napa cabbage (B. rapa var. pekinensis) is a green leafy/flower-head vegetable that is grown worldwide due to its higher nutritional value (1).  Belongs to the family Cruciferae which also includes brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and broccoli.

It originated in China and eastern Asia, as a natural hybridization between a turnip and bok choy. It is similar to lettuce with its green and white stem in texture as well as appearance. 


It is eaten raw in salads or stir-fry. In Korea, is used for making Kimchi, a fermented side dish eaten throughout the year by virtually every family (2).

Common name

It is also known as Chinese cabbage, pe-tsai, celery cabbage, Chinese white cabbage, Peking cabbage, won bok, and Wombok in Australia. Other names for napa cabbage include choy sum, nappa (Japanese), hakusai (Japanese), pao, hsin pei tsai or chihli. In English, it is also known as the “flowering Chinese cabbage” because of its little yellow flowers.

Geographical distribution

This vegetable is widely used in Asia, particularly in China, Korea, and Japan  (3).

Botanical description

Napa cabbage occurs in both annual and biennial forms but is cultivated as an annual. It is characterized by its bright green leaves; thick white ribs; a short thick stalk; and a large compact globular head (4).

This head is divided into either tightly overlapping leaves or a looser head of more separated leaves. Napa cabbage is growing up to 18 inches tall and wide; head weight may vary between 1.4 and 4.5 kg. (5) The outer leaves vary from dark to light green while interior leaves and the heart are yellow to creamy white-colored.

Nutritional value of napa cabbage

According to USDA, napa cabbage is low in calories and rich in vitamins K, C, calcium, potassium and folic acid, etc. (6)

Compound Amounts per 100 g.
Water  96.33 g
Energy  12 Kcal
Protein  1.1 g
Total lipid (fat)  0.17 g
Carbohydrate 2.23 g
Calcium 29 mg
Iron, Fe  0.74 mg
Magnesium  8 mg
Phosphorus  19 mg
Potassium  87 mg
Sodium   11 mg
Zinc  0.14 mg
Copper  0.096 mg
Manganese 0.203 mg
Vitamin C 3.2 mg
Thiamin  0.005 mg
Riboflavin 0.025 mg
Niacin 0.466 mg
Pantothenic acid 0.035 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.037 mg
Folate 43 µg
Vitamin A, RAE 13 µg
Vitamin A, IU 263 IU

Health benefit of Napa cabbage 

1. Rich in nutrients

It is an excellent source of protein as well as crude ash (which contributes to mineral content, including metal salts). It also contains a higher amount of crude fiber (7).

2. Good for health

Napa cabbage has a good taste and high nutritional value that’s why the demand for this vegetable is constantly rising (8). These nutrients are good for the intestine and help in gastrointestinal problems and nervous system disorders (4).

3. High shelf-life

Generally, this vegetable is consumed fresh but it can be sore at 0–1 °C and high humidity for up to 2 months (9).

4. Antimicrobial properties

A high amount of bioactive compounds in this plant helps in fighting against bacteria such as Escherichia coli. It also inhibits the growth of fungi (Candida albicans, Aspergillus flavus, Aspergillus fumigatus, and Aspergillus niger).

Thus it is good for health and useful as antimicrobial agents for the preservation of food. (10). 

5. Treat cancer

Napin protein found in napa cabbage seed can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Thus napa cabbage helps the body to fight against cancer (11).

6. Presence of antioxidants

Napa cabbage contains high amounts of vitamin C, polyphenol and flavonoids which act as an antioxidant and protect the body against free radicals, various diseases, and infections (12).

7. Presence of Folic acid

Folic acid found in napa cabbage helps to the formation of red blood cells and boosts immunity thus preventing anemia. 

8. The high amount of potassium

Napa cabbage is rich in potassium which helps to regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

9. Good taste

Napa cabbage contains a high amount of water which makes it crisper and more refreshing. The flavor of napa cabbage is milder, crunchier, and sweeter than regular green cabbage. napa cabbage ribs and stem ends are much thinner than the regular green cabbage

Side effect of napa cabbage 

Although napa cabbage likely offers several benefits however there are some potential drawbacks to consider.

However, some people experience digestive discomfort because of gas originating from cabbage.

1. May affect thyroid 

Intake of napa cabbage may affect the thyroid because it contains goitrogens which inhibit iodine transport to the thyroid.

It affects the thyroid hormone and causes enlargement of your thyroid gland. Thus, patients with goiter or under-active thyroid glands (hypothyroidism) should avoid eating cabbage.

2. Presence of Glucosinolate

Napa cabbage produces sulfurous compounds (a glucosinolate), which can generate thiocyanate, and exerts harmful effects on the thyroidal metabolism. Thus consuming cabbage in high amounts may affect the thyroid. 

A. Allergy from napa cabbage

Although allergy to cabbage is rare sometimes it may cause facial and throat swelling.

B. May cause digestive discomfort

It may cause digestive discomfort to some people. This is because of gas originating from cabbage.

However, this problem can omit by blanching the entire or chopped cabbage for 5 minutes. After this, replacing the water with fresh water and then cooking the cabbage  (11)

3. Effect on the animal

Substances called S-methyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide in cabbage can induce hemolytic anemia in domestic animals. However, these vegetables are usually safe for human consumption.

Use in recipe  

  • It can be served raw, like in a salad, sandwiches, and burgers
  • Its outer greenish leaves are used for soups with soybean paste and add delicious flavor to any stir-fried dish
  • The yellow inner leaves are used as vegetable outer rolls for grilled pork, beef, chicken, and seafood dishes.