Since in 2011 kale was called the new beef, we thought it was time we come back to this nutritionally dense vegetable. Kale has been brought to light by the National Cancer Institute as one of the greatest anti-carcinogenic vegetables known to mankind.
Nutritional Benefits of Kale
Kale has been considered to be a superfood in recent years, and the reason for that becomes obvious once you break down its rich nutrition. Kale comes from the vegetable family with broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, just like all of these vegetables, kale is nutritionally dense. Here is the breakdown of this super vegetable (all measurements are for 1 cup (67 g) of chopped, raw kale):
- 33.5 calories
- 1.3 g dietary fiber
- 547 mg Vitamin K (684% DV)
- 10302 IU Vitamin A (206% DV)
- 80.4 mg Vitamin C (134% DV)
- 90.5 mg calcium (9% DV)
- .5 mg manganese (26% DV)
- 1.1 mg iron (6% DV)
- 299 mg potassium (9%)
Here are the health benefits you can receive from consuming kale:
Kale has been brought to the light by the National Cancer Institute as one of the greatest anti-carcinogenic vegetables known to mankind. Kale contains glucosinolates, which during the digestion process are broken down into anti-cancer compounds like indoles and nitriles. Kale is able to reduce and prevent cancer from developing in the body. These compounds are able to protect the healthy cells in the body from DNA damage and can eliminate carcinogens as well.
In addition, kale booq]sts antioxidant properties, which Alyson Greiter, RD, LND, clinical oncology dietitian at Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center, says can “protect cells from free radical damage that may lead to cancerous formations in our bodies, thus making it a cancer-fighting food.”
2. Kale Boosts Immunity
Dr. Serena Goldstein, a New York naturopath, attributes kale’s immunity-boosting properties to its richness in vitamins A, C, and K.
Its immune-boosting effects are linked to compounds that hold immunoglobulin A. This antibody is in charge of maintaining and enhancing the mucus lining in the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts from collapsing. This antibody is essential for the body’s line of defense to fight off any bacteria or viruses.
3. Kale Can Boost Metabolism
Kale has been proven to boost the metabolism from the great amounts of vitamin C it contains. But be careful if you eat too much kale or cauliflower it can also slow down your metabolism, especially if eaten raw. It’s best if you eat this vegetable streamed.
4. Kale Promotes Heart Health
Kale contains bile acid sequestrants, which are compounds that can help lower cholesterol levels in the body, thus, in time, leading to better heart health.
According to Greiter, steaming kale only increases these benefits, as it increases the binding ability of these sequestrants, thus lowering cholesterol levels even more significantly.
5. Kale Helps the Body Absorb Iron
You might already know that certain foods that contain healthy nutrients are only part of what the body needs. The body also needs to be able to absorb them, and kale provides this ability. Kale contains a great amount of iron, and since it as contains vitamin C, it allows the body to absorb this iron better. Studies have discovered that just 100 milligrams of ascorbic acid can boost iron absorption by 4.14 times.
6. Kale Strengthens Bones
While many people associate bone health with vitamin D and calcium, those aren’t the only important vitamins and minerals to worry about. According to Annemarie Colbin, PhD, author of “Food and Our Bones: The Natural Way to Prevent Osteoporosis,” green vegetables are just as – if not more – important. She says that the calcium, vitamin K, and potassium combo found in kale makes it an ideal food for healthy bones.
7. Kale Contributes to Skin Health
Kale is also great for your skin’s health. The Vitamin C that’s in kale will strengthen the skin, and its copper will boost the synthesis of melanin, which protects the skin from sun rays. The vitamin A in kale will boost healthy cells growth which will prevent any skin disease, and the antioxidant properties will help prevent the effects of ultraviolet radiation on the skin.
8. Kale Aids in Detoxing
Kale is one of your best allies in detoxing. According to naturopathic doctor Dr. Gabrielle Francis. “The chlorophyll in kale makes it a potent chelating agent, which means it binds to toxins and heavy metals and pulls them out of our cells,” she says.
In addition, kale’s high Diindolylmethane (DIM) content means that kale protects us against toxic estrogens coming from pesticides and plastics and clears them out of our systems.
9. Kale Improves Blood Health
Kale can also help your blood health as it contains vitamin K and iron. Vitamin K will help the body’s ability to clot and iron is crucial for the health of red blood cells.
10. Kale Helps with Weight Loss
Kale can be an important tool for weight loss due to its low calorie and fat content and richness in fiber. This means that while kale is very nutrient dense, it is also calorie poor and filling. By including kale in your diet, you are more likely to feel full and thus less likely to overeat.
11. Kale Supports Eye Health
Carrots are not the only food that contains lutein. Kale as well contains this important carotenoid, along with zeaxanthin. Together, these carotenoids block out ultraviolet light, protecting your eyes from being damaged by the sun.
A Word of Warning:
Almost as soon as kale became popular, people started warning against the overconsumption of kale, which has been linked to thyroid problems. “Kale is a goitrogenic, which means that consumed raw it may inhibit thyroid function, an important gland for metabolism,” explains Goldstein. “However, reported cases tend to be many cups at a time. You can mitigate these effects by cooking, steaming, or another type of heat application for even a few minutes.”
This warning is only for people who have a preexisting condition, as Lori Kenyon Farley and Marra St. Clair, the co-authors of The Juice Cleanse Reset Diet Book and co-founders of Project Juice, explain. “If you have hypothyroidism, you do have to be cautious of consuming kale and other cruciferous vegetables,” they say. “If you have normal thyroid function, there is no danger to consuming kale.”
How to Buy Kale
Did you know that there are 50 different types of kale you can choose from? Many are more common than others, it’s fine to have different types of kale to use in your dishes; Goldstein says that there is no difference in nutritional benefits amongst the different varieties, so you’ll just be adding flavor and color to your plate.
- Curly green kale is probably the most common type of kale. The name comes from the shape of its leaves, which are curly and tightly ruffled, make sure to wash these well when using. This type of kale is pretty bitter and is quite similar to cabbage. Curly kale can also be found in red or white, both of these are a little more peppery over green kale, which might be the reason why not too many people are a fan of it.
- Lacinate kale or as some know it as the dinosaur kale, it’s darker than green kale and is quite sweet with a nut flavor.
- Red Russian kale is flat with fringed leaves. Goldstein believes this to be the sweetest kale of all of them.
- Premier kale is a new version which tastes very well when it’s cold.
- Siberian kale has pretty big leaves and is probably the hardest of all of them.
- Walking stick kale is unusual as it can grow to be six feet tall.
Whatever kale you choose, Goldstein says to be sure to pick supple leaves that don’t break easily or show any discoloration. It’s also important to opt for organic kale, especially if you consume a lot of it – while it does not rank on EWG’s dirty dozen, it is in the EWG Dirty Dozen Plus category.
“Leafy greens like kale and collard greens do not meet the traditional Dirty Dozen ranking criteria but were frequently found to be contaminated with insecticides toxic to the human nervous system,” explain Farley and St. Clair.