This country has been on a kale-craze for a while, and with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow endorsing it, kale is more popular than ever. We even have a National Kale Day! But does kale really deserve that kind of acclaim? Granted, the National Kale Day is over the top, but the hype does have a considerable amount of science behind it.
Kale is the king of an already potent disease-preventing group of vegetables – the cruciferous vegetables, which also include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, cauliflower and bok choy. The more we learn about these vegetables, the more we realize their power to prevent chronic disease when eaten consistently over time. And of all these awesome vegetables, kale packs the greatest punch.
One cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and an incredible 684% of daily vitamin K (vitamin K is a key nutrient for helping regulate our body’s inflammatory process), 206% of vitamin A (but delivered in beta-carotene, which is its natural form, making it difficult to get too much), 134% of vitamin C, 27% of manganese, 22% of copper, and 9% of the daily value of calcium (highly bioavailable calcium, which is absorbed 25% better than that of milk), B6, and potassium. It’s also a good source of folate, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc.
Every one cup of kale contains an exceptionally high amount of protein for any vegetable. But, even more impressive, is that like animal protein, kale contains all 9 essential amino acids our body doesn’t make. The protein in kale is also easier to break down than animal protein. Even the half gram of fat in 1 cup of kale is high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (alpha-linolenic acid or ALA). All of kale’s naturally-occurring fat-soluble antioxidants protect these fragile fats from breaking down.
The phytonutrient content in kale has powerful health benefits. Kale is the best food source for at least four high-sulphur phytonutrients like glucosinolates, which are widely accepted to help prevent cancer by researchers in this field. The high levels of these sulfur-type compounds in kale has also established kale as one of the top detoxifying foods available, and researchers are finding that it is done on a genetic level.
Already impressed? Well, there’s more. Inflammation is a main contributor of chronic disease, but kale is loaded with important flavonoids (at least 45 !), which help the body squelch inflammation and chronic diseases, including heart disease. Many research studies over the past decade have shown anthocyanins, of which it has many, to be extremely important to human health. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.
Kale’s fiber also helps the body defend against heart disease. On cup of cooked kale has almost 3 grams of fiber. This fiber (especially when kale is steamed) helps binds bile acids and in turn lowers blood cholesterol levels – another big win for kale!
At a minimum, we should eat cruciferous vegetables two to three times per week, with at least 1-1/2 cups per serving. 2 cups four to five times a week is even better. However, those taking blood thinners, like Warfarin or similar medications should not eat kale without consulting their doctor first, since it can counteract the medicine. Also, those with low thyroid function should avoid raw kale as it may suppress thyroid function by inhibiting the absorption of iodine. There is no need to worry about eating kale if your thyroid does function properly – eating raw kale does not cause hypothyroidism, it only exacerbates the problem in those with thyroid disease.
Take February’s Healthy Challenge and add this royal vegetable to your meal plan. Kale is arguably one of the healthiest vegetables available; so many nutrients packed in one food! Kale is in season during the cold months so improve your health this month with this amazing superfood and eat kale! What’s you favorite way to make kale?